Secretary of State Colin Powell
Remarks to the Special Session of the Organization of American States
Organization of American State Building
Washington, D.C.
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 have lost.

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 forces.

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.