September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Secretary Colin L. Powell Remarks to the Overseas Security Advisory Council 11:15 a.m. EDT; November 7, 2001

Remarks to the Overseas Security Advisory Council

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
November 7, 2001

11:15 a.m. EDT

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Dave, for that warm introduction, and it is a great pleasure to welcome you all here this morning. And let me also extend my appreciation today for the very fine work he has been doing with respect to the security of not only the State Department facilities here in the United States, but the great work that he does to make sure that we are secure around the world in all of our many, many missions and consulates and other facilities that we occupy. And I also want to thank Dave for the leadership that he has provided to OSAC in the four years that he has been doing that.

And it is also a special delight to have this mosquito buzzing around me. (Laughter.) You're supposed to secure the place, Dave. That included mosquitoes (Laughter and Applause.) Its' all these plants out here. It's like I'm in Vietnam. (Laughter.) There really is a mosquito, isn't there? (Laughter.) Okay. At my age, you have to check.

I am also very pleased to be sharing a platform with you this morning, and who you will certainly will hear from later the new Deputy Assistant to the President for Counter-Terrorism. But to me, more than that, an old friend, a comrade-at-arms. We have been through a lot of things together in the course of our careers, and that's fellow infantryman Lieutenant General Wayne Downing, who has served his nation with such distinction over so many years, and I am sure he will have a powerful message for you as well.

I am delighted to welcome you once again to the State Department for the 16th Annual Briefing of OSAC. I want to thank everybody for making this special effort to come, particularly for those of you who traveled from many, many distant locations to be here because you knew how important this conference is in light of the situation that we are in and the events of the September 11th attacks against the United States and against the civilized world.

Before we begin, however, I want you to know that I checked the Dates to Watch section of the OSAC website, and nothing popped up. So for at least the next couple of hours, we are safe, you are safe, to be here, and not at your places of duty.

In our post-September 11th world, it is more difficult than ever to ensure the safety of our people abroad. Safety is one of our top priorities here at the State Department, and I know it is your in your companies and your organizations and in your institutions. I said "one of our top priorities" at the State Department because it can't be to the exclusion of other top priorities. Wayne and I are old soldiers, and we were trained together at Fort Benning many, many years ago to the same system that said the two things you worry about most are mission, and then protecting your troops. Mission comes first. Protecting your troops is important, and no commander does ever want to be in the position of not having protected his or her troops, but it can't be at the expense of the mission.

And so when I say safety is a top priority, one of our top priorities, it can't be to the exclusion of the mission. We can't let the terrorists have us so afraid of acting, have us so afraid of taking risk for the accomplishment of the mission, that the mission fails, the mission is not accomplished, in which they case they win, we lose. That can't be the outcome.

So we in government and the private sector can not, and indeed we will not, allow terrorists or the murders of 11 September to hijack our way of life. We will be more careful. We won't open strange envelopes, we'll drive with an eye on our rear view mirrors, we'll avoid unattended packages, but we'll continue to live our lives, love our families, and do our work, accomplish the mission that we have been put here to do as government employees or, in your case, as private sector employees and businesses.

That puts an even bigger burden on all of you, the people charged with security. You know, to make your life easier, you would like to button up everything, you'd like to button up everything, not let anybody into your facilities. And you always have to find that right balance between access and mission accomplishment and security, and in light of what has happened, in light of the environment we are in, this becomes even more difficult than it has been in the past.

But that is your responsibility. Keep your people safe while they work. While they work, while they accomplish your mission, you deliver a very important message of confidence, confidence in our form of government, confidence in our society, and confidence in our economy.

Since September 11th, the fight against terrorism has been President Bush's and my top priority and the top priority of this entire administration, the top priority of the nation, the top priority of the international community. And under President Bush's leadership, we have assembled a remarkable coalition, a coalition that encompasses every continent in the world, every faith, every religion, every political system -- all coming together to launch a war against al-Qaida, the terrorist organization responsible for the events of 11 September -- and a campaign that will also result in a war against all forms of terrorism around the world.

