American wars distort semantics

David Soler

You’ve noticed it – there is a lot of fuss about the Iraq War. Like Bryan Adams singing, “I feel it in my fingers; I feel it in my toes…,” it seems as if the present defeatist tone can be felt everywhere.

If people believed “The Daily Show” as an accurate policy-feeling think tank, the likelihood of any victorious strategy left for Iraq would be less than Newt Gingrich’s chances of becoming president.

But the truth is, at this point nobody can really tell what’s going to happen in the next five years. Serious historical judgments need more time, and that’s exactly what we don’t have yet – time to evaluate the outcome of this war.

What we do have is plenty of time to evaluate the ongoing jargon this war has already honored us with.

We’ve learned that bombs don’t kill soldiers – IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, now do the job. The old-fashioned concept of “civil war” has also been demoted as the Bush administration tells us, “Iraq doesn’t have civil wars. It has sectarian violence.” And what is it called when the United States invades other countries? Those are preemptive attacks, of course. Everybody knows Iraq was going to attack the United States.

Compare this with the jargon the Vietnam War left us 40 years ago.

Past generations learned that innocent deaths were called “collateral damage” and assassination attempts were “removals with extreme prejudice.” When bombs hit schools or hospitals by mistake it was called “incontinent ordnance.” Accurate, right?

But the more recent “weapons of mass destruction” tops them all.

I can imagine a future in which cunning politicians use the WMD acronym to devastate new waves of paranoid American politics. Think about the 50th president cajoling Americans by saying something like, “We need to preemptively attack Fiji because their fishing abuse is threatening the global markets of crab meat.” Later, the pol of turn will say something like, “The presidential scare is another episode of WMDs,” and the public will remember instantaneously what WMD implies.

Or maybe they will just shout “To the hell with Fiji,” and another chapter in American semantics will begin.

David Soler is a biomedical sciences graduate and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].