27 February 2003
Fight Terrorism to Preserve Civilization, Ambassador Says
(Ambassador Huhtala's remarks in Malaysia Feb. 22) (3220)
The fight against terrorism is a fight to preserve the rule of law and
civilization as we know it, says the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Marie
In remarks delivered February 22 in Kuala Lumpur to the Rotary
International Dinner Forum, Huhtala emphasized that the war against
terrorism "is not some sort of 'clash of civilizations.' Rather, it is
a clash between civilization itself and those who would destroy it."
The terrorist enemy is not one person, a single political regime, or a
religion, she said. Rather, it is those who "regardless of their
specific secular or religious objectives, strive to subvert the rule
of law and effect change through violence and fear."
The "root causes" of terrorism are not in and of themselves poverty,
deprivation, social disenfranchisement, and unresolved political and
regional disputes, according to Huhtala.
Those conditions "do not justify the use of terror," she said.
"Indeed, terrorism only exacerbates those problems."
Many terrorist organizations "that have little in common with the poor
and destitute masses exploit these conditions to their advantage,"
Huhtala continued. "The September 11 terrorists, for instance, came
predominantly from the ranks of the educated and middle-class and
served in an organization led by a millionaire murderer."
Huhtala said the United States believes "most terrorist threats will
be countered through patient, painstaking diplomatic, law enforcement
and intelligence efforts and through the coordination of all these
efforts with friendly and allied nations around the world."
U.S. efforts "to address underlying conditions that provide fertile
ground for terrorists to plant their seeds have material as well as
intangible dimensions," the ambassador said. These include efforts to
resolve regional disputes; to foster economic, social, and political
development; and to promote market-based economies, good governance,
and the rule of law.
In the Muslim world, as it does elsewhere, the United States "will
continue to support moderate and modern governments that focus on
meeting the needs of their own citizens," Huhtala said.
"We will continue assuring Muslims that American values are not at
odds with Islam. Indeed, the United States has fought to defend many
imperiled Muslims in the past -- in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bosnia, and
Kosovo, to name a few," she said.
Terrorism is a world threat, Huhtala said, and victory "will be
achieved when our children can live free from fear and when the threat
of terrorist attacks no longer hangs over our daily lives."
Following is the text of Huhtala's remarks, as released by the
Department of State:
Terrorism -- A Threat to World Peace?
Marie T. Huhtala, U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia
Remarks to the Rotary International Dinner Forum
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
February 22, 2003
Good evening. I'm delighted to be here this evening and have the
opportunity to address an august group, Rotary International, which is
so highly regarded for its good works around the world. I understand
that this evening's gathering includes a number of Rotary Clubs from
the Kuala Lumpur area.
I'm honored to share the speaking duties this evening with our
moderator Datuk Paddy Bowie, my esteemed diplomatic colleague, the
Ambassador of Germany Jurgen Staaks, and with Razak Baginda, whose
writings and presentations I have followed with great interest during
my time in Malaysia.
The question before us this evening is whether terrorism is a threat
to world peace. Obviously, if we look at how the world has changed in
the last 18 months, the answer is a resounding "yes." There is still a
debate in some quarters over exactly what constitutes terrorism,
though many of us "know it when we see it." I'd like to offer a
definition of terrorism, drawn from a new U.S. counter-terrorism
strategy announced in Washington last week, that perhaps we can all
agree on: "Terrorism is premeditated, politically motivated violence
perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or
Premeditated. Politically motivated. Noncombatant targets. Done by
someone other than nation states -- those are the key elements to our
It would be difficult to overstate how the events of September 11,
2001 have changed the United States. What happened that day has caused
us to take a hard look at our foreign policy and national security
objectives around the world. Moreover, with the creation of the new
Department of Homeland Security, the United States has undertaken its
largest government reorganization since World War II. But, Americans
know that terrorism did not begin on September 11, 2001. Regrettably,
its history is long and all too familiar. The first major terrorist
attack on New York City's financial district, for instance, did not
occur on September 11, or even with the 1993 truck bombing of the
World Trade Center. It occurred on September 16, 1920, when anarchists
exploded a horse cart filled with dynamite near the intersections of
Wall and Broad Streets, taking 40 lives and wounding about 300 others.
