Remarks With Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay At the Museum of Industry
September 12, 2006
FOREIGN MINISTER MACKAY: (In French.)
I think overall there is great mutual benefit that can flow from a common understanding, an appreciation of the history of many of the important files that exist in our countries right now. Softwood Lumber is a perfect example of where a dedicated effort, a good exchange of information and a willingness to compromise is of great benefit to both countries. And I think clearly on security matters, the exchange of information, intelligence, and cooperation, and a common understanding of the importance of human rights, respect for the rule of law, the ability to reach out to one another on these important matters, I truly believe that this leads Canada to a better place and allows us to make an important contribution on the international scene.
SECRETARY RICE: I have very little to add. In fact, we have had, as Peter said, an entire -- we have a very large agenda, and we've gone through most parts of it. I do think that what we see here in relationship is one that is first and foremost rooted in values. But we tend to forget how daily and in some ways ordinary the U.S.-Canada relationship is.
Our people are always going back and forth. We're in constant trade. It is just the most active of relationships at the level of people to people not just at the levels of government. And we've had challenges and not always the same views, but this is a relationship that is very, very strong.
I want to underscore something that Peter said at the other session. I think we've made great progress since September 11th at keeping our borders both secure and open. This was a great challenge. I remember in the first couple of days after September 11th when essentially the borders were shut. There was a great concern about whether commerce could be conducted and conducted safely in such a big trading relationship. But through the dedicated work of our Homeland Security people, of our foreign offices, I think we've really come to a lot of very good -- very good efforts at making our borders both safe and secure. We've used technology, we've used sharing of information, and we've just made a lot of progress and that's just something I'd like to underscore.
QUESTION: Mr. MacKay, I'd like to ask another question about the relationship. I'm wondering how you balance the building of clearly what is a stronger relationship than we've seen in many years with the fear of so many Canadians that, you know, particularly again with what's happened this morning in Damascus, that it perhaps makes Canada a greater target because of this tighter alliance with the U.S. foreign policy.
FOREIGN MINISTER MACKAY: Well, I think we've seen with recent events with the arrest of terror suspects in Toronto that our shores are certainly not immune from these type of activities even within our own borders. I don't believe for a moment that it elevates Canada as a target to be doing our share in the world, to be in Afghanistan, to be in parts of the world where we can provide the type of security and the type of stability that countries like Afghanistan need at this critical time.
That was the incubator for the terrorist attacks that hit New York. Canadians were hit in that attack as well, 24 lives lost of Canadian citizens. And so we cannot retreat. We cannot simply come back to our country and expect that it isn't going to eventually find us.
There's an old maritime expression that says, "Boats are safe in the harbor, but that's not what they're made for." And we can't simply retreat to Canada and expect that the effects of terrorism and instability and death and destruction won't eventually come to us.
So I believe that working with the other 35 countries in Afghanistan, working with our allies will pay huge dividends for the security of Canadians.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, this morning's the attack on the Embassy in Damascus, do you have any indications that al-Qaida or like minded groups may be behind it? And perhaps because this is (inaudible) say about the extent to which the Syrian regime controls its society, do you think the fact that the attack could took place says anything either about (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start by saying that at this point in time it appears, first of all, that Americans are safe and secure and accounted for, and that's very good news.
Secondly, I want very much to give condolences to those who lost their lives defending the embassy and among them apparently Syrian security personnel. I do think that the Syrians reacted to this attack in a way that helped to secure our people, and we very much appreciate that.
I don't know, and it's too early to tell who might have been responsible for the attack. Obviously, we will do the forensics on it and begin to try to get a sense of what happened there. It's the case, unfortunately, that it is possible for people to make attacks of this kind despite the fact that we do make an extraordinary effort to protect our people. We make an extraordinary effort to have facilities that are not capable of being attacked.
I will say that I'm just very grateful that the attack did not, in that sense, succeed. But we will have to do the forensics to know who might have been responsible. I don't have enough information at this point to say.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) controls its society?
