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Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11, 2001

This was the statement given by the Charge of the US Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka at a Church memorial service held for the victims of 9/11.  The service was attended by the entire diplomatic corps, much of the Sri Lankan government, and just hundreds of ordinary people, some of whom stood outside the church.  The service was held on September 14, 2001.  I happen to think it is one of the better statements made re that horrid event, and that it holds up even after ten years.

I will be writing more about 9/11 in the coming days.

Begin Text (as delivered)

On behalf of the American Embassy, Government, and people, I want to thank Reverend Gardner and all of you for coming here on a Saturday afternoon to express your solidarity, condolences, and good wishes as we try to grapple with the enormity of the crime committed on September 11, 2001 - - a crime that cost the lives of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
All of us in the Embassy are deeply touched by the enormous and genuine outpouring of sympathy and support from the international community, from the Government of Sri Lanka and from the people of this country, Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim.  Thank you, thank you all very much.
I also want to take this opportunity to express heartfelt condolences to the people of our closest friend and ally, the United Kingdom.  They have lost scores perhaps hundreds of their fellow citizens in the attack on the World Trade Center.  We should not forget the many British families are today suffering the anguish of not knowing what has happened to their loved ones, or that of knowing all too well what has happened.  This is not the first time American and British citizens die together at the hands of a common foe and in a common cause -- and it probably won’t be the last time.  
The people of dozens of other countries, including Sri Lanka, people of all races and religions, including at least 50 Muslims, fell to the terrorists, and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 21st century.  
As a colleague of mine noted yesterday, civilization now confronts a new version of the cult of Assassins who, just as did those of the 11th century, proclaim loud fealty to a religion and then violate its principal tenants.  And, Ladies and Gentlemen, I say the following well aware that we are in a church, in a place dedicated to the propagation of peace and brotherly love:  Civilization must and will strike back; civilization must and will win this war in which we confront evil men who have no regard for human life; men who turn ploughshares into swords and then use them against defenseless innocents.
I don’t know what message the terrorists sought to deliver September 11; I don’t know their grievance or their cause.

 And, furthermore, I don’t care!  I don’t care!

Whatever it was, whatever their cause was, it has been hopelessly perverted by and lost in the evil of their deeds.
And evil must, and will be confronted and it will be defeated.  
During the just-concluded 20th century, civilization also fought great evil -- Fascism, Nazism, and Communism -- and triumphed, at great cost, but it triumphed.  And it will again.  In opposition to our democracy, freedom, and the rule of law, our opponents offer hate, desolation, destruction, and death, most especially death.

Let me quote from a poem written during the fierce battle for Guadalcanal by US Marine Corps Private First Class Vincent Cassidy:
“Does it grieve you, Death,
      that I defy you,
  that I refuse to be taken by you?
Be aforehand warned
   And plan it well,
If you intend my doom to spell,
   For I intend to fight . . .”
And fight we will.
In the words of the Scottish “Ballad of Andrew Barton,”
"I am hurt, but I am not slaine;
I'le lay mee downe and bleed a-while,
And then I'le rise and ffight againe.”
If anybody doubts that, turn to the words of one of the great heroes of the 20th century, one of the men who saved the civilized world, perhaps the greatest statesman who ever lived, and a man who knew America very well, Sir Winston Churchill.   

In his volume The Grand Alliance, he eloquently describes his reaction on hearing about the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of America into WWII on the side of Britain:
“No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy.  {. . .} So we had won after all! {. . . }  Silly people, and there were many, not only in enemy countries, might discount the force of the United States.  Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united.  They would fool around at a distance.  They would never come to grips.  They would never stand blood-letting.  Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyse their war effort.  They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe.  Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy, and talkative people.  But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch.  American blood flowed in my veins.  I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before – that the United States is like ‘a gigantic boiler.  Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.’  Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, the boiler is lit.
And those who lit it on September 11, 2001, will learn the lesson learned by those who lit it sixty years ago, on December 7, 1941.  Then we all, too, will be able to sleep “the sleep of the saved and thankful.” 
Welcome to the 21st century.    
Thank you.

End Text