Jewish World Review August 2, 2002 / 24 Menachem-Av, 5762

Greg Crosby

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The right words | Outside of pantomime, body language, and obscene gestures, words are our primary means of communication. Clarity of ideas and thought and precision in choosing the proper words to convey those ideas and thought is something we all attempt in our daily lives. It is even more significant that governments get the words right when communicating policy and national security intentions to their citizens and to the nations of the world.

Former President Clinton was a master of twisting word meanings for his own purposes. The very term "spin doctor," meaning someone who takes the truth and bends it in order to support their particular viewpoint or argument, came into popular use during the Clinton White House. Parsing words and spinning truth is an every day practice for most trial lawyers and politicians. Truth too often takes a back seat to personal ambition and social agendas. Political correctness, also, has done considerable damage to honesty and clarity within American discourse.

Most of us realize when our political leaders speak of the "war on terror" they don't mean we're going after Northern Irish militants or doing battle with Mexican banditos. The terrorists we're after are, of course, radical Arab Islamic groups like al Qaeda. But government officials can't come out and say, "Arab" for fear of being accused of racial profiling. They can't come out and say "Islamic" for fear of being accused of waging a religious war. Terror is a safe word -- no group can be offended by it -- so we have our "war on terror." But is it better to be politically correct than honest?

I first wrote of our inability to call our enemies by their correct names in my October 19th column last year. In it I compared our current situation with that of the second world war. I pointed out that World War II was never called "The War on Fascism" or "The War on Expansionism." We never referred to our enemies at that time as "radical Asians" or "extremist Aryans." We were clear then who it was we were at war with -- the Japanese, Italians and Germans.

Today our enemies are groups of Arab Islamic fundamentalists, and while we can't declare war on a religion -- even a radical one-- we can and should declare war on those countries that sponsor, train, support and continue to harbor these murderous groups. As President Bush once said to the world's nations, "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists."

Nations who are with the terrorists include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, and yes, Saudi Arabia. We need to say so loud and clear. It is high time to identify these rogue nations for what are -- cowards and sneaks hiding behind radical clerics who light the fire of hate in the hearts of their people and call it religion.

While President Bush has clearly identified Iraq and Iran as terrorist states, his administration needs to name the others too. I can't imagine a time of greater need for moral clarity, intellectual honesty, and truth telling then right now. Naturally, our collage professors will condemn such words. Our media elite will chastise the administration in editorials from coast to coast. The United Nations won't like it one little bit. The European Union will call us "cowboys." The Arab world will continue to hate our guts. But that's okay. As the saying goes -- "truth hurts."

Words are powerful tools in the hands of those who know how to use them. Words can hurt and words can heal. There will always be the piranhas and sharks of society who will twist and turn words to suit their own means -- crooks and charlatans ready to pervert the very meaning of words to satisfy personal ambition and greed.

But, fortunately, there are also good people with the courage and moral clarity to do and say the right thing at the right time. People who are not afraid to use the right word when the occasion demands it. Folks who call it like it is. It is those speakers of truth who will help keep democracy and freedom alive in the United States of America and around the world and who will ultimately guide our country to victory against those who would rather see us dead.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby