Remarks to the Staff and Families of U.S. Embassy, Paris
Secretary of State
AMBASSADOR HARTLEY: Good morning, and thanks to all of you for coming together again this morning. It’s been a difficult few days since these horrific attacks that occurred in Paris last week. And I know that all of you in this room are working around the clock, even as you and your families grieve. I want you to know that we all appreciate the hard work. The Secretary of State values your dedication, and the President of the United States recognizes your sacrifice.
For all of you who are directly affected by this tragedy, let me again extend my deepest condolences. I urge that all of you pay special attention to each other in this very, very tough time. As I’ve said to you many times, I’m proud to be part of this community. I personally draw a lot of support and inspiration from all of you. So please, look out for each other.
The outpouring of love for France has been remarkable. That love has manifested itself in many ways – on social media, candles being lit, flowers being placed in front of consulates and embassies, vigils in communities, even performances of the French national anthem in theaters around the world, including in my hometown, New York City. We, the American people, our government, our President, and our Embassy staff all stand in solidarity with France.
Today, nous sommes tous Francais.
As Vice President Biden stated, the United States stands ready to support the French Government and the people of Paris, and as we’ve done before in the face of danger and threats, we will look out for one another. We will stand together; we will never bow; we will never break. In that spirit, let us go forward together, undeterred in our determination to defeat extremism and stand up proudly for the liberties and universal rights that France exemplifies to the world.
Today we are joined by a special guest, someone who’s spent his whole life serving the United States and defending liberty and freedom, and someone whose heart is also with France. I know he has some words of encouragement to share, so without further ado, I will hand it over to my friend, John Kerry. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much, Jane. Merci beaucoup. Bonjour tout le monde. I’m happy to be here, though sad to be here.
Let me first quickly welcome Ambassador Nix-Hines from UNESCO; Ambassador Yohannes from OECD. We’re delighted that they are here also. And this is a busy time for them, obviously, and complicated for everybody. But I’m really honored to be here with all of you. I want to say thank you to every single one of you. Let me just ask quickly, how many of you are local employees who are working for the Embassy? Well, we particularly – so many of you – we really thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We could not do our work here without you, and I know it’s particularly difficult right now, but it’s always difficult because you are working, carrying with you whatever baggage comes with the country you work for, and in our case, there’s very little because of our friendship with France. But nevertheless, we are deeply appreciative for your commitment to helping us to help people to share the values and the interests that we are all working to protect.
In the last days, obviously, that has been particularly put to the test. There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people. It was to attack everything that we do stand for. That’s not an exaggeration. It was to assault all sense of nationhood and nation-state and rule of law and decency, dignity, and just put fear into the community and say, “Here we are.” And for what? What’s the platform? What’s the grievance? That we’re not who they are? They kill people because of who they are and they kill people because of what they believe. And it’s indiscriminate. They kill Shia. They kill Yezidis. They kill Christians. They kill Druze. They kill Ismaili. They kill anybody who isn’t them and doesn’t pledge to be that. And they carry with them the greatest public display of misogyny that I’ve ever seen, not to mention a false claim regarding Islam. It has nothing to do with Islam; it has everything to do with criminality, with terror, with abuse, with psychopathism – I mean, you name it.
And that’s why when some people – I even had a member of my own family email me and say, “More bombs aren’t the solution,” they said. Well, in principle, no. In principle, if you can educate and change people and provide jobs and make a difference if that’s what they want, sure. But in this case, that’s not what’s happening. This is just raw terror to set up a caliphate to expand and expand and spread one notion of how you live and who you have to be. That is the antithesis of everything that brought our countries together – why Lafayette came to America to help us find liberty, and all of the evolutions of the struggles of France, the governments, to find the liberte, egalite, fraternite, and make it real in life every day. And all of that peacefulness was shattered in the span of an hour-plus on Friday night when people were going about their normal business. And they purposefully chose a concert, chose restaurants, chose places where people engage in social dialogue and exchange, and they object to that too.
So this is not a situation where we have a choice. We have been at war with these guys since last year. President Obama said that very clearly. And every single country – not just in the region, but around the world – is opposed to what they are doing to the norms of human behavior and the standards by which we try to live.
