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Speech by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Coats on the International Campaign Against Global Terrorism


Speech by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Coats on the International Campaign Against Global Terrorism

March 5, 2002

Minister President Teufel, I want to express my personal thanks to you, as well as thanks on behalf of the President of the United States and the American people, for your unqualified solidarity and commitment to the United States. It is most appreciated, particularly at this difficult time.

Marsha and I also would like to thank you for your generous and most gracious welcome to Stuttgart today. We had a wonderful discussion and we look forward to a good, strong relationship with you and Baden-Württemberg.

The American people have a relationship with the German people, particularly of this state, that is a unique one. It has been fostered over many years of association through our military presence, through our business presence, and through the personal American presence of people living here. Those bonds are deep and you reflected that in your speech.

General Fulford and Mrs. Fulford, it's always a pleasure to see you. As I indicated to you on the way in, you brought a lot of 'stars' along with you today. To the generals that are here, and for all those from the European Command here tonight, both in and out of uniform, I thank you for your presence and for your service to our country.

State Secretary Böhmler, thank you for your welcome and for your good words. Excellenzen, from all the German government offices that are represented here, I am deeply grateful for your presence.

Dr. Bachteler, my thanks to the James Byrnes Institute for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this evening.

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

It is a great pleasure for us to be here at this particular time.
Your great civic institutions, your vibrant economy, your rich cultural life, but more importantly, the people of this region, are a precious resource and the backbone of the German-American partnership that we are celebrating this evening.

Historically, culturally, politically, and economically, there is so much that links Germans and Americans together. From America's earliest years, some very prominent Americans have played a role in building German-American friendship. Thomas Jefferson, the writer of our Declaration of Independence, traveled to Germany in 1788. Teddy Roosevelt, who became one of our presidents, lived in Dresden as a young boy of 14.

Our humorist, that famous Missouri icon, Mark Twain, hiked this region and wrote about his experiences in a book called A Tramp Abroad, published in 1880. Mark Twain was convinced that the healthy baths of Baden-Württemberg cured his rheumatism. But while he was here in this region, he also complained about the Americans who seemed, he said, to be everywhere. I quote from his writings: "Lots of vociferous Americans at breakfast this morning. Talking at everybody, while pretending to talk among themselves...showing off. The usual signs -- airy, easy-going references to grand distances and foreign places."

Well, here we are 120 years later, still with our German friends in Baden-Württemberg. I hope though that our conduct as Americans, 120 years after Mark Twain wrote his comments, does not reflect his observations of American conduct at that particular breakfast.

Although the historical roots of our friendship run very deep, the relationship between our countries has not been without its challenges. But even during the difficult days following World War II, the commonality between the German and American people has always been evident.

As the American historian Steven Ambrose noted, "the average GI found that the people he liked best, identified most closely with, and enjoyed being with were the Germans," who seemed to so many American soldiers to be "just like us."

The Transatlantic Relationship

These are indeed once again uncertain, difficult times for the world. But one thing is certain here this evening, in these uncertain times. German-American cooperation, German-American partnership, and German-American dialogue are alive and well. This relationship between our two countries can be an example for the international community.

The most recent proof that the world can bridge its political and cultural differences was the success of the Olympics in Salt Lake City last month. What we saw exhibited at the Olympics, and some of you were there -- including your Minister President, can serve as an example for us all.

As President Bush said in Salt Lake City, "All people appreciate the discipline that produces excellence; the courage that overcomes difficult odds; the character that creates champions."

Those Olympic qualities -- discipline, courage, character -- are the qualities that describe the steps we have taken together in this campaign against terrorism.

The initial result from the shock and horror of September 11th was that the basic foundations of our society and our relationship remain strong. I know that here in Baden-Württemberg the outpouring of support of all kinds was immense. We are profoundly grateful for the many public and private gestures of support that we received throughout Germany from the German people. A German woman came up to me and said: "You were with us in our time of need, and now, we are with you in your time of need." And you were with us, and it was extraordinarily meaningful, and we are deeply appreciative of that.

The coalition that rallied as a response to September 11 created a series of flexible bilateral and multilateral relationships -- some of them, previously unthinkable.