Starting with the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901,
American history in the 20th century was punctuated by terrorism. Some
of the most terrible events were the attack by Puerto Rican
nationalists on the Capitol Building in Washington (in 1954), a string
of aircraft hijackings beginning in 1961, and the downing of Pan Am
103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, when all 259 aboard
U.S. Embassies and diplomats were frequent targets -- our Embassies in
Tanzania, Kenya, Beirut, Athens, Moscow, and Kuwait were all attacked
in the 1980s and 1990s and many diplomats, there and elsewhere, were
either kidnapped, murdered, or both. We also suffered terrorist
attacks on military facilities, such as the bombings of the Khobar
Towers residential area in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and the USS Cole in
Yemen in 2000.
And we are painfully aware that we are still vulnerable. You will all
have seen that America is bracing itself for more terrorist attacks
right now and, based on credible threat information, we have gone to
Level Orange, which means that the U.S. Government believes there is a
high possibility of imminent terrorist activities in the United
Americans also understand that we are not alone in the struggle
against terror. Terrorists have left their mark in some way upon every
country in the world. Too many nations around the world have had the
fundamental fabric of their societies torn by endemic terrorism.
Colombia and Sri Lanka are only two examples.
It is important to remember that citizens from some 90 countries died
in the attacks of September 11. Moreover, last fall's bombings in Bali
brought home to all of us that terrorism is lurking in Southeast Asia
as well. As Secretary of State Colin Powell recently stated: "In the
global campaign against terrorism, no country has the luxury of
remaining on the sidelines. There are no sidelines. Terrorists respect
no limits, geographic or moral. The frontlines are everywhere and the
stakes are high."
Although terrorism is a centuries-old scourge, it has adapted itself
to our new, globalized world. Al-Qaida exemplifies how terrorist
networks have twisted the benefits and conveniences of our
increasingly open, integrated, and modernized world to serve their
The Al-Qaida network is a multinational enterprise with operations in
more than 60 countries. Its camps in Afghanistan provided sanctuary
for years, and its bank accounts served as a trust fund for terrorism.
Its global activities are coordinated through the use of personal
couriers and communication technologies emblematic of our era
-cellular and satellite phones, encrypted e-mail, Internet chat rooms,
videotape, and CD-ROMs. Like a skilled publicist, Usama bin Laden and
al-Qaida have exploited the international media to project his image
and message worldwide.
How do we respond to such a nefarious opponent? First, by defining who
and what we are fighting. The enemy is not one person. It is not a
single political regime. Certainly, it is not a religion. Rather, we
fight those who, regardless of their specific secular or religious
objectives, strive to subvert the rule of law and effect change
through violence and fear. We fight those who share the misguided
belief that killing, kidnapping, extorting, robbing, and wreaking
havoc to terrorize people are legitimate forms of political action.
Second, we respond with a variety of methods. Of course, there is
military action, which, for example, was necessary in Afghanistan to
rip out by the roots the al-Qaida infrastructure that had been allowed
to develop there and the repressive government that had shielded the
terrorists. The United States believes, however, that most terrorist
threats will be countered through patient, painstaking diplomatic, law
enforcement and intelligence efforts and through the coordination of
all these efforts with friendly and allied nations around the world.
Malaysia is a shining example of this. We have always had close law
enforcement and intelligence ties with Malaysia but these have
increased since September 11 to our mutual benefit. The fruits have
been tangible. To cite but one example, you will recall that last fall
your government allowed U.S. agents to interview a Malaysian being
held under the Internal Security Act, in connection with the
prosecution of al-Qaida member Zacarias Moussaoui in the United
States. We deeply appreciated that opportunity.
