This Is Not a Clash of Civilizations

These terrorists have declared war against all civilization. They are psychopathic monsters and there is nothing civilized about them.

I have said many times, as have all of my predecessors, that France is America’s oldest friend, our first ally. And during our darkest hours, that fact rings truer than ever. It was true when Lafayette crossed the Atlantic some 238 years ago and helped Americans achieve liberty. It was true in 1917, when General Pershing’s army arrived in France to join the Allied front, and his aide proclaimed, “Lafayette, we are here.” It was true in World War II when America joined the courageous fighters of the French resistance in opposing and defeating the greatest evil the world has ever known.

And certainly it was true fourteen years ago, in the wake of the September 11th attacks – New York, Pennsylvania, Washington. Le Monde’s front page read, “Nous sommes tous Americains.” We are all Americans. And it became clear at that moment that our centuries-long relationship had evolved into even more: The United States and France were not only friends; we are family.

And today, the entire world joins our family in heartbreak yet again. Don’t mistake what these attacks represent. This is not a clash of civilizations. These terrorists have declared war against all civilization. They kill Yezidis because they are Yezidis. They kill Christians because they are Christians. They kill Shia because they are Shia. And on. They rape and torture and pillage and call it the will of God. They are in fact psychopathic monsters, and there is nothing, nothing civilized about them.

So this is not a case of one civilization pitted against another. This is a battle between civilization itself and barbarism, between civilization and medieval and modern fascism both at the same time. And that is why every single nation-state in the region and around the world is opposed to Daesh.

And so the violence, the terror, the senseless murder of 132 people and injuring of hundreds more, including four Americans – this is an assault not just on France; but, coming on the heels of brutal attacks in Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere, it is an assault on our collective sense of reason and purpose, an attack on civility itself. And I want to thank the men and women who bravely reported to the scene of the attacks, and those who continue to work around the clock to heal the injured, restore calm, and provide relief.

Among those who died on Friday night was an American student, Nohemi Gonzalez. Nohemi had come to Paris for the same reasons so many Americans do – and have for centuries: to expand her horizons, enrich her education, and experience the magic of this city. As one of her former classmates put it, Nohemi’s death, “The world lost such a beautiful shining light.”

Now, I understand the sadness of those who knew Nohemi and other victims. The world is diminished by their deaths, and no words of comfort or sorrow or even resolve can change that. We don’t have the power to bring them back. So we must do instead what is within our power. And that begins with a sense of fierce solidarity among good and decent people everywhere, with the vow that we will never be intimidated by terrorists, and with the promise that we will never allow these murderers to achieve their vile aims.

No one should doubt that the light still shines in the City of Light, and that darkness will not ever Рnever overpower it. As history records, Paris has known even darker moments, and it has overcome them. The people of Paris Рjoined by their friends, partners, and family across the globe Рwill stand up for and live by the values that light the world, the underlying principles that form the backbone of our laws and the essence of our common humanity: the pursuit of justice and the embrace of peace; the belief in the dignity and the worth and the rights of every human being; libertè, egalité, fraternité.

Tonight, the U.S. Embassy in Paris joins the many other landmarks around the world shining the bleu, blanc, rouge lights of the French Republic. We do so as a reminder to the brave people of France that your American sisters and brothers will stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, as we have stood together throughout history.

Tonight, we are all Parisians. And as the old motto of this resilient city says, and as Parisians have painted across the social media in recent days, fluctuat nec mergitur – buffeted, but not sunk. We will not let our sorrow for the loss of life overcome us. We will not lose sight of all the good that we are working together to do. We will not change our course or cancel our plans, including our plans to come together in Paris later this month for the UN climate conference. And President Obama told me today how much he looks forward to being here and being part of that important moment.

Ultimately, we will defeat Daesh and all who share their despicable ideology, and we are on the course to do so. We will continue also to show compassion to those who seek refuge from the violence that the terrorists engender. We will fight to ensure that the world that our children inherit is richer in love and shorter on hate. We will work to bring, like Nohemi Gonzalez, a beautiful, shining light to areas, the places that are couched in darkness.

That’s our responsibility. That’s our duty. And we will do our duty, side by side, and we will prevail.

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