SECRETARY RICE: I think it's very early to try and speculate on why this might have happened and what it means for Syria. I just want to underscore again that we appreciate the response of the Syrian security forces to help secure our territory.
QUESTION: Ms. Rice, you've brought up the mission in Afghanistan that Canada is firmly involved in, certainly from our country a lot of people involved in the military mission there. How important is that to the entire war on terror right now?
SECRETARY RICE: The Canadian contribution to helping to stabilize Afghanistan is absolutely critical to the war on terror; absolutely critical. As Peter noted, Afghanistan of course was the incubator of September 11th because of al-Qaida's presence there, safe harbor for al-Qaida, their training camps were there, their command and control was there. We succeeded in overthrowing the Taliban and in pushing them out of the country and helping to come into being a democratic government that is a fierce fighter in the war on terror. And it's perhaps not surprising that they're going to fight back. The Taliban has tried to organize itself to fight back.
I want to be very clear, the Afghan Government with friends is more than strong enough to withstand this push by the Taliban, but they need help and NATO is fighting fiercely and Canada is fighting fiercely. But in an earlier question there was a question about whether one becomes a target by actually going after terrorists. It's a question that I answer all the time in the United States too. I think we've learned something about these people -- there isn't any safe harbor from them. There isn't anyway to accommodate them or to find a way to appease their interest, because their interest is in the wanton destruction of innocent life. And when you're dealing with people who want to just destroy innocent life, there isn't any political agenda.
And if we learned anything it's that no one is safe. If you look at the long list of terrorist attacks since September 11th in countries, some of whom were involved in Afghanistan or Iraq, others of whom were not involved in either, we've had attacks in Indonesia and attacks in Egypt and attacks in Russia and attacks in Jordan. This is a global fight and everybody is at risk.
And yesterday, when I had a ceremony at the State Department, we called the names of 90 countries who lost citizens in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That shows nobody is safe from these people and that means you have to fight them and you have to defeat them. And what Canada is doing in Afghanistan is critical to fighting them and ultimately to defeating them.
QUESTION: Can you provide a readout of the P-5+1 conference call that was to have taken place yesterday by the political directors? Have you made any progress toward actually discussing sanctions -- a UN Security Council sanctions resolution? Or do you still see significant resistance to that from countries like China, Russia, perhaps France?
SECRETARY RICE: We're certainly in the midst of consultations on what a sanctions resolution will be. I expect those consultations to continue. We will be -- the ministers together -- in New York very shortly on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly and I would expect that that gives us an opportunity at the level of ministers to examine where we are and how we move forward.
But I want to be very clear, the international community set out a standard for the Iranians, a mandatory standard. This is not a voluntary standard about suspension of their enrichment and reprocessing activities. Iran has not agreed to meet that standard. Now if Iran agrees to meet that standard then we're in a different set of circumstances. But if they have not -- if they do not, and they have not thus far, then we are going to pursue and pursue actively the road of sanctions within the UN Security Council. That's what we're doing now. I think it should be unsurprising to people that this is something that has to be on the basis of consultations and discussions and we have to decide what a resolution will really look like. There's already a lot of work that has gone into it. There is more work to be done.
But in London and then in Berlin and then in Paris we laid out a course, and that course was that if Iran would suspend there was the one path available. If Iran would not suspend, we would go the path of the Security Counsel and at this point that's the path that we're on.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in getting support for the Afghanistan mission here in Canada considering the divisions in this country over that mission. And Ms. Rice, would you be able to comment on how important the relationship is to the United States in getting support for more troops in Afghanistan by coming to Canada and highlighting that friendship?
FOREIGN MINISTER MACKAY: Well, I'm going to answer that last part of your question and then I'll permit the Secretary to say a word as well. There is no "ask" as far as more troops at this point in time. That's not part of this visit whatsoever. I think one of the most important things that we saw demonstrated here this morning was Secretary Rice underscoring the progress that's being made and the results of the presence of Canadian, U.S., British, 35 NATO countries participating in this mission and what that means for the Afghan people.
