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Terrorism Takes as its Pretext the Frustrations Born of Unresolved Conflicts

Terrorism Takes as its Pretext the Frustrations Born of Unresolved Conflicts

Speech by M. Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic to the Conference "Against Terrorism - For Humanity" given in New York, September 22, 2003. Source: Embassy of France, Washington D.C. and Elysée Palace, Paris.

Prime Minister of Norway, Dear Friend,

Dear Elie Wiesel,

Heads of State and Government,

UN Secretary-General,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, Prime Minister, for this initiative, in keeping with Norway's traditions, as illustrated by the Oslo process, exactly ten years ago. Thank you, too, dear Elie Wiesel, one of the great voices of conscience of our age.

It is here in New York, the victim of a savage assault, a city of liberty and hope to which I am especially attached, home to the United Nations, that I want to make clear from the outset France's implacable determination. You can't justify terrorism. You can't compromise with terrorism. You fight it.

  • No pretext can legitimize terrorist attacks.

The national, political, religious or social demands terrorists put forward to justify their crimes are null and void, since nothing can ever warrant the targeting of civilian populations or cowardly attacks on innocent people. This fundamental principle lies at the heart of our conception of human dignity.

It will take time to overcome terrorism, and relentless efforts on the part of the entire international community. We must close ranks against the forces of hatred arrayed across the world and bound together by underground networks that exploit modern technologies, finding shelter in countries that are either complicit or powerless, in alliance with drug traffickers and Mafia gangs.

  • Terrorists always imagine the democracies to be craven and spineless.

To be sure, democracies are slow to anger. They prefer peace to war, and discuss before acting. But history shows that, when attacked in what they hold most dear, their liberty and their security, they are extremely combative and effective, for a sovereign people always fights better than a subjugated people.

The reaction of the world in the wake of the 11 September attacks inspires confidence. The international community forged a coalition within the framework of the United Nations. This coalition is based on treaties. This was not a case of arbitrary decisions against blind violence: it was the rule of law against crime. It is by upholding our values, the law and public freedoms that we shall vanquish terrorism. Otherwise, we would lose our souls.

Progressively, through the alliance of our military capabilities engaged in Afghanistan, of our intelligence services, our police forces and judiciaries, we are building a worldwide anti-terrorist system. We are advancing on four fronts: the effectiveness of police and judicial cooperation; the fight against terrorist financing; the provision of technical assistance to all States that express the need for it; and the fight against proliferation.

But, just as in our own countries fighting crime entails more than just police work, so we need to analyse terrorism more deeply. For it reveals the evils of our time. It is a feverish expression of suffering, frustration or injustice. When democracy is absent, it usurps the banner of freedom. When social issues become acute, terrorism assumes the mask of justice and solidarity. When a country is under foreign occupation, it unjustly captures the struggle for freedom for its own ends. When a community feels ill-treated, terrorism claims to act in its name.

So we need to take a clear-headed, hard look at today's world.

  • Terrorism takes as its pretext the frustrations born of unresolved conflicts.

I am thinking especially of the Middle East conflict, which has been the source of suffering, anger and incomprehension among all of the peoples in the region for fifty years now. Only a just and lasting peace can put an end to it.

But we need to pay very close attention to this part of the world for other reasons as well. The cradle of great cultures and glorious civilizations, it is uncertain of its place and role. Domestic and international crises are having a profoundly unsettling impact on its populations, who often take a nostalgic view of the past, are discontented with their lot and fearful for the future.

  • Our destinies are intertwined.

We must stand by these peoples. We must help them overcome the challenges facing them, help them hold out prospects of another future to their young, that of development and democracy, modernity, openness to the outside world, and dialogue.

Our world is characterized by the growing gap between rich and poor, by the destabilization of traditional societies, by the difficulties encountered by the developing countries' middle classes in securing a minimum of stability. A key goal in the fight for economic development is to share our prosperity in order to give each and every one a fair chance and a share in progress, and thus to diminish feelings of injustice and exclusion.

In the Southern hemisphere, globalization is frequently viewed as the modern expression of the West's hold on the world, as a threat to identities and as a process imposing uniformity. Paradoxically, its promises of freedom are often perceived as an assault on the world's cultures. That is why I believe it is absolutely essential that inter-cultural dialogue should enjoy a high priority in international affairs. While respecting the universal values that unite us, we need to invent a policy of diversity that takes due account of people's pride, their pride in their identity, in their origins, their cultures, and in their contribution to the wealth of humanity and the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

New York has recovered. That is a message of hope for us all. We owe it to New York, to the victims of 11 September, as to all victims of terrorism, to act resolutely against this scourge. And in tribute to their tragic fate, I propose that 11 September be henceforward named "World Anti-Terrorism Day".

Thank you./.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).