9/11: The triumph of hope over fear

On the fifth anniversary of the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it is important to restate the truths that guide the United States in the burden we share with Greece and the rest of the world, our fight against terrorism. September 11, 2001, was a major turning point in world history but it was not the beginning of the terrorists’ assault on humanity. September 11 left American citizens with a hole in our hearts and a fear for the future of our country. It was the most devastating attack in a conflict begun years earlier, long before US military action in Iraq or Afghanistan. But understanding the roots of terror, and fighting it root and branch, requires us to have a longer view of the terrorists’ motivations and of what we are defending. The United States is the biggest target of the terrorists but Americans are not the primary victims. Just as in Greece, where November 17 killed far more Greek citizens than Americans, today’s violent Islamic extremists are killing their fellow Muslims too. There is no political insurance against terrorism, as attacks in Spain, France, Indonesia and elsewhere have demonstrated. Fighting terrorism is America’s top priority but not our only priority. The longstanding American commitment – to peace, to democracy, to prosperity – has been reinforced, not weakened by terrorism. The US is the largest donor of assistance to the Palestinian people, and continues to work to create the conditions that will allow the Palestinian-Israeli peace process to resume. US annual development assistance to the world’s developing nations has nearly doubled in the past five years, and we have launched the largest public health initiative in world history to fight malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Our cooperation with the European Union and other allies to resolve regional conflicts and to assist democratic forces around the world has never been stronger. The US is prepared to make sacrifices to defeat terror but the US cannot succeed alone. Terrorism is an international disease, and effective resistance to it must be multilateral. Our cooperation with the European Union in intelligence sharing, law enforcement cooperation and financial measures to choke off terrorist funding has also never been stronger. As in any great struggle, there are differences among allies over priorities and tactics but the determination to help each other is unquestioned. Fighting terrorism requires military strength but weapons alone will not defeat terrorism. All the tools of a modern state – intelligence, law enforcement, financial and educational – must be deployed in a way that protects both the civil rights and the security of our citizens. The most extreme terrorists will never be placated. Yet we must continue to address the political and economic issues that allow terrorists to recruit young people: by fighting poverty; improving economic and political participation in many developing states; allowing Palestinians and Israelis to live in security; and leaving a secure, united and democratic state to the Iraqis. To fight terrorism requires us to state what we oppose but it requires even more that we state what we support. We must confront an ideology that promotes hate, destruction and death. Still, it is even more important that we affirm the values which we are united in defending: the freedom to live securely, to pursue our education and our careers, to participate as equals in our societies, to speak our minds freely, to live according to our personal beliefs about God and man. These are not just Christian values, nor Western values; they are human values. They are what make the battle against terrorism so urgent and so rewarding. The battle against terrorism is intense but it is not all-consuming; we must continue to work together on the many other great challenges we face. We are far from perfect but we learn as we go in the resilient manner that is the hallmark of democracies. Ultimately, we will succeed, because we are motivated not by fear, nor by hatred, but by justice and belief in a better future.