But the success of that coalition was built on the foundation of the powerful tradition of transatlantic cooperation and the strength of our relationship with good friends like Germany.

That relationship was formed by over 50 years of partnership, a partnership that was born in the midst of a Germany that lay in ruins after World War II. Some might say that the exact place of birth of this new partnership was indeed here in Stuttgart -- because it was here in Stuttgart that Secretary of State Byrnes (as it was noted earlier this evening) delivered his famous "Speech of Hope," offering Germans the prospect of eventual prosperity and a return to the community of nations.

The reaction in Germany to his speech was extremely positive. On September 7, 1946, the headline of the Stuttgarter Zeitung was "A Day of Global Importance."

I'd like to share with you a little anecdote that I came across because I think it reflects the attitude of the American military and the American people toward Germany after that very difficult period of time during the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1945, non-fraternization was simply the policy of the United States military that said you can't associate with the German people. The orders to our troops initially were for non-fraternization but an army captain, posted in a small German town, became convinced that the time had come to establish people-to-people relations between Germans and Americans. In the summer of 1946, he decided to establish a German-American friendship club, but the club was criticized as a violation of existing military occupation policy and he was ordered by his superiors to terminate the club and he was relieved from his post.

But that army captain did not give up. Convinced of the validity of his idea, he demanded a court martial. For Secretary Byrnes had just said in Stuttgart, that the American people wanted to help the German people win their way back to an honorable place among the free and peace loving nations of the world.

General Clay, then the Deputy Military Commander of Germany, decided that non-fraternization was no longer a practical policy. He then not only cancelled the court martial request but added that army captain to his personal staff with instructions to found German-American societies and clubs throughout the American zone.

That was a very significant moment in the beginning of a new relationship between the Americans and the Germans. The relationship that was fostered through our military, people in uniform, has made our current day relationship very, very special. A statement was made earlier this evening -- that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of soldiers had served here. I was astounded to learn that indeed over 13 million soldiers and their dependents from the United States have served and lived in Germany since the end of World War II. Thirteen million Americans have come here, and learned about German culture and German society, and associated with German people. They have taken back with them to America fond memories of their time in Germany.

I can't tell you how many people in the United States have came up to me and said: "You are so fortunate, to be named the Ambassador to Germany." Why? Because, they told me, we were there in 1948, or '53, or '67, or whatever year, and it was the best experience of our lives. We were young, we were new in a foreign country, the German people opened their arms to us, and we made life-long friendships. What an extraordinary story, unparalleled to any other experience that Americans have had with a different culture. Marsha and I are indeed fortunate to have that same opportunity.

The War on Terrorism

Thomas Jefferson, one of America's founding fathers, warned that the "price of liberty is eternal vigilance." The lesson of history is that to secure our liberty, we must be constantly on guard, prepared to defend our nation, and our friends and allies, against any new adversary. We now have a new adversary, one common to both of our countries. And we have responded to that new threat -- prudently, with careful planning, and with considerable success.

Just look at what we've accomplished since September 11.

President Bush has assembled a broad coalition against terror that has become a model for diplomatic and military cooperation. He has led this coalition with great steadiness, working with old allies, seeking new ones, consulting every day with other leaders, laying the groundwork for a sustained, unified and successful campaign.

Our intelligence services, law enforcement agencies and ministries, despite the challenges posed by differing legal systems, have made crucial advances in cooperation that will make it much more difficult for terrorists to operate in the future.

U.S.-European leadership has played an important role in the global effort to uncover and disband terrorist cells, to coordinate the arrest or detention of hundreds of terrorists around the world, to freeze millions of dollars in global assets linked to terrorist cells. This kind of cooperation, mandated by a UN resolution, was indeed, as President Bush said, "the first shot in the war against terrorism."

Germany, as host for the Bonn UN conference, played a key role in the creation of an interim administration for Afghanistan, defying the odds and all the critics who said the warring factions could never be brought together, that consensus in terms of establishing an interim government in Afghanistan would never be reached. And yet it was accomplished, and accomplished here in Germany, with German support.

