President Jacques Chirac
Briefing after meeting with President George W. Bush
September 18, 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My aides and I have just met with the president and his aides. It was an extremely
interesting meeting, for me at least, and it was given over to all the problems
in the world today of course, and first and foremost the tragedy which struck
the United States on September 11. But we also looked at all the global problems.
With regard to the terrorist attack on the United States, I naturally wanted
to reaffirm to the president, and through him to all the American people, first
of course the complete solidarity of the French people, their heartfelt solidarity.
I told him that according to a recent poll in France, 96% of the French had
expressed their solidarity. As far as I know, that is unprecedented in our country.
It shows the extent to which the French felt affected by the attack against
the United States.
I also confirmed naturally that we are resolved to take part in and strengthen
the necessary efforts against terrorism which is, in reality, an attack on freedoms,
human rights, the dignity of the human being and which must be eradicated.
Lastly, I told him France was ready to cooperate with the United States, naturally,
but also that so were all countries in the world that want to fight against
terrorism and for human dignity, in every action to root out this evil which
is, today, an absolute evil.
Mr. President, did you talk about what the American response might be and
the possible role of the U.N.?
THE PRESIDENT - We talked together about the various hypotheses and also privately
with the president. All I can say now is that I have a better understanding
of U.S. intentions and what they're thinking. But I'm not going to make any
comment in this area.
When you speak of cooperating with the U.S., what does it mean, especially
THE PRESIDENT - We talked at some length about the need for all countries in
the world to cooperate to strengthen our means to deal with terrorism. Everyone
understands that this comprises a whole series of initiatives--in the judicial
domain, in intelligence, in actions to prevent the money laundering that finances
terrorists--in short in a whole range of areas. Military cooperation can be
envisioned, naturally, but insofar as we would first have had joint consultations
on the objectives and methods of an action. As you know, France, like all NATO
countries, retains the sovereign right to assess the methods and nature of its
eventual military intervention.
Is it your sense this evening that the U.S. is preparing for a measured and
THE PRESIDENT - I have no comment. My sense is that the president of the United
States has a perfectly clear view of the situation and is firmly resolved to
take coordinated action against terrorism at the international level. And I
can only approve of his objectives and what he told us this evening.
Mr. President, there are probably more than five thousand people dead. Why
are you reluctant to admit it's a war?
THE PRESIDENT - I have never expressed the slightest reluctance. I don't know
where you found that...
You said you didn't want to use the word 'war.'
THE PRESIDENT - I don't want to quibble about semantics. I'm perfectly well
aware of what has happened, naturally, and as I told George Bush just now, perfectly
well aware that this is a conflict, a war, call it what you like, but there
is a new action which implies new means for fighting a new evil, one that we've
got to crush.
Mr. President, is there going to be closer, more intelligent cooperation
between Western secret services?
THE PRESIDENT - Not only the secret services but police, judicial officials,
all the technical means at our disposal, including the International Civil Aviation
Organization and the International Telecommunications Organization, the efforts
to prevent money-laundering--in short all these resources have to be coordinated,
expanded and modernized in order to make them more effective, for there is the
very source of the evil. It's a war, to use your word, that has to be waged
on all fronts.
Are you troubled by the blurring between fighting terrorists and fighting
the Arab world and Islam? Can France play a role to prevent it?
THE PRESIDENT - That's a very important point, and it is exactly the sentiment
I got from President Bush who, moreover, brought it up with representatives
of the press just a moment ago. It is essential not to confuse terrorist, fanatical
fundamentalists on one hand with the Arab or Moslem world on the other. To blur
the lines would be both unjust and unacceptable. It would also be falling into
the trap laid for us by the terrorists. But, from this standpoint, I saw that
all the heads of state and government leaders I've met, including President
Bush this evening, had exactly the same approach and the same analysis.