Chairman Donnelly, Chairman Lantos, my colleagues: It is a privilege to speak to you regarding a mutually important issue to the European Community (EC) and to the U.S. international terrorism. Most recently in the United States, we have felt the sting of terrorism with the New York World Trade Center bombing. This terrible, premeditated attack cost the lives of six Americans, one of which was a constituent of mine. In addition, it resulted in more than 1,000 injuries and more than $600 million in property damage and business disruption. Fortunately, based upon excellent police work, most of the suspects were swiftly captured, charged, and are now awaiting trial.
The threat of state-sponsored terrorism is still serious. We recognize that the threat of terrorism is well-known on your continent. America received a wake up call this year with the events at the New York World Trade Tower, the arrest by the FBI of several Abu Nidal terrorists in St. Louis who were intent on attacking the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., the killing of two CIA employees outside CIA headquarters, and the reported Iraqi-sponsored and planned attack on former President George Bush. In addition, on Thursday of this week, the FBI in New York arrested several terrorists as they were mixing the chemicals for bombs intended for the United Nations complex, several federal office buildings, and the tunnels leading in and out of New York. The specific individuals targeted by the terrorists included a U.S. Senator and the Secretary General of the U.N.
Unfortunately, some within our own government didn't get the message from that billowing dark smoke of the New York Trade Center bombing, and these other recent events, and are still intent on downgrading the focus on international terrorism.
Last week, through a Floor amendment to our State Department authorization bill, I was successful in mandating that the State Department keep the high level--and very visible--the Office of the Coordinator of Counterterrorism. The Department sought to downgrade that office by merging it into a new international narcotics control and crime bureau. The message that combatting terrorism must be a top priority of any government has not been an easy sell. It often takes a major jolt, such as the World Trade Center bombing, to force us to keep our guard up.
Fortunately, we were able to favorably present this important antiterrorism message to the whole House of Representatives, and this action will help us ensure continued emphasis by the U.S. Government on ending worldwide terrorism.
Additionally, earlier this year, I introduced the Antiterrorism Act of 1993. That measure includes a provision which will impose a full embargo on imports from nations which continue to support international terrorism. Without the support of the Soviet Union, several of these states are increasingly dependent upon the United States and the nations of the European Community. Accordingly, I urge our European colleagues to join the United States in imposing an embargo on these states, and sending a strong message that support for international terrorism is no longer acceptable.
There are currently six countries on the U.S. list of countries which support international terrorism: Libya, Syria, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Iraq.
All of our governments must work together to battle against this scourge of international terrorism. This very real danger threatens world order, and in some instances, the very stability of our democratic institutions. Prevention, based upon information sharing and mutually beneficial cooperation among the nations of the world, is the obvious first preference. This must then be followed by swift, sure, and severe punishment when terrorists are identified.
The challenges in the fight against terrorism are particularly great for the democracies and free governments around the globe. Freedom to travel, to engage in open commerce, to associate with whomever you choose, and free speech are often used by terrorists to maximize their advantage against these free societies. Your challenge in the EC will be even greater now as European borders continue to open, as business and commerce flow more freely, and as those who mean harm can more easily move about and acquire the means, tools, and materials of international terrorism. We will all have to work harder and more cooperatively against this scourge as freedom prospers in today's post-Cold War world.
The recent Basque separatist attacks in Madrid, and the deplorable Kurdish militants' coordinated terrorist attacks across Europe against Turkish government facilities and diplomats, makes it clear that we all need to stand ready to cooperatively share information and support mtutal efforts to thwart the evil of international terrorism, no matter where or why it raises its ugly head.
We must not surrender to terrorists one inch of ground or one ounce of outward fear and intimidation. If we do, they--the terrorists--will have our people and our institutions at their mercy and in their grasp, which no one dares envision. Our Members of Congress stand ready to work with our European allies. We must provide the leadership and tools that our governments need to counter terrorism. We must make certain that fear and intimidation do not dictate how free peoples and institutions function.
America has been particularly fortunate in the last few years, experiencing few terrorist incidents on our own soil. Many experts attribute our success at home to the high priority and vigilance that the U.S. Government, particularly the FBI, has given counterterrorism here in the U.S. The arrests in New York of several terrorists by the FBI this past Thursday before the U.N. and other targets could be hit, is proof positive of the validity of this high priority and vigilance approach.
We recognize that your security forces are as equally dedicated and effective in this difficult and challenging task of combatting terrorism. With even greater cooperation and intelligence sharing between our governments, our security agencies, and law enforcement entities, we will be able to deny terrorists the fear and intimidation they seek to gain over our institutions, our people, and our very freedoms.
Let us direct our mutual efforts to strengthening the rule of law and to apply the law to terrorists. Let us be diligent in identifying, tracking, apprehending, prosecuting, and stringently punishing terrorists for their crimes.
The arrests yesterday in New York of eight militant Muslim fundamentalists on charges of plotting to blow up the United Nations, two tunnels under the Hudson River and a federal office building should lay to rest any notion that radical Islamic fundamentalism is only a `Middle East problem.'
The arrests, coming close on the heels of February's World Trade Center bombing, show firmly that the fundamentalist jihad has now taken aim at the heart of the Great Satan. And while the law enforcement officials who made the arrests yesterday deserve credit for their brilliant detective work, ultimately the problem cannot be treated as a law enforcement problem only. The problem can be solved only in the larger context of a comprehensive solution--involving legislative, diplomatic and intelligence agencies.
There are important lessons for the future.