German military forces are an important part of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Stability Force in Afghanistan. German troops are in the Balkans, and are leading the effort in Macedonia, providing stability to a troubled region and freeing U.S. troops for duties elsewhere.

There has been some criticism of the President's State of the Union address, criticism about his use of the term "axis of evil" in reference to three specific countries -- North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Europeans need to understand that Americans have been fundamentally and irrevocably changed by the events of 9-11.

Our age of innocence, our age of invulnerability is over, after the horror and shock of the attacks on New York and Washington. We were privileged to be protected by two vast oceans. Our conflicts, and the tensions and conflicts of the world, were always 'over there.' Often we engaged 'over there' -- to support our allies, and support our friends, and to try to bring peace and stability to Europe and to different parts of the world. But now the attack had come home to America, and Americans experienced something that our European friends had experienced earlier -- the tragedy of attack on innocent people, the tragedy of the events on September 11 in New York and Washington.

Our European friends need to understand that we are resolved and determined to do everything in our capability, everything humanly possible to prevent a future attack. President Bush has unprecedented support from Congress and the American people. There is no division on this issue in America, except for a very small minority of the intellectual left and the press, but the President has said, and he is right, that we will not, we cannot, wait for future attacks before taking action.

Some people have said that we need to give peace a chance. But the reason why we must take preventive action is that the terrorist threat is real. It is global, it is extensive, and it is dangerous. And it still exists in many forms and in many ways. As we speak here this evening, American troops, supported by troops from other nations, are still trying to pacify Afghanistan and to defeat Al Qaida forces -- non-Afghani Taliban forces composed of individuals from countries throughout the Muslim world that have gathered in a section of Afghanistan and are fighting against our troops. Others may be in the neighboring state of Georgia. We have found terrorist cells in many countries around the world. We know that their efforts are directed against innocent people and symbols of Western values. Their efforts are not designed to retaliate for perceived injustice or for poverty, but to collapse the world economy, promote political instability and undermine basic values, foster fear, and threaten our very way of life.

Despite our remarkable success in Afghanistan, we know that terrorist groups continue to operate around the world. We've recently read of efforts, thankfully intercepted, to bomb our Embassy in Paris, to bomb our Embassy in Singapore, in Rome. We've read about the shoe bomber who boarded an airplane, and had it not been for the alertness of an airline stewardess and passengers, another plane could have been bombed and hundreds of lives could have been lost. We have suffered and seen terrorist attacks in Africa against two embassies, tragic attacks that cost hundreds of lives -- lives of both Americans and of native individuals working in those embassies. We have seen an attack on one of our ships in Yemen. And we have seen, and intercepted, plans to attack the American Embassy and the German Embassy in Macedonia.

And this is just what has been disclosed to the public. All of this still continues. And so, the terrorist threat to us is real, and it is immediate, and it is now. And it has an extra dimension that, if for no other reason, means we must address this question now. That extra dimension is the presence and the troubling possibility and reality of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Since the end of the Cold War, scientists who carry knowledge and individuals who have sold these weapons to rogue states and rogue groups have dispersed weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical and biological -- in many areas of the world. We know that some states are aggressively pursuing and providing these capabilities to other nations and potentially to terrorist groups. North Korea, Iran and Iraq all fall in this category.

In the hands of terrorists, unimaginable consequences could result from the use of weapons of mass destruction in a terrorist attack. While the image of the collapse of the World Trade Towers is still vivid in our minds, it pales in comparison to what we would have experienced and what we would have seen had weapons of mass destruction been aboard those planes on September 11.

President Bush has challenged the world to respond to this threat. Our President speaks candidly and very directly, without ambiguity, but he speaks the truth. Faced with this threat to our very existence and the values that we hold dear, we must respond now and not wait for the next terrorist attack.

"Axis of evil" was not a casual, spontaneous phrase. It was carefully designed to force the world to face the reality of the threat and to prompt a response. Not unlike what Ronald Reagan said when he described the former USSR as an "evil empire." That also provoked cries of outrage -- in the press, in diplomatic circles, from governments, even among our Allies -- but the Russian people heard the message and it focused their attention on the leadership of their totalitarian regime.

