Tenth anniversary of 11 September 2001

Dear friends,

In the darkest hours of her history, France has always been able to count on the American people. Twice she has been called on to sacrifice her sons in order to remain a free nation. Without you, the Americans, we would have been unable to maintain our freedom. We have no right to forget this, and we will never forget it, as the links between our nations are inextricable. When your sons came to die in our land, which was foreign to them, they came to die for an ideal which was common to both sides of the Atlantic. This is the basis, the cornerstone of the relationship between the United States and France. This is why you are so dear to us and why we feel close to you. And each time an American soldier falls, wherever in the world it may be, France feels solidarity with the United States, as that young soldier resembles those who fought for us on two separate occasions and sacrificed their lives in doing so.

So on 11 September, when terrorists struck at the heart of America, every French citizen felt the blow. The barbaric perpetrators of the attacks chose New York as their target, but it could just as easily have been Paris, and at that moment, just like you, we felt targeted by the enemies of democracy.

As Head of State, I felt it my duty to be here today, Ambassador, on American ground, at your side, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of that terrible day that will forever remain etched on all our memories, and to honour all the innocent people who fell victim to an ideology of hatred and death which nothing can explain and nothing can justify.

Ten years have passed, and the memory of the lives cut short has not faded. All French people remember what they were doing on 11 September, such was their horror at what befell you. And on the evening of 11 September, we French felt more American than ever.

Ten years after the tragedy, I would like to say on behalf of France that the 3,000 children of the United States and of dozens of other nations whose lives were snatched away that day will also forever remain children of France, because their deaths have universal meaning and because France is mindful of what she owes America.

Ambassador, my dear friends,

The memories of that day remain alive and the pain undiminished, but the 10th anniversary also gives us grounds for hope.

By blindly destroying so many lives in the heart of American democracy, the terrorists wanted to deal a fatal blow to the values of all our democracies. Their goal was to make peaceful coexistence among civilizations impossible by irremediably pitting the Western and Muslim worlds against each other.

All that remains of their demented designs – because these people are not only barbaric, they are also insane, demented, a gang of murderers who do not even deserve to be recognized as followers of an ideology – all that remains of these demented designs is the crime and savagery. That is their legacy: crime and savagery.

Now, 10 years later, Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaeda has been decapitated. Afghanistan is no longer the obscurantist sanctuary from which the terrorists plotted their attacks throughout the world with impunity.

After a period of uncertainty caused by the horror and impact of the blow, our societies have remained open and true to their values. We do not fight terrorists using terrorist methods. It is said that America lost her innocence on that day. But from that day, all our democracies have gained the conviction that they do not have the right to be weak. Weakness in the face of barbarism is akin to complicity. We have not relinquished our ideals. As you rightly said, Ambassador, we are more determined than ever to defend them.

Every day since 11 September, around the world, more and more peoples are embracing our values. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and throughout the Arab and Muslim world which the terrorists claim to represent, millions of people have risen up to proclaim their commitment to the values of democracy and freedom.

In Benghazi and Tripoli, the young people of Libya took to the streets. They were not saying, "Down with America!", or "Death to the Jews!"; they were not saying, "Down with the West and France!"; they were saying, "Jobs, universities, freedom!". They were saying, "More NATO, more French planes in the sky to fight alongside the Arab youth!". The barbaric madmen of 11 September had not foreseen this. The best response to these mass murders and these murderers is the liberation of the Arab peoples, based around the values which France and America have always embodied: those of democracy.

My dear American friends,

We may hold discussions, we may not always agree on everything, but one thing is clear: as our close historical ties have shown, France will always be a friend of the United States.

For my part, I am extremely proud to be the president who oversaw France’s return to the NATO integrated command, which was in the interests of both NATO and France. In so doing, France has not given up her independence. France does not dissolve in NATO, like sugar in a glass of water. France defends her interests, and spreads her values. Because France defends her ideals forcefully, she is not afraid of being alongside her great ally, not as a servant but as a friend, standing tall, the United States and France together looking to the future. We owe this solidarity to all those who died – in memory of the victims of 11 September, we have no right to be divided.

Earlier, you said "long live France", and now I say from the bottom of my heart, "long live the United States of America", may it live long, as the world needs a strong and confident United States. The world does not need a weak America, and France is proud to be one of her closest friends.

That, Ambassador, is what all the people of France, through me, wanted to say to the United States on this anniversary.

Thank you.

Last modified on 12/09/2011

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