9/11 One Year Later: Miami, The Nation, and The WorldTom Cooney, Western Hemisphere Policy Officer
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Address to a Symposium at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami
September 6, 2002
Good morning. I would like to thank Dr. Clem of Florida International University, the Miami Herald, and WLRN public radio for organizing this symposium. I would first like to convey Ambassador Taylorís sincere regrets that he could not be here today. The assassination attempt on President Karzai and the Kabul bombings yesterday naturally have required his attention in Washington. In his absence, I am pleased to share the message that he had hoped to bring to you himself today.
As President Bush has stated, the global campaign against terrorism will endure for many years to come -- until terrorists no longer have any sort of quasi-legitimate presence in global political discourse. Our aim is clear: to vanquish terrorism as a means of political expression and to starve terrorists of their sources of funding and support. In short, we intend to close the seams where international terrorists hide.
The anniversary of the September 11 attacks is upon us, and it revives for many, including myself, the shock and horror of one year ago. In many ways, it seems like just a week ago that hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania.
However, much has transpired since then. I wonít stand up here and profess to tell you that the mission has been accomplished, but there are encouraging successes worthy of note:
Yesterdayís violence in Kabul underlines the fact that our work is not done and that there is a clear need for continued action, but we can take heart in the successes achieved to date.
One year on, the international coalition has moved beyond immediate responses. The initial challenges are being overcome. We are freezing assets, and have scored impressive military successes thus far. But we have several more challenges to face. We donít have all of the answers, and so we welcome your dialogue here today.
The main challenges that we in the State Department see are:
Let me first address political will. As the emotional impact of September 11 fades, we must remember that this campaign will take many years. Thankfully, humans are resilient and have a tremendous capacity to recover from disaster -- whether natural or man-made. However, we must not forget our mission or allow it to become lost if the threat appears to recede. Terrorists are patient and methodical. In turn, counter-terrorists must be equally patient and methodical in order to be truly effective in our efforts. We must not forget that al-Qaida sometimes waits years between major operations. The bombings of our embassies in Africa in August 1998 were followed 2 years later by the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, which was almost a year before September 11, 2001.
When we talk about political will, we must remember that each country is facing tough decisions. Our own government is undergoing its most massive reorganization since World War II with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
The next challenge after sustaining political will is to build the actual capacity to defeat terrorists. This second phase has already begun in Georgia, Yemen, and the Philippines. Long term, the U.S. Government views UN Security Council Resolution 1373 as the key document to follow. It maps a comprehensive strategy to build international cooperation on training and terrorism financing initiatives.
How do we define success in our global campaign against terrorism? In our view, we will have succeeded when terrorism is no longer a legitimate form of political expression. There can no longer be a tolerance on the world stage for premeditated killings of innocent non-combatants to achieve political, social, or religious goals.
I would be remiss, standing here in Miami, if I did not also address the campaign against terrorism here in the hemisphere. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States remembers how the nations of the Americas, along with regional associations such as the Rio Group, stood fast by us as we struggled to cope with the tragedy and to understand such wickedness. We remember that Secretary Powell was in Lima on the day of the attacks for an important OAS meeting to celebrate democracy, and we note how Latin American states moved immediately and resolutely to translate their expressions of solidarity into legal frameworks to prevent future terrorist attacks in the hemisphere. The Rio Treaty of Mutual Assistance was invoked on September 19, 2001, declaring the attacks against the United States to be attacks against all treaty members.
However, we cannot risk losing momentum as the emotional impact of the attacks recedes. We are working with the nations of the Americas to implement all 12 of the UN anti-terrorism conventions, to ratify and implement the OASí new Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, and to starve terrorist groups in the hemisphere -- the Shining Path in Peru, and the FARC, ELN, and AUC in Colombia -- of weapons and narco-trafficking routes.
The U.S. also remains particularly concerned about the illegal activities of Hizballah and other terrorist groups of global reach operating in the hemisphere, such as the Southern Cone triborder area and Isla Margarita in Venezuela. Several nations have acted vigorously on the law enforcement front with a number of key arrests. However, only a sustained and coordinated campaign can succeed in stamping out such a resilient and embedded threat. We look forward to working with our partners in the region toward our common goal of ridding the hemisphere of both international and indigenous terrorist threats.
Besides maintaining the State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism also maintains a list of the state sponsors of terror. There are seven countries currently on this list, and only one in the hemisphere. Cuba has been listed by the State Department as a sponsor of terrorism since 1982, and it continues to provide safe haven for members of the terrorist groups ETA (Spain), FARC (Colombia), and ELN (Colombia). Further, Sinn Feinís longtime representative in Cuba was arrested in Colombia in August 2001 for allegedly training FARC operatives in advanced explosives techniques for application in an urban terrorism campaign. Numerous fugitives from U.S. justice live freely on the island.
Clearly, Cuba has not yet made moves consistent with the rest of the Americas to reduce the threat of terrorism in the region; on the contrary, Cuba has worked to keep it alive. It has not yet renounced terrorism as a legitimate political tool, and thus remains on our list of state sponsors of terror.
In Colombia, the U.S. is committed to helping President Uribeís administration in its struggle against the three terrorist groups undermining stability in its territory -- the FARC, ELN, and AUC. Our ultimate goal is enhanced stability and security for the Colombian people so that they may develop their economies and societies in peace. We have sought, and received, new Congressional authorities and assistance this year for Colombia to help counter threats posed by these groups, which use narcotics trafficking to fund their terrorist activities and to undermine the national security of Colombia.
This is the field facing us in the world and in the region one year distant from the horrific attacks of 9/11. These are the challenges, and these are our goals. We will continue to strive in the shadows for future successes to achieve a world safer from the reprehensible practice of terrorism. My thanks again to FIU, the Miami Herald, and WLRN for its organization of this timely symposium. I look forward to hearing your conclusions.
Thank you very much.