We are thankful to be living at a time when we have seen the collapse of a totalitarian system that suppressed millions of lives for so many years.

President Bush's message will be heard by the people of North Korea, Iran and Iraq.
Think back to the "Speech of Hope" in October 1946. Secretary Byrnes himself told a delegation of U.S. Senators in Paris: "The nub of our program was to win the German people... It was a battle between us and Russia over minds..." Over the thoughts, over minds -- and that, I believe, is what President Bush is attempting to do.

Our response does not automatically mean military action. People have jumped to conclusions that are not warranted at this time. After Afghanistan, we should all realize that while our President speaks very directly, he acts with prudence and patience and careful planning and consultation with friends and allies, including Germany. He only acts after considering all the alternatives.

As he said on his visit to South Korea, we want a peaceful solution regarding North Korea. We're willing to talk, but why has North Korea not responded to our offer to sit down and talk and resolve these issues? Our Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, "We will meet with the North Koreans anytime, anywhere."

With regard to Iran, the President has stated that no military action is anticipated. We are trying to reach out to moderate factions in Iran to change their perception of the Ayatollah Khameini and his Muslim religion funded regime, the regime of a theocratic ruler with minority support from Iranians but total totalitarian control of the majority in that country. The vast majority of people in Iran understand and agree with the "non-negotiable demands of human dignity" that the President expressed and listed in the State of the Union address: "the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance." This is what we seek and this is what we are fighting for.

Despite press reports to the contrary, no presidential decision has been made about a military attack on Iraq. There has been talk about resuming the inspections, the regime that Iraq, in accordance with the UN resolution, agreed to after the end of the Persian Gulf War, but then denied access to UN inspectors. We are now asking for access again, for a verifiable, independent inspection regime, under the auspices of the United Nations, that calls Saddam Hussein on his bluff, basically by saying, if what you're saying is true, then allow our people to come in and verify. We cannot, and we will not, tolerate the current rule of terror and the deployment and development of weapons of mass destruction that is occurring now in Iraq. We cannot wait until Iraq commits a new outrage.

In all of this, we need Germany's support and we need Europe's support. I think we all agree that the threat is very real and that the development and the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is a fact. European nations can address this fundamental problem through their contacts with Iran, Iraq and North Korea. We can't do this alone. We can't win this war on terrorism alone. We need cooperation and intelligence - and cognition in the areas of law enforcement, border patrol, and finance. All of these are critical to rooting out terrorist cells in Europe, and beyond.

And to those who ask if we cannot take alternative action, short of force (and of course, force is always our last resort, not our first), we ask -- if everything else fails, what are we then to do against states that harbor terrorists and that aggressively pursue weapons of mass destruction? What is the alternative? Are we to wait for a new attack before we take further action?

We don't have to agree on every point, every strategy, but I think it is important to keep our disagreement within the family -- because we are a family -- rather than have it conducted via the world press.

In conclusion, let me say that skeptics to the contrary, both European and American governments have and can respond with unforeseen energy and focus -- and indeed find common ground.

When our principles coincide, we can find flexible solutions to the distinctive differences in our legal and political systems.

From diplomacy to law enforcement, these relationships, unnoticed in normal times, are the glue that makes the transatlantic relationship unique.

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal put it very well: "Ultimately, the U.S. and Europe share a common set of political and social values, as well as vital economic ties, built up over 3 centuries of interdependence. No in-house dispute...should ever be allowed to change that."

President Bush, Secretary of State Powell, UN Secretary Kofi Annan have all said repeatedly that out of this evil can come good, that the potential for international cooperation across a broad range of issues has never been greater.

They have talked about hope -- in a different context perhaps than Secretary of State Byrnes 55 years ago, but just as valid.

Since the establishment of the first German-American friendship clubs in the American Zone years ago, institutions like the Byrnes Institute, have been places where we've been able to meet and discuss issues of importance. I'm certainly grateful, most grateful for the opportunity to be here with you this evening and to speak about an issue that is of vital importance to the future of our two countries, to the future of Europe and the future of the world. I thank you for your patience.

Meine Freunde, vielen Dank.