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It's what Bush said, and not how he said it, that counts



Published: Thu, September 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



President George W. Bush doesn't have the television presence and the actor's delivery of a Ronald Reagan, nor does he have the rhetorical flair of a Bill Clinton, but no one should mistake his low-key performance in his address to the nation Tuesday night as a lack of resolve to punish those who wrought death and misery upon our nation.

The words that the president spoke were at once simple and powerful.

"The search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts," he told the American people, just hours after two hijacked jets tore through the symbol of this country's financial power, the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City, and a third jet commandeered by terrorists rammed into the Pentagon in Washington. "I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbored them."

The last sentence is worth repeating: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbored them."

The message could not have been clearer: Sponsors of international terrorism brace yourselves for the wrath of the world's lone superpower.

It is exactly the kind of message that the leader of the free world needed to deliver.

Miscalculation: If the terrorists and their guardians in Tuesday's attack on the United States had acted in the belief that Bush would crumble, they miscalculated greatly. Not only does the president have the will of the American people on his side for launching a retaliatory strike, he has the memory of his father's tenure as president to embolden him.

Former President George Bush will forever be second-guessed about his decision not to send American troops all the way to Baghdad when they chased Iraqi soldiers out of Kuwait a decade ago. Iraqi dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein had invaded neighboring Kuwait, which appealed to the world community for help. Then President Bush responded by fashioning a U.S.-led allied force under the auspices of the United Nations.

But while successful in chasing the Iraqis out of Kuwait and even across Iraq, the allies stopped short of invading Baghdad and targeting Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi leader was thus spared to flex his muscles another day -- which he has been doing with arrogant regularity.

That is why the son will be sure not to make the same mistake. President Bush can be expected to unleash an attack worthy of this nation when it is confirmed that international terrorist Osama bin Laden was behind Tuesday's cowardly acts.

Mastermind: Bin Laden, the mastermind of numerous deadly terrorist plots around the world, already has a price on his head -- a $5 million reward from the State Department for information leading to his arrest -- but there have been no takers.

Indeed, Afghanistan, which has been a safe haven for bin Laden, has been hit with U.N. economic sanctions, but the Taliban rulers remain defiant.

It is against this backdrop that Bush addressed the American people and let it be known that everyone responsible for Tuesday's bloodshed will pay dearly. Osama bin Laden's days are numbered.




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