The White House Briefing Room

September 21, 1998


                               THE WHITE HOUSE

                        Office of the Press Secretary
                             (New York, New York)
For Immediate Release                     September 21, 1998    

                           REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                            TO THE OPENING SESSION

                                United Nations
                              New York, New York

11:13 A.M. EDT

		THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Mr.  President, Mr. 
Secretary General, the delegates of this 53rd session of the General Assembly, 
let me begin by thanking you for your very kind and generous welcome and by 
noting that at the opening of this General Assembly the world has much to 
		Peace has come to Northern Ireland after 29 long years.  
Bosnia has just held its freest elections ever.  The United Nations is 
actively mediating crises before they explode into war all around the world.  
And today more people determine their own destiny than at any previous moment 
in history.
		We celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration 
of Human Rights, with those rights more widely embraced than ever before.  On 
every continent people are leading lives of integrity and self-respect, and a 
great deal of credit for that belongs to the United Nations.
		Still, as every person in this room knows, the promise of our 
time is attended by perils.  Global economic turmoil today threatens to 
undermine confidence in free markets and democracy.  Those of us who benefit 
particularly from this economy have a special responsibility to do more to 
minimize the turmoil and extend the benefits of global markets to all 
citizens.  And the United States is determined to do that. 
		We still are bedeviled by ethnic, racial, religious and tribal 
hatreds; by the spread of weapons of mass destruction; by the almost frantic 
effort of too many states to acquire such weapons; and, despite all efforts to 
contain it, terrorism is not fading away with the end of the 20th century.  It 
is a continuing defiance of Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human 
Rights, which says, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of 
		Here at the U.N., at international summits around the world, 
and on many occasions in the United States, I have had the opportunity to 
address this subject in detail, to describe what we have done, what we are 
doing, and what we must yet do to combat terror.  Today, I would like to talk 
to you about why all nations must put the fight against terrorism at the top 
of our agenda.

		Obviously this is a matter of profound concern to us.  In the 
last 15 years our citizens have been targeted over and over again -- in 
Beirut, over Lockerbie, in Saudi Arabia, at home in Oklahoma City by one of 
our own citizens, and even here in New York in one of our most public 
buildings, and most recently on August 7th in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, where 

Americans who devoted their lives to building bridges between 
nations, people very much like all of you, died in a campaign of 
hatred against the United States. 

	     Because we are blessed to be a wealthy nation with a 
powerful military and a worldwide presence active in promoting 

peace and security, we are often a target.  We love our country 
for its dedication to political and religious freedom, to 
economic opportunity, to respect for the rights of the 
individual.  But we know many people see us as a symbol of a 
system and values they reject, and often they find it expedient 
to blame us for problems with deep roots elsewhere.
	     But we are no threat to any peaceful nation, and we 
believe the best way to disprove these claims is to continue our 
work for peace and prosperity around the world.  For us to pull 
back from the world's trouble spots, to turn our backs on those 
taking risks for peace, to weaken our own opposition to 
terrorism, would hand the enemies of peace a victory they must 
never have.
	     Still, it is a grave misconception to see terrorism 
as only, or even mostly, an American problem.  Indeed, it is a 
clear and present danger to tolerant and open societies and 
innocent people everywhere.  No one in this room, nor the people 
you represent, are immune.
	     Certainly not the people of Nairobi and Dar es 
Salaam.  For every American killed there, roughly 20 Africans 
were murdered and 500 more injured -- innocent people going about 
their business on a busy morning.  Not the people of Omagh in 
Northern Ireland, where the wounded and killed were Catholics and 
Protestants alike, mostly children and women, and two of them 
pregnant, people out shopping together, when their future was 
snuffed out by a fringe group clinging to the past.
	     Not the people of Japan who were poisoned by sarin 
gas in the Tokyo subway.  Not the people of Argentina who died 
when a car bomb decimated a Jewish community center in Buenos 
Aires.  Not the people of Kashmir and Sri Lanka killed by ancient 
animosities that cry out for resolution.  Not the Palestinians 
and Israelis who still die year after year for all the progress 
toward peace.  Not the people of Algeria enduring the nightmare 
of unfathomable terror with still no end in sight.  Not the 
people of Egypt, who nearly lost a second President to 
assassination.  Not the people of Turkey, Colombia, Albania, 
Russia, Iran, Indonesia, and countless other nations where 
innocent people have been victimized by terror.
	     Now, none of these victims are American, but every 
one was a son or a daughter, a husband or wife, a father or 
mother, a human life extinguished by someone else's hatred, 
leaving a circle of people whose lives will never be the same.  
Terror has become the world's problem.  Some argue, of course, 
that the problem is overblown, saying that the number of deaths 
from terrorism is comparatively small, sometimes less than the 
number of people killed by lightning in a single year.  I believe 
that misses the point in several ways.

