Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Maybe we have gone...

... through the looking glass. The establishment press is, well, happily willing to tie themselves up in order to make it easier for unscrupulous administrations to have their way with the Fourth Estate.

However, it's not just about the press repeating what the government says. It's also about the way that the government--from the President on down--abuses our common language, which only then is repeated ad nauseum by our wholesome folks in the news media connected to satellite dishes and the country's printing presses.

George Orwell wrote in his "Politics and the English Language" that flowery, obfuscatory phrases were always used by politicians to, as Orwell put it simply and succinctly, "defend the indefensible." It is this intentional retreat from plain language that Orwell saw as a deliberate means of obscuring truth, and now, over sixty years after his essay was published, the practice in the United States government is both a high art and an arcane science.

Indeed, Orwell's absolutely right, and especially so in these days of Pentagon-micromanaged press coverage. It is the very fact that the press has enabled the government's introduction of these terms into the lexicon and has made continuing and unchallenged use of them that has perverted our understanding of reality. To that end, I offer a review of a few of the government's recent favorite phrases, along with translations into understandable English:

a) Collateral damage. Translation: Civilians killed because we didn't prepare carefully enough to prevent killing them, and, besides, randomly killing a few of them will scare the bejesus out of them and they'll do what we want. See: Roman Empire, better to be feared than loved.

b) Targeted killing. Translation: State-sponsored non-judicially sanctioned assassination, particularly from the air, of anyone, including American citizens, whom the President or his staff determines, without any review by the Judiciary, to be not wholly supportive of or antithetical to U.S. aims, using equipment designed to obscure personal and/or professional responsibility for those extra-judicial assassinations, especially in the many countries of the world where we have not officially declared war.

c) Enhanced interrogation techniques. Translation: torture by our own personnel of others for political purposes, in contravention of international human rights treaties. Principally used to obtain false confessions for use in military tribunals.

d) Extraordinary rendition: Translation: state-sponsored kidnapping.

e) Low-level terrorism. Translation: peaceful protest.

f) Torture: Translation: Egregious violations of international human rights treaties by countries other than ourselves.

g) Terrorism. Translation: any act, violent or non-violent, which can be utilized by us or our allies to place someone in indefinite detention and/or justify military action against other nations for economic and political purposes.

h) Defending our freedoms: Translation: Pursuing or abetting aggressive wars against countries unwilling to become our political and economic puppets.

i) Surge. Translation: the addition of more of our armed soldiers into a war of aggression and/or into a military occupation of ours to win the hearts and minds of the unwillingly occupied. See: Hopeless delusion.

j) Hearts and minds, winning: Translation: Failed Vietnam war strategy.

k) Mushroom cloud. Translation: Nuclear weapons scare tactic promulgated by us to inflate the potential threat to us of a non-nuclear country halfway around the world which does not have nuclear weapons or the means to deliver its non-existent nuclear weapons to our territory.

l) Axis of evil. Translation: A figment of the U.S. political imagination.

m) Ally. Translation: An imaginary friend whom we bribe with low- or no-cost military weapons, or any country's dictatorial leader whom we bribe with either arms or money to increase the trade revenues of our multinational corporations and/or to create an illusion of political solidarity with a people.

n) Intelligence community. Translation: Those paid by U.S. taxpayers to spy on other countries or to spy on us, or to torture both foreign and U.S. citizens, without fear of either prosecution or oversight.

o) State secrets privilege. Translation: The completely arbitrary and autocratic prevention of the exposure in open court of embarrassing and/or illegal activity on the part of our government.

p) Indefinite detention. Translation: The jailing of individuals through intemperate abrogation of human rights, civil rights and Constitutional rights to due process by Executive fiat, even if the individual has committed no crime.

q) Unlawful combatant. Translation: Any person, including American citizens, designated as such by the Executive as a means of denying that person prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions or rights to due process under criminal law. See: indefinite detention.

r) Black site. Translation: A torture chamber hidden from public scrutiny by secrecy classification.

s) Exporting democracy. Translation: The process of using military force or threat of military force to induce smaller nations to accept a commodified version of our political system as a means of creating new economic markets for U.S. multinational corporations and/or enabling neocolonial control of another nation's resources and/or the installation of puppet regimes suitable to the U.S. political and economic elite.

t) Insurgent. Translation: Any citizen of a foreign country killed by us in the process of exporting democracy.

I could go on and on, I suppose, but, that's enough for now. If one is able to strip away the euphemistic shroud concealing what is actually being done in our name, perhaps we have some hope of understanding current and recent events in a way that actually makes sense, absent the obscurantism, jingoism, nationalism and militarism which are always necessary to hide impure motives.


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