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Monday, April 18, 2016

All the Euphemisms We Use for ‘War’ | The Nation

William J. Astore writes in this excellent article from The Nation:
"The more American leaders and officials—and the media that quotes them endlessly—employ such euphemisms to cloak harsh realities, the more they ensure that such harshness will endure; indeed, that it is likely to grow harsher and more pernicious as we continue to settle into a world of euphemistic thinking. ...
"Don’t think, however, that the language of 21st-century American war was only meant to lull the public. Less familiar words and terms continue to be used within the military not to clarify tasks at hand but to obscure certain obvious realities even from those sanctioned to deal with them. ...
"For any future historian of the Pentagon’s language, let me sum things up this way: Instead of honest talk about war in all its ugliness and uncertainty, military professionals of our era have tended to substitute buzz words, catchphrases, and acronyms. It’s a way of muddying the water. It allows the world of war to tumble on without serious challenge ....
"The fact is that trendy acronyms and snappy buzz words have a way of limiting genuine thinking on war. If America is to win (or, far better, avoid) future wars, its war professionals need to look more honestly at that phenomenon in all of its dimensions. So, too, do the American people, for it’s in their name that such wars are allegedly waged. ...
"In short, the dishonesty of the words the US military regularly wields illustrates the dishonesty of its never-ending wars. After so many years of failure and frustration, of wars that aren’t won and terrorist movements that only seem to spread as its leaders are knocked off, isn’t it past time for Americans to ditch phrases like ;collateral damage,' 'enemy noncombatant,' 'no-fly zone' (or even worse, 'safe zone'), and 'surgical strike' and adopt a language, however grim, that accurately describes the military realities of this era?
"Words matter, especially words about war. So as a change of pace, instead of the usual bloodless euphemisms and vapid acronyms, perhaps the US government could tell the shocking and awful truth to the American people in plain language about the realities and dangers of never-ending war."
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