September 11, 2001

Statement of Congressman Brad Sherman (CA)

Member of International Relations Committee and its Subcommittee on the Middle East


September 11, 2001 is a day that will live in infamy. This may be the greatest loss of life on American soil since the civil war.

Today’s loss of life may approach or exceed the loss of life at Pearl Harbor. After Pearl Harbor some suggested appeasement, and withdrawal from Asia and the Pacific. Instead the greatest generation made the greatest sacrifices to win our greatest victory.

America must mobilize for a war against terrorism, not only against the criminals responsible for today’s horrific events, but all terrorism.

This is not a war against Islam, or against Muslims. Our last three wars were waged to protect people who happen to be Muslim. We restored independence to the people of Kuwait and then engaged in two further wars in which we had no economic stake. In the mid-1990s, we protected the Bosnian Muslims from genocide. In 1999, we went to war against Serbia, a Christian country, to protect its Albanian Muslim minority from ethnic cleansing.

Today we suffered greater casualties than in all three of those wars combined.

There are some dancing in the streets of certain foreign cities who believe that the terrorists who killed thousands of American civilians have proven their strength by killing thousands of civilians. America has the power to kill civilians by the tens of thousands or the tens of millions. However America’s great strength is that we do everything possible to avoid killing civilians, even those who dance today in delight.

For years, we have begged our friends to curtail investment and aid to countries which support terrorism. Now in this war for decency and civilization we must have the full support of our allies. Those who claim to be friends of America can no longer do business as usual with countries which harbor terrorists.

We appreciate the statements of sympathy from the Taliban government in Afghanistan, but this is clearly insufficient. The Taliban government must turn over Osama bin Laden and his associates to the United States. If the Afghan government gives us excuses instead of giving us bin Laden, we must take harsh action. This would include providing arms and perhaps air cover to the forces in Northern Afghanistan and the legitimate government of that country. These forces have fought the Taliban to a standstill without our help. With very substantial American help these forces will march into Kabul.

We appreciate the statements of sympathy from chairman Arafat, but we must demand that he arrest terrorists in areas he controls.

We should not wait until we have identified the particular criminals responsible for today’s tragedy, nor should we limit our response to one particular terrorist organization. Osama bin Laden may or may not be responsible for today’s crimes, but he is responsible for the attack on the USS Cole and for the second worst terrorist attack against America, the bombing of our embassies in east Africa. We must demand bin Laden be turned over to the United States to be tried for those crimes.

Even if we totally destroy the organization responsible for today’s crimes, other organizations will try to surpass today’s evil. We must root out all terrorist organizations. We must take harsh action against any country that harbors or supports terrorists.

We should seek UN approval for our action; but we must act even if the UN does not.