United Nations General Assembly

Fifty-sixth session

44th plenary meeting

Saturday, 10 November 2001, 9 a.m.

New York


President Bush: We meet in a Hall devoted to

peace; in a city scarred by violence; in a nation

awakened to danger; in a world uniting for a long

struggle. Every civilized nation here today is resolved

to keep the most basic commitment of civilization. We

will defend ourselves and our future against terror and

lawless violence.

The United Nations was founded in this cause. In

the Second World War, we learned that there is no

isolation from evil. We affirmed that some crimes are

so terrible they offend humanity itself, and we resolved

that the aggressions and ambitions of the wicked must

be opposed early, decisively and collectively, before

they threaten us all.

That evil has returned, and that cause is renewed.

A few miles from here, many thousands still lie in a

tomb of rubble. Tomorrow, the Secretary-General, the

President of the General Assembly and I will visit that

site, where the names of every nation and region that

lost citizens will be read aloud. If we were to read out

the names of every person who died, it would take

more than three hours.

Those names include a citizen of the Gambia,

whose wife spent their fourth wedding anniversary, 12

September, searching in vain for her husband. Those

names include a man who supported his wife in

Mexico, sending home money every week. Those

names include a young Pakistani who prayed towards

Mecca five times a day and who died that day trying to

save others.

The suffering of 11 September was inflicted on

people of many faiths and many nations. All of the

victims, including Muslims, were killed with equal

indifference and equal satisfaction by the terrorist


The terrorists are violating the tenets of every

religion, including the one they invoke. Last week, the

sheikh of Al-Azhar University, the world’s oldest

Islamic institution of higher learning, declared that

terrorism is a disease and that Islam prohibits killing

innocent civilians. The terrorists call their cause holy,

yet they fund it with drug dealing. They encourage

murder and suicide in the name of a great faith that

forbids both. They dare to ask God’s blessing as they

set out to kill innocent men, women and children. But

the God of Isaac and Ishmael would never answer such

a prayer. And a murderer is not a martyr; he is just a


Time is passing. Yet for the United States of

America, there will be no forgetting 11 September. We

will remember every rescuer who died in honour. We

will remember every family that lives in grief. We will

remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the

funerals of the children.

And the people of my country will remember

those who have plotted against us. We are learning

their names. We are coming to know their faces. There

is no corner of the Earth distant or dark enough to

protect them. However long it takes, their hour of

justice will come.

Every nation has a stake in this cause. As we

meet, the terrorists are planning more murder —

perhaps in my country, or perhaps, fellow members, in

yours. They kill because they aspire to dominate. They

seek to overthrow Governments and to destabilize

entire regions. Last week, anticipating this meeting of

the General Assembly, they denounced the United

Nations; they called our Secretary-General a criminal

and they condemned all Arab nations here as traitors to

Islam. Few countries meet their exacting standards of

brutality and oppression. Every other country is a

potential target.

And all the world faces the most horrifying

prospect of all: those same terrorists are searching for

weapons of mass destruction, the tools to turn their

hatred into holocaust. They can be expected to use

chemical, biological and nuclear weapons the moment

they are capable of doing so. No hint of conscience

would prevent it. That threat cannot be ignored; that

threat cannot be appeased. Civilization itself — the

civilization we share — is threatened. History will

record our response and will judge or justify every

nation in this Hall.

The civilized world is now responding. We act to

defend ourselves and to deliver our children from a

future of fear. We choose the dignity of life over a

culture of death. We choose lawful change and civil

disagreement over coercion, subversion and chaos.

Those commitments — hope and order, law and life —

unite people across cultures and continents. Upon those

commitments depend all peace and progress. For those

commitments, we are determined to fight.

The United Nations has risen to this

responsibility: on 12 September, these buildings

opened for emergency meetings of the General

Assembly and of the Security Council. Before the sun

had set, these attacks on the world stood condemned by

the world, and I want to thank you, fellow members,

for that strong and principled stand.

