Rudy Giuliani on Terrorism

What is New York mayor Rudi Giuliani’s reply to bin Laden’s edict against America?

October 7, 2001

What is New York mayor Rudi Giuliani's reply to bin Laden's edict against America?

On October 1, 2001, Rudolph Giuliani addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly. This marked the first time in almost 50 years that a mayor of New York has addressed the UN. In the following excerpts from his address, Mr. Giuliani suggests that September 11 was not just an attack on New York City and the United States, but also on the principles of civil society. His speech, pitting terrorism against civilization, presents an eloquent argument for inclusiveness and democracy.

On September 11, 2001, New York City — the most diverse city in the world — was viciously attacked in an unprovoked act of war. More than five thousand innocent men, women, and children of every race, religion and ethnicity are lost. Among these were people from 80 different nations. To their representatives here today, I offer my condolences as well on behalf of all New Yorkers who share this loss with you. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in history.

This was not just an attack on the city of New York or on the United States of America. It was an attack on the very idea of a free, inclusive and civil society.

It was a direct assault on the founding principles of the United Nations itself. The Preamble to the UN Charter states that this organization exists “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person … to practice tolerance and live together in peace as good neighbors … and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.”

Indeed, this vicious attack places in jeopardy the whole purpose of the United Nations.

Terrorism is based on the persistent and deliberate violation of fundamental human rights. Terrorism preys particularly on cultures and communities that practice openness and tolerance. Their targeting of innocent civilians mocks the efforts of those who seek to live together in peace as neighbors. It defies the very notion of being a neighbor.

The response of many of your nations — your leaders and people — spontaneously demonstrating in the days after the attack your support for New York and America, and your understanding of what needs to be done to remove the threat of terrorism, gives us great, great hope that we will prevail.

The best long-term deterrent to terrorism — obviously — is the spread of our principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human life. The more that spreads around the globe, the safer we will all be. These are very powerful ideas and once they gain a foothold, they cannot be stopped.

In fact, the rise that we have seen in terrorism and terrorist groups, I believe, is in no small measure a response to the spread of these ideas of freedom and democracy to many nations, particularly over the past 15 years.

The terrorists have no ideas or ideals with which to combat freedom and democracy. So their only defense is to strike out against innocent civilians, destroying human life in massive numbers and hoping to deter all of us from our pursuit and expansion of freedom.

The United Nations must hold accountable any country that supports or condones terrorism. Otherwise, you will fail in your primary mission as peacekeeper.

It must ostracize any nation that supports terrorism. It must isolate any nation that remains neutral in the fight against terrorism.

Now is the time, in the words of the UN Charter, “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.” This is not a time for further study or vague directives. The evidence of terrorism’s brutality and inhumanity — of its contempt for life and the concept of peace — is lying beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center less than two miles from where we meet today.

Look at that destruction, that massive, senseless, cruel loss of human life … and then I ask you to look in your hearts and recognize that there is no room for neutrality on the issue of terrorism. You’re either with civilization — or with terrorists.

On one side is democracy, the rule of law and respect for human life — on the other is tyranny, arbitrary executions and mass murder.

We’re right and they’re wrong. It’s as simple as that.

And by that I mean that America and its allies are right about democracy, about religious, political, and economic freedom.

The terrorists are wrong, and in fact evil, in their mass destruction of human life in the name of addressing alleged injustices.

Let those who say that we must understand the reasons for terrorism come with me to the thousands of funerals we are having in New York City and explain those insane, maniacal reasons to the children who will grow up without fathers and mothers, to the parents who have had their children ripped from them for no reason at all.

Instead, I ask each of you to allow me to say at those funerals that your nation stands with America in making a solemn promise and pledge that we will achieve unconditional victory over terrorism and terrorists.

There is no excuse for mass murder, just as there is no excuse for genocide. Those who practice terrorism — murdering or victimizing innocent civilians — lose any right to have their cause understood by decent people and lawful nations.

On this issue — terrorism — the United Nations must draw a line. The era of moral relativism between those who practice or condone terrorism, and those nations who stand up against it, must end. Moral relativism does not have a place in this discussion and debate.

There is no moral way to sympathize with grossly immoral actions. And by trying to do that, unfortunately, a fertile field has been created in which terrorism has grown.

The best and most practical way to promote peace is to stand up to terror and intimidation. The Security Council’s unanimous passage of Resolution 1373, adopting wide ranging anti-terrorism measures in the international community is a very good first step. It’s necessary to establish accountability for the subsidizing of terrorism.

Each of you is sitting in this room because of your country’s commitment to being part of the family of nations. We need to unite as a family as never before — across all our differences, in recognition of the fact that the United Nations stands for the proposition that human beings we have more in common than divides us.

If you need to be reminded of this, you don’t need to look very far. Just go outside for a walk in the streets and parks of New York City. You cannot walk a block in New York City without seeing somebody that looks different than you, acts different than you, talks different than you, believes different than you. If you grow up in New York City, you learn that. And if you’re an intelligent or decent person, you learn that all those differences are nothing in comparison to the things that unite us.

We are a city of immigrants — unlike any other city — within a nation of immigrants. Like the victims of the World Trade Center attack, we are of every race, religion and ethnicity. Our diversity has always been our greatest source of strength.

It’s the thing that renews us and revives us in every generation — our openness to new people from all over the world.

So from the first day of this attack, an attack on New York and America, and I believe an attack on the basic principles that underlie this organization, I have told the people of New York that we should not allow this to divide us, because then we would really lose what this city is all about.

We have very strong and vibrant Arab and Muslim communities in New York City. They are an equally important part of the life of our city. We respect their religious beliefs. We respect everybody’s religious beliefs — that’s what America’s about, that’s what New York city is about.

I have urged New Yorkers not to engage in any form of group blame or group hatred. This is exactly the evil that we are confronting with these terrorists. And if we are going to prevail over terror, our ideals, principles and values must transcend all forms of prejudice. This is a very important part of the struggle against terrorism.


Remember British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who — armed only with good intentions — negotiated with the Nazis and emerged hopeful that he had achieved peace in his time.

Hitler’s wave of terror was only encouraged by these attempts at appeasement. At the cost of millions of lives, we learned that words — though important — are not enough to guarantee peace. It is action alone that counts.

For the UN and individual nations, decisive action is needed to stop terrorism from ever orphaning another child.

That’s for nations. For individuals, the most effective course of action they can take to aid our recovery is to be determined to go ahead with their lives. We can’t let terrorists change the way we live — otherwise they will have succeeded.


In some ways, the resilience of life in New York City is the ultimate sign of defiance to terrorism. We call ourselves the “Capital of the World” in large part because we are the most diverse city in the world, home to the United Nations. The spirit of unity amid all our diversity has never been stronger.

Freedom from fear is a basic human right. We need to reassert our right to live free from fear with greater confidence and determination than ever before … here in New York City … across America … and around the world. With one clear voice, unanimously, we need to say that we will not give in to terrorism.

Surrounded by our friends of every faith, we know that this is not a clash of civilizations; it is a conflict between murderers and humanity.

This is not a question of retaliation or revenge. It is a matter of justice leading to peace. The only acceptable result is the complete and total eradication of terrorism.

New Yorkers are strong and resilient. We are unified. And we will not yield to terror.

This Globalist Document is adapted from a speech Mr. Giuliani gave before the United Nations’ General Assembly on October 1, 2001.