The fact that we have five million children now in school, young girls who were never permitted to go to school before; the development; the assistance; the humanitarian aid work; the infrastructure; the democracy that's being built inside Afghanistan that's going to take deep roots and allow those people eventually, of course, to have full control over their own country and defend themselves and have an operating police system; a judiciary; be able to get services out to some of the areas in Afghanistan that are currently in turmoil. None of these things happen without boots on the ground. They are inextricably connected. The security and stability lead to the humanitarian work. To suggest otherwise is simply folly and naïve. To suggest that all of that humanitarian work can happen without security on the ground is just not going to happen.
And so what Secretary Rice has seen, what I've seen, what others who have visited Afghanistan in the four and five years since NATO had a presence there, is making an enormous difference in the lives of human beings in Afghanistan that don't enjoy the same quality of life, clearly that we do, don't have basic freedoms, don’t have the right to move freely within their own country and the enormous credit that is due to the forces that are there engaged in extremely difficult work where sacrifices are being made, where lives are being put on the line, that pays enormous dividends not just in Afghanistan, but here as well. Because if we leave it to the terrorists to continue to flourish in places like Afghanistan, they'll find us. They'll come here and they'll try to wreak havoc in our lives and upset and destroy our quality of life. That's a given; that will happen.
And so I think the presence of Secretary Rice here demonstrates a whole range of things. That is a willingness to cooperate on issues that are important, of mutual importance to the countries, whether they be economic, whether they be on the security side, whether they be the resolution of long-standing irritants. Having a free flow of communication, having an intelligent informed dialogue, having respectful businesslike relations, rather than provocation or insults; that to my way of thinking, just makes good sense. That's diplomatic, that's forward-looking and it's indicative of a mature friendship and relationship at political and personal levels and it accomplishes far more.
And so I'm grateful to be able to have someone of Ms. Rice's importance in position within her government come and express that same mutual respect for our country and particularly on a day as significant as September 11th, which is a stoic and solemn occasion. And the gratitude, her grace, her expression of appreciation for Canadians is one that we, in fact, warmly embrace and we are grateful that that type of relationship does exist.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just -- no, we didn't talk about more forces. That's not the issue here. Canada is responding to the NATO plans for how we will fight in Afghanistan and is responding very, very well. What is important is to recognize that it's not as if you have a choice in Afghanistan to, as Peter said, have a democratic and reconstructed Afghanistan without also dealing with the security problem.
And let me be very clear, Afghans are dealing with the security problem. There are increasingly capable Afghan forces that are not just in the fight, but that are in many places leading the fight. And so it is a coalition of NATO and Afghan forces that are securing their country. But you know, we have some experience with Afghanistan. We all supported -- many of us supported, particularly the United States, the Afghan fighters to -- in the civil war in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan and then they left and we left, too. And when we left and we left the Afghan people without any means of support, without political support, economic support, security support, Afghanistan turned into a failed state that harbored and supported Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida. And we all came to pay for that.
I can remember sitting before the 9/11 Commission and being asked, as were other -- the Secretary of State from the Clinton Administration, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Sandy Berger, all of us, why didn't you do something about Afghanistan before the September 11th attacks? Well, we didn't. In fact, we left Afghanistan to its own devices.
If we should have learned anything, it is that if you allow that kind of vacuum, if you allow a failed state in that strategic a location, you're going to pay for it. And I know that there's a sacrifice. And I know that it's hard work. And I know that there are times when it seems that we -- that things are not going in a straight line. Big historic circumstances often don't go in a straight line.
But I just urge us to think about the alternative, and an Afghanistan that does not complete it's democratic evolution and become a stable terrorist-fighting state is going to come back to haunt us. Maybe it won't come back to haunt me or Peter because we will be gone, but it will come back to haunt our successors and their successors. You have to finish the job when you have a chance, and Canada is a key ally in finishing that job.