I also thank the Arab and Islamic countries that

have condemned terrorist murder. Many of you have

seen the destruction of terror in your own lands. The

terrorists are increasingly isolated by their own hatred

and extremism. They cannot hide behind Islam. The

authors of mass murder and their allies have no place

in any culture, and no home in any faith.

The conspiracies of terror are being answered by

an expanding global coalition. Not every nation will be

part of every action against the enemy. But every

nation in our coalition has duties. Those duties can be

demanding, as we in America are learning. We have

already made adjustments in our laws and in our daily

lives. We are taking new measures to investigate terror

and to protect against threats.

The leaders of all nations must now carefully

consider their responsibilities and their future. Terrorist

groups such as Al Qaeda depend upon the aid or

indifference of Governments. They need the support of

a financial infrastructure and safe havens to train and

plan and hide.

Some nations want to play their part in the fight

against terror but tell us they lack the means to enforce

their laws and control their borders. We stand ready to


Some Governments still turn a blind eye to the

terrorists, hoping the threat will pass them by. They are


And some Governments, while pledging to

uphold the principles of the United Nations, have cast

their lot with the terrorists. They support them and

harbour them. And they will find that their welcomed

guests are parasites that will weaken them and

eventually consume them. For every regime that

sponsors terror there is a price to be paid, and it will be

paid. The allies of terror are equally guilty of murder

and equally accountable to justice.

The Taliban are now learning that lesson. That

regime and the terrorists who support it are now

virtually indistinguishable. Together they promote

terror abroad and impose a reign of terror on the

Afghan people. Women are executed in Kabul’s soccer

stadium. They can be beaten for wearing socks that are

too thin. Men are jailed for missing prayer meetings.

The United States, supported by many nations, is

bringing justice to the terrorists in Afghanistan. We are

making progress against military targets — and that is

our objective. Unlike the enemy, we seek to minimize,

not maximize, the loss of innocent life. I am proud of

the honourable conduct of the American military. And

my country grieves for all the suffering the Taliban

have brought upon Afghanistan, including the terrible

burden of war.

The Afghan people do not deserve their present

rulers. Years of Taliban misrule have brought nothing

but misery and starvation. Even before this current

crisis, 4 million Afghans depended on food from the

United States and other nations, and millions of

Afghans were refugees from Taliban oppression.

I make this promise to all the victims of that

regime: the Taliban’s days of harbouring terrorists, and

dealing in heroin, and brutalizing women are drawing

to a close. When that regime is gone, the people of

Afghanistan will say, with the rest of the world, good


I can promise, too, that America will join the

world in helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild

their country.

Many nations, including mine, are sending food

and medicine to help Afghans through the winter.

America has airdropped over 1.3 million packages of

rations in Afghanistan. Just this week, we airlifted

20,000 blankets and over 200 tons of provisions into

the region. We continue to provide humanitarian aid,

even while the Taliban try to steal the food we send.

More help, eventually, will be needed. The

United States will work closely with the United

Nations and development banks to reconstruct

Afghanistan after hostilities there have ceased and the

Taliban are no longer in control. And the United States

will work with the United Nations to support a post-

Taliban Government that represents all of the Afghan


In this war of terror, each of us must answer for

what we have done or what we have left undone. After

tragedy, there is a time for sympathy and condolence.

My country has been very grateful for both.

The memorials and vigils around the world will

not be forgotten. But the time for sympathy has now

passed. The time for action has now arrived.

The most basic obligations in this new conflict

have already been defined by the United Nations. On

28 September, the Security Council adopted resolution

1373 (2001). Its requirements are clear: every

United Nations Member has a responsibility to crack

down on terrorist financing. We must pass all necessary

laws in our own countries to allow the confiscation of

terrorist assets. We must apply those laws to every

financial institution in every nation.

