From Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO: Ten years ago today in the United States, terrorists killed nearly three thousand men, women and children. Citizens of 25 NATO Allied and partner countries died that day. Other major attacks followed. In Turkey. In Spain. In Britain. Across the Alliance and beyond.
As the wreckage smouldered in New York, at the Pentagon, and in the fields of Pennsylvania, we buried our colleagues, our friends, our loved ones. And we resolved to find the extremists who had planned and inspired the attacks.
For the first time in its history, NATO invoked Article 5, the Alliance’s self-defence clause. NATO air surveillance teams flew hundreds of sorties to protect America’s skies above Denver, Chicago, and Kansas City. And we acted to deny extremists their haven in Afghanistan.
Today, the architect of the 9/11 atrocity is no more. History has buried him. Unfortunately, his terrible ideology of conflict is not yet buried with him.
We have seen over the years that extremism has no religious affiliation. What extremists share is a loathing of our liberty and our diversity. Instead of looking to the future and nourishing hope, they look to the past and incite hatred. They look to a distant historical vision of ‘us’ against ‘them’.
But as President Obama recently said, ultimately, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There is just ‘us’.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us unite in the vision of peaceful coexistence and fruitful collaboration.
Let us build a future of individual liberty and mutual tolerance.
Let us stand united against those who will drag us into the quagmire of conflicts and animosities.
The disasters of our time are glaring, loud, and savage. When airplanes explode into skyscrapers. When extremists detonate bombs in Tube stations. Or when a lunatic guns down teenagers in a summer camp.
But humanity’s desire for freedom is determined, resilient, and as certain as the spring.
We saw it when Allied soldiers waded onto the beaches of Normandy.
We saw it when people took to the streets to demand their rights in Budapest in 1956, in Prague in 1968, in Berlin in 1989.
And we see it now in Tunis, in Cairo, and in Tripoli.
The 9/11 attacks were the beginning of a long winter in world history. But events in the Middle East have renewed our faith that although the desire for freedom can be repressed, it can never be extinguished. The Arab Spring is a new season of hope for us all.
NATO’s next summit in Chicago is just eight months away. There, we will reaffirm that the mission of the Alliance is not only to protect those who enjoy freedom, but to provide inspiration, and at times protection, to those who desire freedom.
To the Afghans who believe in their right to live safely,
To the Libyans who believe in their right to vote democratically,
And to the families of those lost on 9/11, who, despite a vicious assault upon our most cherished values, believe in a future free from terror.
To them and to all those like them, we say:
NATO is your ally. No matter how long or hard the road to freedom, we walk this road shoulder to shoulder.
Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of 11 September 2001. (photo: NATO)