President Jacques Chirac
Interview with CNN
September 13, 2001

As you know, the United States has been trying to marshal political and potentially military support to deal with what happened in the United States on Tuesday. The allies have been calling this an attack not just on the United States, but also on the whole of the civilized and democratic world. Joining us now from Paris is the French President, Jacques Chirac, who is giving his first interview on this matter. Mr President, thanks for joining us from France. Can you say now to the American people, to the American President that you, that France stands four-square, fully committed behind what the US plans to do and what the US is going through right now?

You know, the French people have been truly traumatized by these events. An immeasurable sadness, an immense shock and distress. The violence of the images first of all. Those pictures of men, women and children trying to find a lost loved-one and showing us their anxiety and despair. All that has deeply affected the French people. An opinion poll has just been published in France, showing that 96% of the French people feel total solidarity with the American people and the American authorities. I never remember there ever being such unanimity of solidarity. And above all, everybody's asking themselves why. It's impossible to answer this question? This kind of madness, this absurdity, this cruelty. Nothing, nothing can justify that and the French people, yes, I repeat, the French people feel total solidarity with the Americans.

Mr President, the United States is trying to build a coalition of allied and of other nations to take sides and act and stand and be counted on this side of this battle, as they call it. NATO yesterday, for the first time in its history, invoked a clause in its treaty that says an attack on one nation is an attack on all nations. What in your mind does that mean for France as it ponders supporting the United States in its response to this? What will France do?

First of all, the Americans are not trying to - they have obtained unanimity around them in this struggle against terrorism. And it's particularly true with regard to NATO, and that was demonstrated yesterday evening at the NATO meeting. And in fact, I'd already talked about it with President Bush, who'd called me one or two hours beforehand and to whom I had confirmed that France would of course show solidarity with regard to the implementation of Article V in the North Atlantic Treaty. That means that France will show solidarity with the Americans, like all the NATO countries, and I am sure virtually all the countries in the world.

Mr President, can I press you on that. You were part, France was part of the Gulf War coalition. France was part of the Balkan coalition. If the United States decides that it has intelligence that leads it to take military action, will France contribute to that military action in any way?

France, I'd like to repeat, will be totally supportive. Of course, we'll have to examine the situation. We'll have to seek out those responsible. The Americans are currently making a great effort, a very effective one, it seems to me, with the search for all the clues and then those to blame, so that they can determine who is at the origin of this murderous folly. And when subsequently it comes to punishment for this murderous folly, yes France will be at the United States' side.

The United States President has described this as an attack, basically a battle between good and evil, and that the United States will win this battle and that good will eventually triumph. Do you see it in those terms?

I have no doubt for a single moment that terrorism, which is always fanatical, mindless and mad, clearly represents the evil in today's world. And so we must combat it with the greatest energy.

Do you see this, Mr President, as a clash of civilizations, as not just an attack on the United States or on democracies, but something even more profound?

I won't talk about a clash of civilizations, because that would mean that a type of civilization could adopt terrorism as a normal and natural means of expression, as part of its culture. I obviously don't want to envisage anyone, any human being within a civilization being able to adopt such a stance. Consequently, I tend to the view that terrorism represents what's gone wrong on the fringe of certain civilizations and so should be regarded as an aberration that's got to be removed from worldwide civilization, which, of course, has to respect human rights.

You and other world leaders, including, of course, the United States, have described what happened here as a monumental atrocity. But, of course, many people in some parts of the world have said that this is an attack on elements of US foreign policy. It's no secret that France has sometimes been at odds with the US over aspects of foreign policy. Will that cause any obstacles to you and to France as you consider joining a coalition and taking any measures that the United States and allies deem necessary?

No, one doesn't necessarily have always to agree on everything. That's the case in every family and applies to the international family as to all families. However, on the other hand, there's one area where there can't be any divergences, any differences, and that is on the necessity to fight this perverse disease, this vice of terrorism. And of course, in this area, there can't be any differences between the attitude of France, that of all civilized countries, whatever their religious, economic, philosophical backgrounds, and the United States.

Do you believe that a military response will be necessary, that this act of terrorism has forced the hand of not only the United States, but the rest of the allies and democracies who've said that they must stand united against this?

The United States has been targeted. And the United States has been the first victim of this terrorism which affects the whole world. But the United States is the first victim. And so it's for the United States first of all - and it's what it is doing - to determine where this attack has come from. And then when that has been done, to take the necessary measures to eradicate the evil. And, in this, France, I repeat, will be at its side. What measures will the Americans propose? It's not for me to prejudge that. It's up to the United States to decide. But what I can say to you is that when it comes to eradicating terrorism, fighting terrorism, France, as I'm sure most countries throughout the world, can but stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.