Speech of President William Jefferson Clinton
on the occasion
Dedication Ceremony of the Monument To The Struggle Against World Terrorism
by Zurab Tsereteli, on September 11, 2006
Thank you very much. Thank you Senator Menendez. Thank you for your service Senator Lautenberg. Secretary Chertoff, thank you for coming home to New Jersey for this important day and for your service in the difficult and often thankless job of Homeland Securities. Mayor Doria, thank you for offering up your City as a home for this wonderful monument. Bill Thompson, I thank you for your service as New York City Comptroller and I thank, in particular, Secretary Ginny Bauer and Julie Collins, who will talk for the families here, for after all it is they who we honor most and who paid the highest price for the awful events five years ago. I thank his excellency, Sergei Mironov, for representing his president and the Russian people here. President Putin and the people of Russia have given the United States and the people of this region the great gift of solidarity in the struggle against terror.
I thank my friend Zurab Tsereteli for one more time capturing the remarkable feelings that go beyond words. If you visit Moscow you will see Tsereteli’s massive victory monument celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the End of World War II, where the Russian people in the millions and millions laid down their lives as part of our common effort to defeat the Nazis. If you visit my home, you will see the tiniest painting of my mother that he gave me within a week after she died. He is a man of uncommon gifts and great generosity. He has touched the heart of America with this magnificent monument. We thank him.
Our memories mark this day far more than any words can. Senator Menendez said 9/11 gave us a moment of national and global unity all together too rare in these contentious times. It was a moment when we all knew that our common humanity is far, far more important than any differences we have.
My prayer is that today we might recover some sense of that unity to finish the tasks that lay before us in the ashes of the World Trade Center, in the gaping wound of the Pentagon, and in that lonely field in Pennsylvania, by supporting the families of those killed and the injured, by improving our defenses, and by holding the terrorists accountable in the global world with more partners and fewer terrorists.
I never will forget when the hearings began to be held about the events of 9/11, the man whom I put in charge of organizing America’s first comprehensive response to terror, Richard Clark, turned around and apologized to the families because none of us who had responsibilities over a decade had prevented the events of that awful day. All the people who bombed the trade center in ‘93 were captured, convicted, punished, many attacks were prevented, a couple of them would have done as much damage as 9/11, many cells broken up, many political schemes thwarted, but in the end, it was not enough.
Today we should agree across party regional, religious, racial and philosophical lines that we must together finish the job that 9/11 and all those sacrifices left us with. We must finally implement all the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. We must allocate the funds from homeland security based on real risks, not political pork. We must ensure genuine, complete and total intelligence sharing and adequate funding for the unmet needs of homeland defense, including cargo container inspections, and the development of responses to things like those liquid bombs that were planned to come from London and destroy planes heading for America. Secretary Chertoff deserves the tools to succeed in constructing a homeland defense. I can’t believe that we can’t afford it.
The second thing I think we should all agree on is to support whatever steps our government needs to take to insure the success of the moderate Muslim democracy in Afghanistan, a government now again under threat from the Taliban, and a government now unable to control the rise of poppy growing in the countryside, which went up 60% last year. This could be a calamitous consequence of our efforts to fight terror on many fronts. The NATO Commander General and Four Start Marine General Jones, one of the ablest people our military has produced in decades, said last week he needs more troops. I think the American people should tell the president, even if it costs more money, we would support giving more troops to Afghanistan. We must prevail there, we cannot let the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda come back, and if we have more troops finally it will enable us to intensify the hunt for Mr. Bin Laden and Dr. Al-Zawahri and the other leaders that remain at large.
This should not be a political issue. These two items should be American commitments. We owe it to the people here who suffered on 9/11 to finish the job.
Finally, we must remember what drove the suicide bombers and still drives their counterparts in the middle east and across the world. They believed they were in full possession of the truth. They believed they would be rewarded by God for their self immolation and they believed that anyone who did not share their truth, no matter how innocent or uninvolved, did not deserve to live because they were somehow less than human. This poisonous idea has led to the senseless murders all over the world of all kinds of people.
Let us not forget that not so long ago a man named Zarkaoui, before he was killed in the name of Al Qaeda, butchered hundreds of Muslims, in Jordan including little kids at a wedding reception. People have died in Bali, in Spain, in London, all in across the world. Let us not forget at the World Trade Center, there were victims from over 70 other countries, including more than 200 other Muslims.
I will always remember when my daughter and I went down to the victim center (my wife had gone back to Washington to try and work on aid for New York) to deal with the aftermath and the consequences to the healthcare workers and the other rescue workers. We didn’t have anything to do so we just went down to the Victim Center to try to offer comfort.
I saw this man in line, who was a head taller than me, weep. He was obviously an Arab. I said, “Did you lose someone”? He said, “No, I am just here to offer my condolences. I am an Egyptian Muslim American. I hate the terrorists even more than you do but I am so afraid my fellow Americans will never trust me again.”
There are all kind of victims when people believe that our differences are more important than our common humanity. I have been grateful and proud when Americans reach across party and other lines to refute that idea. I wish my wife could be here today because she has done so much more on this than I have. She is in New York with her constituents at similar events, but for a moment all of us were together.
The business of 9/11 is not yet completed. You know it and I know it. We can have all of our differences, we can argue our politics, but in the end we owe it to those who perished, to those who were wounded, to those who still are injured, to finish the job they left us with and to do it as one and in so doing to send one more signal to the world that the age old battle between our common humanity and our interesting differences, in the end, do not matter. No matter how many times they try, no matter even if they succeed again somewhere, in the end they will lose because we now know that God made us genetically over 99.9% the same and we know that every faith truly practiced honors the fact that we are all created as one. Let us remember that and honor those who were lost. God bless you all.