First, radical Islamic fundamentalism cannot be reconciled with the West. The hatred of the West by militant Islamic fundamentalists is not tied to any particular act or event. Rather, fundamentalists equate the mere existence of the West--its economic, political and cultural systems--as an intrinsic attack on Islam. The sooner Americans realize that no compromise or reconciliation is possible, the sooner radical fundamentalists will realize that the West cannot be manipulated.
A recent article in a fundamentalist periodical called Khilafah Magazine, published in Britain, is entitled `Capitalism: It's a Crime.' The article urges Muslims in the West to reject capitalism and not to obey Western treaties such as NATO, and calls democracy a `sin' against Islam. Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Muslim cleric who lives in New Jersey and is the spiritual mentor of several of the suspects in the World Trade Center bombing, routinely calls the U.S. a `den of evil and fornication.'
The terms `foreign' and `domestic' do not apply. One of the points made at the FBI's press conference yesterday was that there was `no evidence of foreign involvement.' For all practical purposes, this is a meaningless statement. Militant Islamic fundamentalism transcends all borders. Increasingly, radical organizations--such as the Jihad Group (centered around Sheik Abdel-Rahman), the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah--have established infrastructures in the U.S., Germany and Britain in addition to their bases of operation throughout the Middle East.
There is no one ringleader or country orchestrating the attacks. While there is no doubt that Iran and Sudan provide money and training to Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East, the emergence of fundamentalist terrorist attacks in the West is part of the decentralized structure in which fundamentalists scattered around the world assume the obligation to strike blows against the West in their own communities. This means saying something that is politically incorrect: That all militant radical fundamentalists are potential members of this loose federation of terrorists.
Members of the Islamic fundamentalist network cannot be classified under one nationality or political allegiance. Those arrested in the World Trade Center bombing and the aborted attacks yesterday come from Sudan, Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and Pakistan. Not insignificantly, they also include at least two Americans. `This shows that in a sense there now exists an Islamic internationale,' says Khalid Duran, a Muslim expert on fundamentalism at the Free University of Berlin. These militants `collaborate with one another, thus putting aside any local cultural and regional political differences.'
President Clinton called Sen. Alfonse D'Amato--one of the alleged targets of the bombers--to reassure him that the United States is deeply committed to the fight against international terrorism. Clinton clearly meant it, given the missile strike, a day later, to punish Iraq for the reported assassination plot against George Bush. But experts say that behind the triumphal headlines is troubling evidence that over the years Washington may have lost some of its edge in the fight against international terrorism. `The Clinton administration's ability to combat terrorism is being quietly dismantled,' a knowledgeable State Department official said last week.
Critics say the decline actually began during the last year of the Bush administration. In the mid-1980s, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and a series of high-profile hijackings exposed serious weaknesses in U.S. counterterrorism strategy, including turf battles among military and intelligence agencies. The Reagan administration created the State Department post of Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, a job with ambassadorial rank and the clout to force warring bureaucracies to work together. Reagan's first appointment to the job in 1986, L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer, enjoyed direct access to Secretary of State George Shultz. But Bremer's Bush-era successors were not as influential, and the decline has continued. Secretary of State Warren Christopher plans to downgrade the coordinator's position to that of a lower-ranking deputy assistant secretary. Whoever fills the slot will have to push through several layers of bureaucracy before even setting foot in Christopher's office.
Budget cuts and turnover are also taking a toll. According to internal State Department figures supplied to Newsweek, 80 percent of the seasoned experts in the counterterrorism office will be reassigned or replaced by this fall with less experienced personnel. `The institutional memory will be virtually erased by October,' predicts a State Department source. Other agencies are facing similar cutbacks and compromises. At the National Security Council, the top counterterrorism official now has multiple responsibilities, including the United Nations and drug policy. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Les Aspin has yet to
even nominate the assistant secretary who will oversee counterterrorism. Insiders expect Aspin to follow Christopher's lead and downgrade the position.
Judging from last week's arrests in New York, the FBI is still very much on the case. But the bureau got lucky: an informer proved to be the crucial break. The harder work of counterterrorism is pressing the investigations abroad, where leads inevitably point. `We should fight as far forward as we can,' says Noel Koch, the Pentagon's top counterterrorism official in the Reagan administration. `You have to be overseas.'
Washington's counterterrorism bureaucracy is arguably a victim of its own success. Strong performances in recent years by the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies have unmasked and dissolved many terror groups like the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy. And with the end of the cold war, some terrorist cells have lost their haven in Eastern Europe. Iraq's worldwide network was broken up during the Persian Gulf War. International terrorist attacks declined to 361 in 1992, the lowest total in 17 years. With fewer headlines, political attention has focused elsewhere, forcing counterterrorism to cede part of its share to problems that are on the rise, like crime and drugs.
The evidence suggests that America won't be able to stay out of the fight. More than 200 Pentagon officials and counterterrorism experts met in early June to consider future terrorist threats. They concluded that the proliferation of ethnic and regional conflicts will spawn new radical movements, leading inevitably to new terrorism. `We're going to see a global increase in anarchy,' says one Defense Department analyst. Some at the meeting worried about what they term `mass terrorism,' like the ethnic cleansing rife in Bosnia. Others were more concerned about what they are calling `single issue' terrorism, attacks by radicals who share no ideology, only the hatred for a particular enemy.
Inevitably, such fears have brought pressure to tighten up the nation's border controls. Congressional committees are investigating the loophole-ridden immigration regulations that allowed Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Muslim cleric suspected of links to terrorist activity in New York, to slip into the country. Rep. Benjamin Gilman, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has attached an amendment to the State Department's annual funding bill to restore the power of the counterterrorism office. After last week's arrests in New York--and the strike against Iraq--the White House may think twice about thinning its counterterrorism ranks.