	     First, terrorism has a new face in the 1990s.  Today 
terrorists take advantage of greater openness and the explosion 
of information and weapons technology.  The new technologies of 
terror and their increasing availability, along with the 
increasing mobility of terrorists, raise chilling prospects of 
vulnerability to chemical, biological, and other kinds of 
attacks, bringing each of us into the category of possible 
victim.  This is a threat to all humankind.

	     Beyond the physical damage of each attack, there is 
an even greater residue of psychological damage -- hard to 
measure, but slow to heal.  Every bomb, every bomb threat has an 
insidious effect on free and open institutions, the kinds of 
institutions all of you in this body are working so hard to 
	     Each time an innocent man or woman or child is 
killed, it makes the future more hazardous for the rest of us.  

For each violent act saps the confidence that is so crucial to 
peace and prosperity.  In every corner of the world, with the 
active support of U.N. agencies, people are struggling to build 
better futures, based on bonds of trust connecting them to their 
fellow citizens and with partners and investors from around the 
	     The glimpse of growing prosperity in Northern 
Ireland was a crucial factor in the Good Friday Agreement.  But 
that took confidence -- confidence that cannot be bought in times 
of violence.  We can measure each attack and the grisly 
statistics of dead and wounded, but what are the wounds we cannot 
	     In the Middle East, in Asia, in South America, how 
many agreements have been thwarted after bombs blew up?  How many 
businesses will never be created in places crying out for 
investments of time and money?  How many talented young people in 
countries represented here have turned their backs on public 
	     The question is not only how many lives have been 
lost in each attack, but how many futures were lost in their 
aftermath.  There is no justification for killing innocents.  
Ideology, religion, and politics, even deprivation and righteous 
grievance do not justify it.  We must seek to understand the 
roiled waters in which terror occurs; of course we must.
	     Often, in my own experience, I have seen where peace 
is making progress, terror is a desperate act to turn back the 
tide of history.  The Omagh bombing came as peace was succeeding 
in Northern Ireland.  In the Middle East, whenever we get close 
to another step toward peace, its enemies respond with terror.  
We must not let this stall our momentum.  
	     The bridging of ancient hatreds is, after all, a 
leap of faith, a break with the past, and thus a frightening 
threat to those who cannot let go of their own hatred.  Because 
they fear the future, in these cases terrorists seek to blow the 
peacemakers back into the past.
	     We must also acknowledge that there are economic 
sources of this rage as well.  Poverty, inequality, masses of 
disenfranchised young people are fertile fields for the siren 
call of the terrorists and their claims of advancing social 
justice.  But depravation cannot justify destruction, nor can 
inequity ever atone for murder.  The killing of innocents is not 
a social program.
	     Nevertheless, our resolute opposition to terrorism 
does not mean we can ever be indifferent to the conditions that 
foster it.  The most recent U.N. human development report 
suggests the gulf is widening between the world's haves and 
have-nots.  We must work harder to treat the sources of despair 
before they turn into the poison of hatred.  Dr. Martin Luther 
King once wrote that the only revolutionary is a man who has 
nothing to lose.  We must show people they have everything to 
gain by embracing cooperation and renouncing violence.  This is 
not simply an American or a Western responsibility; it is the 
world's responsibility.  
	     Developing nations have an obligation to spread new 
wealth fairly, to create new opportunities, to build new open 
economies.  Developed nations have an obligation to help 
developing nations stay on the path of prosperity and -- and --to 
spur global economic growth.  A week ago I outlined ways we can 
build a stronger international economy to benefit not only all 
nations, but all citizens within them.  
	     Some people believe that terrorism's principal fault 
line centers on what they see as an inevitable clash of 