The United States and Malaysia have also worked well on the diplomatic
front in the fight against terrorism. Our two countries signed a
Memorandum of Understanding on counter-terrorism when Prime Minister
Mahathir was in Washington last spring. Subsequently, drawing from
that text, the U.S. and ASEAN signed a declaration on
counter-terrorism at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in August. The
United States looks forward to co-hosting with Malaysia next month in
Sabah the ARF Intersessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and
Finally, the United States plans to play a constructive role in the
regional Counter-Terrorism Center which Malaysia has agreed to host.
We are also encouraged by the highly constructive role that Malaysia
has taken in cooperating with Indonesia in identifying and
apprehending the Bali bombers. These examples illustrate that, while
the U.S. and Malaysia do not always agree on all issues, we have found
extensive common ground on counter-terrorism and will continue to seek
ways to expand on this shared interest.
On the world stage, working with like-minded nations like Malaysia, we
will deny further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by
ensuring that other states accept their responsibilities to take
action against these international threats within their sovereign
UNSCR 1373 and the twelve UN counterterrorism conventions and
protocols establish high standards that we and our international
partners expect others to meet in deed as well as word. Together,
UNSCR 1373, the international counter-terrorism conventions and
protocols, and the inherent right under international law of
individual and collective self-defense confirm the legitimacy of the
international community's campaign to eradicate terrorism. We will use
UNSCR 1373 and the international counterterrorism conventions and
protocols to galvanize international cooperation and to rally support
for holding accountable those states that do not meet their
The United States currently lists seven state sponsors of terrorism:
Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan. We are firmly
committed to removing countries from the list once they have taken the
necessary steps under our law and policy. A checkered past does not
foreclose future membership in the coalition against terrorism or in
the world community, as some countries have demonstrated.
There is much talk these days of the "root causes" of terrorism. While
the United States recognizes that there are many countries and people
living with poverty, deprivation, social disenfranchisement, and
unresolved political and regional disputes, those conditions do not
justify the use of terror. Indeed, terrorism only exacerbates those
However, many terrorist organizations that have little in common with
the poor and destitute masses exploit these conditions to their
advantage. The September 11 terrorists, for instance, came
predominantly from the ranks of the educated and middle-class and
served in an organization led by a millionaire murderer.
Our efforts to address underlying conditions that provide fertile
ground for terrorists to plant their seeds have material as well as
intangible dimensions. Ongoing U.S. efforts to resolve regional
disputes, to foster economic, social, and political development, and
to promote market-based economies, good governance, and the rule of
law, while not necessarily focused on combating terrorism, contribute
to the campaign by addressing underlying conditions that terrorists
often seek to manipulate for their own advantage. Additionally,
ameliorating these conditions requires the United States, with its
friends and allies, to win the "war of ideas," to support democratic
values, and to promote economic freedom. Nowhere is this "war of
ideas" more important than in the Muslim world, where the United
States will continue to support moderate and modern governments that
focus on meeting the needs of their own citizens. We will continue
assuring Muslims that American values are not at odds with Islam.
Indeed, the United States has fought to defend many imperiled Muslims
in the past -- in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bosnia, and Kosovo, to name a
few. The United States will work with such moderate and modern
governments to reverse the spread of extremist ideology and to counter
those who seek to impose totalitarian ideologies on our Muslim allies
Finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an essential
component to winning the war of ideas. No other issue has so colored
the perception of the United States in the Muslim world. The
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical because of the toll of human
suffering there, because of America's close relationship with the
state of Israel and key Arab states, and because of that region's
importance to other global priorities of the United States. There can
be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides.