So we are engaged in a struggle here – struggle of a generation. Every generation is given a test, I think. Through the 20th century we saw global wars and nation-states fighting each other. Today the challenge, even though we have differences with nation-states – Ukraine, Iran, different things that are happening – we’re not choosing to randomly go to war. We’re trying to avoid it. We’re trying to find a better path. But it’s non-state actors – individuals, lone wolves and groups, small groups – and if somebody is willing to die – if you want to go die on any given day, unfortunately, you can take some people with you.
So our challenge is to stop the immediate threat, obviously, and destroy it, while we eliminate the people going into the pool by providing those other options – by reaching them before they’re radicalized; by getting people to see there is better governance, there are better opportunities. And globally, we have a lot of work to do that. That’s what’s brought all of you into this place, into this business of diplomacy, of caring and trying to take America’s values and help to spread them around the world. But we don’t force them on people. We give people a choice. Everybody has their choice. We offer them because we believe it’s the best way to provide security, the best way to provide opportunity, and the best way to respect individual rights and the ability of any individual to be able to choose for themselves who they want to be and what they want to be, without disturbing other people, and certainly without killing.
So I want to thank you for the work you’re doing – most important work in the world right now. And I thank all of this Embassy in every regard: RSOs, consular division, individuals who reached out and went to work immediately. I know that some of you were at the – were near the Bataclan and the restaurant and when the shooting took place, you had nowhere to go, and finally a Thai restaurant, Ya Lamai, opened its doors and some of you were housed there till three in the morning. And there are all kinds of stories of individual courage and assistance. People have been working now four nights in a row, through the night. Countless emails, countless phone calls, countless worried parents, family, people calling – “Is my loved one all right? Do you know what’s happened to them? Can you find them?” And you all have been superb in reaching out and some of you going to hospitals to visit with the wounded, to help their families through a difficult, difficult time.
So as far as I’m concerned, you have all behaved in the highest traditions, the highest standards of American willingness to put ourselves at the readiness to help people in distress and to do our duty selflessly to other people, and that’s a great value of our country and France.
So we are locked together in this effort. I will visit with President Hollande shortly, and then with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius we’ll talk about the strategy ahead and the things we need to do together. And I am absolutely confident, my friends, we are going to come out of this where we want. We will end the scourge of Daesh. President Obama has always said it’s going to take a while, because it’s a reflection not just of the things that I described about how they choose to behave, but it’s also a reflection of turmoil in the region, of the clash with modernity, culture versus modern times, distortions. And they’re hard to fight that, particularly when there’s a huge historical, cultural and language and religious divide. So we have our work cut out for us, but we will get there. Because all of the leaders of the Muslim world, the real leaders, all of the leaders of every country in the region that are affected – Jordan and Lebanon and Iran and Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and Kuwait and Egypt – they’re all opposed to Daesh and all distressed by the way in which a great religion is being inappropriately presented.
So hang in there. Keep doing what you’re doing. We’ve made gains even in the last weeks. There’s 22 percent less territory that Daesh now has available to it than it had at the beginning. And remember, a year ago right now, we didn’t have a 65-country coalition. We only started putting that together one year ago, and we’re pushing now on the finance lines; we’re pushing against foreign fighters crossing borders; we’re pushing against the distortion of Islam, our public affairs people are working at that. We have a new center in Dubai, in Abu Dhabi, that’s been opened to help in Arabic, instantaneously, gain traction on social media and push back against the lies. We’re presenting stories of disaffected former Daesh people who have come out and said life with them is nowhere near what they pretend it is, and who are telling the real stories of what happens.
So as we come and push back here, I believe that justice will prevail and the vision that the vast, vast majority of the world shares will absolutely prevail. So we will steadily march ahead. Jihadi John is gone, and other top aides are gone. The number two guy in Libya, the top guy is – the top guy in Libya is gone. We’re slowly marshaling the forces and capacity to be able to change this current dynamic.
So hang in there. Stay steady. Stay strong. As the French would say, bon courage. And as President Obama and I would say to you, just a profound thank you. God bless you all. God bless France and the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)