President George W. Bush admitted last week that his notorious "bring 'em on" challenge to any potential insurgents in occupied Iraq was "kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong message to people."
"I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know," continued the most powerful political leader in global history, drawing gasps of admiration for his adroit negotiation of words with more than two syllables. "'Wanted, dead or alive'; that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted."
I think President Bush is possibly judging himself a bit harshly. The prime role of language should not be to make one look sophisticated; it is to communicate facts and thoughts. So, the president said "bring 'em on". And I don't think that anyone can deny that the insurgents have indeed been brought on, as the slaughter of thousands of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of coalition troops can testify. He said it. It happened. In a world where our politicians are routinely excoriated for saying things that are simply untrue, I think Dubya's adherence to the tried-and-tested concept of cause and effect makes a refreshing change. Osama bin Laden, for example, was wanted, dead or alive. And they still want him, and he is, indeed, dead or alive. More specifically, the latter.
If Bush is still concerned about all the nasty people who mock his blunt talk (some of them even going so far to suggest that he's an abject cretin who'd struggle to wipe his own bottom without Karl Rove giving step-by-step instructions on his Blackberry), he seems to have a kindred spirit in one of our most revered contemporary composers. At around the same time the president was hinting that things might have gone a wee bit pear-shaped in Mesopotamia, Sir Harrison Birtwistle was accepting an Ivor Novello award for his contribution to classical music. Here is his acceptance speech:
"Why is your music so effing loud? You must all be brain-dead. Maybe you are. I didn’t know so many clichés existed until the last half-hour. Have fun. Goodbye."