civilizations.  It is an issue that deserves a lot of debate in 
this great hall.  Specifically, many believe there is an 
inevitable clash between Western civilization and Western values, 
and Islamic civilizations and values.  I believe this view is 
terribly wrong.  False prophets may use and abuse any religion to 
justify whatever political objectives they have -- even 
cold-blooded murder.  Some may have the world believe that 
almighty God himself, the merciful, grants a license to kill.  
But that is not our understanding of Islam.
	     A quarter of the world's population is Muslim -- 
from Africa to Middle East to Asia and to the United States, 
where Islam is one of our fastest growing faiths.  There are over 
1,200 mosques and Islamic centers in the United States, and the 
number is rapidly increasing.  The 6 million Americans who 
worship there will tell you there is no inherent clash between 
Islam and America.  Americans respect and honor Islam. 
	     As I talked to Muslim leaders in my country and 
around the world, I see again that we share the same hopes and 
aspirations: to live in peace and security, to provide for our 
children, to follow the faith of our choosing, to build a better 
life than our parents knew and pass on brighter possibilities to 
our own children.  Of course, we are not identical.  There are 
important differences that cross race and culture and religion 
which demand understanding and deserve respect.  
	     But every river has a crossing place.  Even as we 
struggle here in America, like the United Nations, to reconcile 
all Americans to each other and to find greater unity in our 
increasing diversity, we will remain on a course of friendship 
and respect for the Muslim world.  We will continue to look for 
common values, common interests, and common endeavors.  I agree 
very much with the spirit expressed by these words of Mohammed: 
rewards for prayers by people assembled together are twice those 
said at home.  
	     When it comes to terrorism there should be no 
dividing line between Muslims and Jews, Protestants and 
Catholics, Serbs and Albanians, developed societies and emerging 
countries.  The only dividing line is between those who practice, 
support, or tolerate terror, and those who understand that it is 
murder, plain and simple.
	     If terrorism is at the top of the American agenda -- 
and should be at the top of the world's agenda -- what, then, are 
the concrete steps we can take together to protect our common 
destiny.  What are our common obligations?  At least, I believe 
they are these: to give terrorists no support, no sanctuary, no 
financial assistance; to bring pressure on states that do; to act 
together to step up extradition and prosecution; to sign the 
Global Anti-Terror Conventions; to strengthen the Biological 
Weapons and Chemical Convention; to enforce the Chemical Weapons 
Convention; to promote stronger domestic laws and control the 
manufacture and export of explosives; to raise international 
standards for airport security; to combat the conditions that 
spread violence and despair.
	     We are working to do our part.  Our intelligence and 
law enforcement communities are tracking terrorist networks in 
cooperation with other governments.  Some of those we believe 
responsible for the recent bombing of our embassies have been 
brought to justice.  Early this week I will ask our Congress to 
provide emergency funding to repair our embassies, to improve 
security, to expand the worldwide fight against terrorism, to 
help our friends in Kenya and Tanzania with the wounds they have 
	     But no matter how much each of us does alone, our 
progress will be limited without our common efforts.  We also 
will do our part to address the sources of despair and alienation 

through the Agency for International Development in Africa, in 
Asia, in Latin America, in Eastern Europe, in Haiti and 
elsewhere. We will continue our strong support for the U.N. 

Development Program, the U.N. High Commissioners for Human Rights 
and Refugees, UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Food Program.
	     We also recognize the critical role these agencies 
play and the importance of all countries, including the United 
States, in paying their fair share.
	     In closing, let me urge all of us to think in new 
terms on terrorism, to see it not as a clash of cultures or 
political action by other means, or a divine calling, but a clash 
between the forces of the past and the forces of the future, 
between those who tear down and those who build up, between hope 
and fear, chaos and community.
	     The fight will not be easy.  But every nation will 
be strengthened in joining it, in working to give real meaning to 
the words of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights we signed 
50 years ago.  It is very, very important that we do this 
	     Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the authors of the 
Universal Declaration.  She said in one of her many speeches in 
support of the United Nations, when it was just beginning, "All 
agreements and all peace are built on confidence.  You cannot 
have peace and you cannot get on with other people in the world 
unless you have confidence in them."
	     It is not necessary that we solve all the world's 
problems to have confidence in one another.  It is not necessary 
that we agree on all the world's issues to have confidence in one 
another.  It is not even necessary that we understand every 
single difference among us to have confidence in one another.  
But it is necessary that we affirm our belief in the primacy of 
the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and, therefore, that 
together we say terror is not a way to tomorrow, it is only a 
throwback to yesterday.  And together -- together -- we can meet 
it and overcome its threats, its injuries, and its fears with 
	     Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

            END                        11:37 A.M. EDT