America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine,
living alongside Israel in peace and security. Like all other people,
Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and
listens to their voices. The United States will continue to encourage
all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and
comprehensive settlement to the conflict. The United States can play a
crucial role but, ultimately, lasting peace can only come when
Israelis and Palestinians resolve the issues and end the conflict
Perhaps the primary lesson from the events of September 11 is that
threats to international stability and world peace cannot be allowed
to fester and spread. Instead, they must be dealt with early so that
the world community does not suffer the consequences of inaction. This
is what guides U.S. policy on Iraq, an issue that I know is on all of
our minds this evening.
This is not a new problem. There has been no rush to judgment. In the
last 12 years, there have been 16 UN resolutions calling on Iraq to
give up its weapons of mass destruction. Last fall's UN Security
Council Resolution 1441, painstakingly negotiated for almost two
months by Security Council members and then unanimously adopted, was
only the latest resolution in this regard.
As Secretary Powell pointed out in his comments to the UN Security
Council on February 14, Resolution 1441 was not about inspections.
Iraq has not complied with 1441 just because it has once again allowed
in inspectors. Resolution 1441 was about Iraqi disarmament -- full,
voluntary disarmament of Iraq's horrific arsenal of weapons of mass
destruction. And this Iraq continues to refuse to do.
The lead UN inspector, Dr. Hans Blix, has reported improvements in
Iraqi cooperation on several issues of process, but there has been no
improvement on issues of substance. In the face of substantive
non-cooperation by the Iraqi government, inspectors will never be able
to use random inspections to find all of the weapons of mass
destruction, or WMD, that we know Iraq has -- because earlier
inspectors found plenty of WMD before they were thrown out in 1998.
Remember, we are talking about 100 inspectors in a country the size of
California. The burden is not on the inspectors to find WMD but on
Iraq to come clean on what it has done with the massive amounts of
anthrax, botulism, VX and other horrific agents it already has
admitted to having. For the United Nations to have any credibility, it
cannot continue to allow Iraq to blithely ignore UN resolutions. In
particular, the UN cannot allow Iraq to escape the "serious
consequences" which 1441 clearly stated would be the result of Iraqi
The United States is quite willing to work towards another UN
resolution, building on 1441, but the purpose of such a second
resolution must be to make unequivocally clear to Iraq once again that
the world community insists on full compliance and that the world
community will resort to military force to force Iraqi compliance if
Iraq continues to mock the United Nations.
We hope that member states of the Non-Aligned Movement will strongly
make this point to Iraq during the ongoing NAM Summit here in Kuala
Nothing less than the credibility and future of the United Nations is
at stake here. If a rogue state, with a loathsome human rights record
and armed with the worst WMD, can defy the United Nations with no fear
of serious consequences, then the United Nations risks becoming like
the old League of Nations: a toothless debating society unable to
respond to the crises of the day.
Let me conclude by returning to the theme of this forum: "Is Terrorism
a Threat to World Peace?" I think we have all see that it is. How do
we make it less of a threat? The United States, in concert with
friends and allies, seeks to defeat terrorism by acting simultaneously
on four fronts.
-- We will defeat terrorist organizations of global reach by attacking
their sanctuaries, leadership, command, control and communications,
material support, and finances;
-- We will deny further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to
terrorists by working closely with our willing and able allies,
helping willing but weak states, persuading reluctant states and using
all the elements of national power to compel the unwilling ones;
-- We will diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to
exploit by enlisting the international community to focus its efforts
and resources on the areas most at risk; and
-- We will defend the United States, its citizens and interests at
home and abroad by proactively protecting our homeland and ensuring we
identify and neutralize the threat as early as possible.
Victory in the war on terrorism will be achieved when our children can
live free from fear and when the threat of terrorist attacks no longer
hangs over our daily lives.
As we all unite against terrorism, let us remember that although
political violence may be endemic to the human condition, we cannot
tolerate terrorists who seek to combine the powers of modern
technology and WMD to threaten the very notion of civilized society.
The war against terrorism, therefore, is not some sort of "clash of
civilizations." Rather, it is a clash between civilization itself and
those who would destroy it. Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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