We have a responsibility to share intelligence and

coordinate the efforts of law enforcement. If you know

something, tell us. If we know something, we will tell

you. And when we find the terrorists, we must work

together to bring them to justice.

We have a responsibility to deny any sanctuary,

safe haven, or transit to terrorists. Every known

terrorist camp must be shut down, its operators

apprehended, and evidence of their arrest presented to

the United Nations.

We have a responsibility to deny weapons to

terrorists — and to actively prevent private citizens

from providing them.

These obligations are urgent, and they are binding

on every nation with a place in this Hall. Many

Governments are taking these obligations seriously,

and my country appreciates it. Yet even beyond

resolution 1373 (2001), more is required — and more

is expected — of our coalition against terror. We are

asking for a comprehensive commitment to this fight.

We must unite in opposing all terrorists, not just

some of them. In this world, there are good causes and

bad causes, and we may disagree on where that line is

drawn. Yet there is no such thing as a good terrorist.

No national aspiration, no remembered wrong, can ever

justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Any

Government that rejects this principle — trying to pick

and choose its terrorist friends — will know the


We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never

tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the

attacks of 11 September — malicious lies that attempt

to shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves,

away from the guilty. To inflame ethnic hatred is to

advance the cause of terror.

The war against terror must not serve as an

excuse to persecute ethnic and religious minorities in

any country. Innocent people must be allowed to live

their own lives, by their own customs, under their own

religion. And every nation must have avenues for the

peaceful expression of opinion and dissent. When these

avenues are closed, the temptation to speak through

violence grows.

We must press on with our agenda for peace and

prosperity in every land. My country is pledged to

encouraging development and expanding trade. My

country is pledged to investing in education and

combating AIDS and other infectious diseases around

the world. Following 11 September, these pledges are

even more important. In our struggle against hateful

groups that exploit poverty and despair, we must offer

an alternative of opportunity and hope.

The American Government also stands by its

commitment to a just peace in the Middle East. We are

working towards a day when two States — Israel and

Palestine — live peacefully together, within secure and

recognized borders, as called for by the Security

Council resolutions. We will do all in our power to

bring both parties back into negotiations. But peace

will come only when all have sworn off — forever —

incitement, violence and terror.

Finally, this struggle is a defining moment for the

United Nations itself — and the world needs its

principled leadership. It undermines the credibility of

this great institution, for example, when the

Commission on Human Rights offers seats to some of

the world’s most persistent violators of human rights.

The United Nations depends, above all, on its moral

authority — and that authority must be preserved.

The steps I have described will not be easy. For

all nations, they will require effort. For some nations,

they will require great courage. Yet the cost of inaction

is far greater. The only alternative to victory is a

nightmare world where every city is a potential killing


As I told the American people, freedom and fear

are at war. We face enemies that hate not our policies,

but our existence — the tolerance of openness and the

creative culture that define us. But the outcome of this

conflict is certain.

There is a current in history, and it runs towards

freedom. Our enemies resent it and dismiss it, but the

dreams of mankind are defined by liberty — the natural

right to create, and build, and worship, and live in

dignity. When men and women are released from

oppression and isolation, they find fulfilment and hope,

and they leave poverty by the millions. These

aspirations are lifting up the peoples of Europe, Asia,

Africa and the Americas, and they can lift up all of the

Islamic world. We stand for the permanent hopes of

humanity, and those hopes will not be denied.

We are confident, too, that history has an author,

who fills time and eternity with his purpose. We know

that evil is real, but good will prevail against it. This is

the teaching of many faiths. And in that assurance, we

gain strength for a long journey.

It is our task — the task of this generation — to

provide the response to aggression and terror. We have

no other choice, because there is no other peace. We

did not ask for this mission, yet there is honour in

history’s call. We have a chance to write the story of

our times — a story of courage defeating cruelty, and

light overcoming darkness. This calling is worthy of

any life, and worthy of every nation. So let us go

forward — confident, determined and unafraid.