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Jewish World Review March 26, 2004 / 4 Nissan, 5764

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

Guy talk | Boy, was Patricia Ireland wrong.

Just a month after 911, Ireland, former president of NOW, complained about President Bush's "guy talk." Her quote was featured last week in the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web."

She said, "Guy talk may be speaking in black and white of good and evil." She said it included descriptions, such as "Osama bin Laden, wanted dead or alive." She said there was too much guy talk from "rich, white, able-bodied and apparently straight men."

And thank goodness for that. Guy talk has been our most potent weapon for fighting terrorism since 911.

Prior to 911, you see, America avoided guy talk of any kind. It was the era of the new-age sensitive male -- the Clinton era. We disdained harsh language like the words Reagan used in the '80's. How could a president be so boorish as to call the Soviet Union "the evil empire?"

No, the Clinton era was a progressive one. We chose our words carefully then to avoid offending anyone. We didn't know the meaning of "is" because we used language to obscure, not clarify, our alleged goals and ambitions.

So when fundamentalist Islamic terrorists attempted to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, we didn't consider it an act of war. We considered it a crime, just like mugging or car theft. And as terrorists struck other targets around the world during that period, we didn't respond with force and fury; we targeted them with the limited legal and diplomatic means available to us.

And it's true that the Bush team took eight months to develop a new strategy to flush out bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Though their approach promised to be more comprehensive and results-oriented, the plan did not reach the president's desk until it was too late.

The truth is that before 911, there were only a handful of people using guy talk in reference to Al Qaeda. One of them was Sen. Bob Kerry, a former Senator from Nebraska. Last week, during the 911 hearings, he used guy talk again.

"I keep hearing the excuse we didn't have actionable intelligence," he said to Madeline Albright, who said the Clinton's people's hands were tied. "Well, what the hell does that say to Al Qaeda? Basically, they knew, beginning in 1993, it seems to me, that there was going to be limited, if any, use of military and that they were relatively free to do whatever they wanted."

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Which is exactly right. Through our pre-911 actions, here is what Al Qaeda heard us say: do whatever you want. Sure, a few of you might get caught and get tied up in court. Or maybe a few missiles will be launched, in the dead of night, at empty buildings or abandoned terrorist training camps. But your losses will be minimal and America lacks any will to fight.

And so they struck us hard on 911.

It's true that we need to put politics aside and pinpoint all the reasons we allowed 911 to happen in the first place. We need to overhaul our strategy and approach to make sure 911 never happens again, and we've been working on that. But whatever we do, one thing is certain: guy talk better be a big part of our plan.

We used guy talk on the Taliban. We said they better turn over bin Laden or we would take them out. Used to our empty words, they blinked and we took them out.

We told Saddam Hussein he either complies with U.N. resolutions or we were going to take him out. He blinked and we took him out.

We told Mommar Khadafi his only future was to come clean. He heard us loud and clear.

Maybe if we had used more guy talk before 911 - maybe if we had backed our words with actions as we have since 911 - the World Trade Center would still be standing.

Maybe. All I know for certain is this: Hey, Patty, guy talk works.

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03/22/04: Kerry meets his master
03/17/04: When Americans pretend to be 'Irish'
03/12/04: Didya hear the Anti PC Irish Joke about ?
03/05/04: I Wish I Was Russian
02/27/04: Vinny the Number Cruncher takes on Greenspan
02/20/04: The birds and the bees, updated
02/13/04: Dr. Laura plays Cupid
02/06/04: The Investigation
01/23/04: Weighty adjustment
01/16/04: Bucks for betrothals
01/09/04: Decisions, decisions
01/02/04: Making New Year's resolutions for others
12/27/03: Holiday Pork
12/19/03: FOUND! The captured-Saddam transcript
12/12/03: Peace, Man
12/05/03: Who are you, Miss Manners?
12/01/03: Joyless, selfish children
11/21/03: Thanksgiving, updated for our times
11/14/03: Hang in there, tubby America, your day in the sun will come
11/07/03: Morale at Veterans' Day
10/31/03: The Big Picture
10/24/03: A sorry bunch
10/17/03: Conversation with a typical poll respondent?
10/10/03: Men and women and brains
10/03/03: Iraqi Pork
09/26/03: They would not leave
09/19/03: A radical idea
09/12/03: Food Guide Pyramid has a "stupidity factor"?
09/05/03: Flag waving and football cheering
08/29/03: People who have it all, too often don't
08/25/03: Attack of the 'virus twits'
08/08/03: Why not have a whole slew of the world's dignitaries and leaders come by to visit you?
08/01/03: Do you really want to live until 500?
07/18/03: "Ain't-my-fault" lawsuits are becoming more creative
07/18/03: The real story never makes for good summertime drama in Washington
07/11/03: Government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and can't do
07/03/03: Overworked Americans
06/27/03: The Metrosexual Male
06/20/03: Crime Etiquette in Washington, D.C.
06/13/03: My Father, the Thief and the MGB
06/05/03: An Open Letter to Bill and Hillary
05/30/03: We are a busy people
05/23/03: Liar, Liar
05/16/03: Laffer all the way to the bank
05/09/03: My mother's house
05/02/03: Teaching the Iraqis how to protest
04/25/03: Iraqi TV
04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
04/11/03: Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut
04/04/03: War humor
03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
03/03/03: My Family's Tragic Secret: We're French
02/21/03: I'm worried about my people
02/14/03: George Washington Makeover
02/07/03: Making quiet sacrifices
01/24/03: "Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!"
01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2003, Tom Purcell