It was not hard to pull this coalition together because instantly, on the 11th of September, every civilized nation looked and said this is an attack not just against the American World Trade Center, but the World Trade Center. Everyone could see that the thousands of people who lost their lives that were citizens of 80 different countries in those two buildings. They also saw what happened to the Pentagon, what happened in the field in Pennsylvania. Five hundred Muslims died in the World Trade Center. Usama bin Laden, the al-Qaida organization, cared not for Christian lives or Muslim lives or Jewish lives, cared only to kill innocent people for an evil purpose. We should not let anyone suggest there is any nobility of any kind against -- that he can argue that supports what he did or his cause. It was evil. Pure, pure evil.

In our response, we are using every tool available to us -- political, diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement and financial, along with appropriate military means. And as we are assembled here this morning, our wonderful young men and women of the armed forces, joined by men and women from other nations, are doing their jobs, just as they always have. And we should be very, very proud of them. They are part and you are part -- we are all part of a noble cause, a noble cause that will be successful at the end. We will be patient. As the President said, we will be persistent. And above all, we will prevail.

People have said to me, "Well, Mr. Secretary General, how will you know when we have been successful? How will we know when we have won, when we have accomplished our mission?" We will have won when we are living in security again, when we once again feel secure in our homes, secure in our cities, secure in our businesses and secure in our officials buildings here in Washington and elsewhere around the country and elsewhere in our facilities around the world. We will have won when we get back to that America that we all know and love so well, where we are not threatened by terrorism or terrorists. And we will have won when we also help other nations around the world to get rid of the terrorist threats that they face. That's why the President has said to the world it is more than America, it is more an al-Qaida, it is terrorism in whatever manifestation we find it throughout the world. It is a threat to the 21st century. It is a threat to civilization.

And while we are waging our campaign, you will still be out there in the world doing your work. We know that for you, as for us in the State Department, staying home is not an option. And so we are here to help, and that is the message of OSAC. From its beginning in 1985 when Secretary Shultz* met with a handful of CEOs, OSAC has expanded to nearly 2,000 affiliated US companies and organizations. That is a wonderful, wonderful testament to the drive and spirit of America's entrepreneurs, business people, educators and others who follow their dreams beyond our borders and spearhead America's engagement with the world.

That engagement is more important now than ever before. You've got to show to the terrorists that we will not draw back, we will remain engaged. We've got to say to the undeveloped nations of the world, to the nations who count on our businesses being over there to bring energy to their societies, to bring wealth to their society, to bring jobs and products to their society, to open global trade that goes back and forth and benefits the whole world, the message that has to come out of this tragedy is that we will be more engaged than ever before. Watch us, we're America. We're not going to draw back behind our oceans and behind our fences.

What you do is a fine example of what we are trying to do on the diplomatic level. The American Government is here to help you. The State Department is here to help you.

You are charged with keeping yourselves and your organizations informed of developments and potential threats. And through our briefings, our publications, our country consuls, our research and information support center, and yes, also through our website, www.ds-osac.organization -- pretty good, huh? (Laughter.) We're there to help you. We're there to give you all the information we can. We are here to be a resource for you. We are here to help you get your job done. And I want to assure you that will not change. This is my promise to you, and I want you to know it has my personal interest on a daily basis, not just once a year when you have this meeting.

In return, I have something to ask of you: continue the dialogue and keep the two-way street open. We will do everything we can to provide you with the information you need. We'll let you know what we think. But we also want you to let us know what you think. We want all the input you can give us so that we can learn as much as we can from you. That's the way a partnership works, and a good partnership is one in which both sides benefit. We have such a good partnership. We treasure it and we hope that in the course of the day you also learn to treasure it even more than you already do.

I thank you for coming, and I hope you have an excellent day of work before you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

11:20 a.m. EDT


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