of State Colin Powell
Remarks to the Special Session of the Organization of American States
Organization of American State Building
September 21, 2001
SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Secretary General, Ministers and Permanent Representatives,
ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the privilege of speaking in an early spot
at this very important meeting. I also thank my colleagues for their expressions
of support this morning delivered to me one on one, personally, and also for
the many supportive words and complimentary words I have heard so far this morning
concerning President Bush's important speech last night, where he laid out a
campaign for the world, a campaign for the world to pursue against terrorism.
And I thank you all for that support.
I thank you also for the declaration of solidarity that I have just had a chance
to read. This is very reassuring to me, it's reassuring to President Bush, and
it is reassuring to all Americans to have this kind of support from our friends
in the hemisphere.
On September 11, a grievous blow was visited upon our hemisphere and upon humanity.
Yet it is not tragedy but unity, which brings us this day to the Organization
of American States, unity of values, unity of interest, unity of purpose. Twenty-nine
out of the 34 nations represented here today have citizens who were lost in
the World Trade Center bombing last week. Families mourn from one end of this
hemisphere to the other.
On behalf of President Bush and the American people, I want to extend our heartfelt
thanks to you, our neighbors, for your outpouring of condolence and support,
even as we extend to you our deepest sympathy for all those whom you yourselves
Much has been made that it was an attack against an American interest, the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon. But, in fact, it was an attack against civilization.
Some 80 nations lost citizens in the World Trade Center. They struck home, my
home, your home, my nation's capital, and democracy's oldest home in our hemisphere
and New York City, the trading house of the world. Truly, this attack against
one of us was an attack against all of us.
This is not the first time that nations of our hemisphere have suffered at terrorists'
hands. The United States has stood with you and now you stand with us, partners
in resolve as well as in grief. Free peoples committed to the collective defense
of our security and of the democratic ideals that we hold so dear.
Just 10 days ago, and another world ago, we were all assembled in Lima for a
special session of the OAS. It was to be a happy and historic occasion for our
hemisphere. We were adopting our democratic charter in an unprecedented demonstration
of shared political will. A few months earlier in Quebec, at the Summit of the
Americas, our leaders had set the goal of establishing a free trade area embracing
all of our democracies. Never had our hemisphere been closer in values and in
common vision at that time of the future that lay before us as we looked forward
from Quebec and as we looked forward from Lima.
And then came the terrible news. And with sudden clarity, we all understood
that the house of democracy and prosperity that we have all worked so hard to
build for our hemisphere was under attack and must be defended. We realized
that the great strength that comes from solidarity, the kind of solidarity that
we have achieved in the past, will be absolutely critical as we move forward
through this crisis, critical to our democracies, critical to our prosperity,
critical to our very security.
We have now invoked the Rio Treaty in recognition of the common peril we confront
and in defense of the great promise for our hemisphere that we must protect.
And I want to especially convey my country's gratitude to Brazil, for its leadership
in initiating the resolution to invoke the treaty.
In taking action under the Rio Treaty, our hemispheric community is not alone.
We act in concert with the rest of the civilized world. The United Nations has
risen in condemnation of the attacks. The Arab League and the Organization of
the Islamic Conference and the Organization of African Unity have denounced
them. The collective defense provisions of the NATO and ANZUS alliances have
been invoked. The European Council meets in extraordinary session today and
is expected to approve major counter-terrorism initiatives.
President Bush and I have met with and talked to our counterparts all around
the globe. And the overwhelming message we are hearing is this: we are with
you; terrorism is our common foe; we must act together against this international
scourge, and against all who aid and abet it.
We, the united democracies of the Western Hemisphere, join the world in the
global campaign against terrorism. We have pledged to deny terrorists and their
networks the ability to operate within our territories. We have resolved to
hold to account all those responsible for aiding, financing, and otherwise supporting
and harboring terrorists.
The path-breaking resolutions already passed by the OAS Permanent Council and
those being considered today call on the members to use all necessary and available
means to pursue, capture, and punish those responsible for the recent acts and
to prevent further acts from occurring.
Now, the long hard work must be done. Now, our governments, our law enforcement
authorities and our civic institutions must find ways to work together at all
levels and more cooperatively than ever before, exchanging life-saving information,
coordinating our activities. Now, individually and collectively, we must take
concrete steps to tighten border controls, enhance air- and seaport security,
improve financial controls and increase the effectiveness of our counter-terrorism
Now, we must charge all relevant bodies at the national and hemispheric level,
our law enforcement agencies, our financial organizations, those concerned with
transportation, tourism, aviation, disaster assistance, migration and so many
other functions -- all of them to integrate counter-terrorism measures into
the daily performance of their individual missions.
There is one hemispheric body in particular we need to galvanize and strengthen:
The OAS Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism. The committee was established
two years ago with a mandate to "prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism."
We have this tool, we need it, we must use it.
Let there be no question, let there be no doubt, we are in this worldwide campaign
together for the long haul. We have endured an enormous tragedy but we will
overcome. We will defend the rule of law against the lawless. We will not allow
murderers to destroy our democracies and devastate our economies. We will never
let our future be hijacked by terrorists.
And so today we commit ourselves to concerted action in defense of freedom,
our common home. We will do it in accordance with the Rio Treaty, in the spirit
of the OAS charter and in the name of the men and women of our hemisphere and
throughout the world who believe in the sanctity of life, in justice, and in
the power of good to prevail over evil.
I will never forget the morning of the 11th of September, as I sat at breakfast
with President Toledo and messages were handed to me telling me of the tragedy
that happened in my country, in New York City. And as the messages came in and
gave me a further indication of the horror of what was happening in New York
and Washington, I immediately made plans to return home. But I also wanted to
stop by our meeting that morning.
I wanted to stop by our meeting that morning to participate in our acclamation
of the power of democracy. And I will never forget the reception I received
that morning as all of you allowed me to step forward and to say a few words
about this tragedy and how it would make my country a stronger country when
we came through this tragedy, that you could destroy our cities, you could kill
our citizens but you will never destroy our spirit, you will never destroy what
the United States is made from and what we are all about: the steel that resides
in our spirit and in our bodies.
And I will never forget, never, the response that you gave to me that morning
when, by acclamation, you passed the resolution. And then you stood as a group
and applauded. I deeply appreciated that. It meant a lot to President Bush when
I told him about it. You were applauding in that instance for the United States
and for me. But, in reality, we were applauding for all of us. We were applauding
for humankind. We were applauding for the rule of democracy, the rule of law.
We were applauding the simple proposition that if we are a civilized people,
we must work together in concert to defeat evil, to defeat terrorism. And that
is what we are going to be doing in the world and especially here in our hemisphere.
And so I thank each and every one of you for the expressions of support that
you have extended to us. I thank you for your collective efforts on our behalf
and on behalf of the hemisphere. And I regret that I cannot stay for the whole
meeting due to pressing matters, but I did want you to know of the deep appreciation
that we have for what we have done here together as an important organization,
the Organization of American States.
And so I thank you once again, and may God bless all the Americas. Thank you.