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October 30th, 2006

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10:27 pm - "'Friendly fire' and other wartime ironies" & a World News update
Usually I don't even bother to look through the university's newspaper, Fulcrum, seeing as it's hard enough to sit down and read assigned readings for class, but today, waiting for my class to start, a copy of the paper happened to be next to me on the desk, so I decided to flip through it.  Fishing through the sports statistics and skimming the usual issues involving university students, I happened upon one article that had me snickering.  If you're one of those people who's ever thought that phrases like "smart bomb","collateral damage", "casualties" (get the drift?) were just political bs, then I suggest taking a read below.

"'Friendly fire' and other wartime ironies"
by Matt Hogan
Canadian University Press
Oct. 26-Nov.1, 2006

    VANCOUVER (CUP) - WINSTON CHURCHILL SAID that the first casualty of war is the truth.  He was absolutely right, and he showed exactly how truth is eroded by using the common euphemism "casualty" -meaning a soldier who's killed, captured, or wounded.  Now, to me, being shot in the leg, taken prisoner, or blown up doesn't seem so "casual".  But that's the point of a euphemism: to smooth over and soften the harsh truth.

    Leaders will always try to soothe and reassure us by controlling language and, therefore, thought, especially in times of war.  George Orwell presented this idea in the extreme with "Newspeakl" in 1984.  Newspeak aims to reduce the possibility of clear discussion and understanding.  Let us look at some actual Newspeak that obscures our modern reality.

    First, there's the particularly perverse "friendly fire", the term used for your own ally's bullets or bombs.  In 2002, I.S. Air Force pilot Harry Schmidt bombed the first four Canadian solders killed in Afghanistan,m just before being informed that friendlies were training in the area he was firing rockets at.  U.S. forces recently killed a fifth Canadian soldier.  More than 10per cent of Canadians killed in Afghanistan so far have been killed by friendly fire.

    "Friend" has also become the common diplomatic euphemism for "war ally".  Enemies, on the other hand, are "evil-doers" and "freedom-haters".  These are examples of hyperbole, which is the opposite of euphemism, and another major component of war-speak.  Therefore, it's the "Islamo-fascists" who want to destroy "our way of life".  And although both sides send in fighters willing to die for a cause, they're the "cowards" and we're the "heroes".

    Similarly, the enemy's weapons are of Mass Destruction, but our Bombs are Smart.  In reality, WMD's don't actually exist, and Smart Bombs miss their target only marginally less than regular old Stupid Bombs.  When the bombs miss and kill innocent people it's called "collateral damage".  No biggie.

    Torture isn't a human-rights violation, it's an "interrogation technique" meant to "extract information".  People arrested for "terrorist-related activities" are held on "security certificates", which deny them basic legal protections and jail them indefinitely.  And I always liked getting certificates!

    We no longer invade a country; we have a "policy of regime change".  And we come up with sexy names like "Operation Mountain Thrust".  The original name of the Afghanistan invasion was "Operation Infinite Justice", but the U.S. had to rename it "Operation Enduring Freedom" because some Muslims objected, saying only Allah can distribute infinite justice.  I'll stay away from that one.

    The religious fundamentalist Bush administration has called the war on terror a "crusade", and we now hear about the "clash of civilizations" or the "battle for civilization".  That's biblical stuff.  We should be just as worried about Christian extremists as Muslim ones.  Regime change really does start at home.

    Our prime minister the "Right Honourable" Stephen Harper, likes to remind us that we're in a war, and that, conversely, everything is going smoothly.  The Conservative party recently changed its official title to "Canada's New Government", from "The Government of Canada".  Its revamped slogan: "Turning a New Leaf".  The next step would be to rename the Ministry of Defence the Ministry of Love in true Orwellian fashion.  Erasing the past is step one for any authoritarian power.

    Truth may well be the first casualty of war, but that just means language is the most powerful weapon in arsenal  The only defence, then, is to fill your head with words to fight the onslaught of imposed ignorance.  Shields up everybody.  There aren't "friendlies".

In world news today, we have:

--- A clash of information!  On one hand, according to the World Bank, Africa is making progress in the area of economic growth.  However, the number of hungry tummies on the continent is growing, and the "world [is] failing on hunger pledges".
(See? I told you the MDGs wouldn't get met.  Fuck you World Bank, take your economic growth and shove it where it counts, that "growth" probably all got pocketed by the rich politicians anyway.  Economic growth doesn't give any indication of WHERE that growth went nor whom it affected, so don't try and fool the general public into thinking you guys are saving lives.)

--- Wanna see what one of the founders of the internet looks like?  "Mr. Cerf [spoke] at the first-ever Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a United Nations' creation to bring all the decision makers involved in the internet together".
(Seeing as we use it everyday, might be nice to look up on the dudes who created the net ne?)

--- The Pentagon in the USA's resorted to propaganda.  Or, in true euphemism form (read "'Friendly fire' and other wartime ironies" article at the beginning of this post for explanation of the term euphemism), the headline is "Pentagon mounts media offensive".  It's not propaganda these days, it's a "media offensive". 

(1 comment | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 31st, 2006 05:36 am (UTC)
hmm thats interesting ...

well words have always served politics..
yes...friendly fire...there's always the danger of that happening..espeically with the US..

"crusade", and we now hear about the "clash of civilizations" or the "battle for civilization". That's biblical stuff.

Bush should really revise his history as he forgets about the infamous Crusades where the Christans invaded and took back Jersulam? (i think) from the Muslims... *sighes*

Clash of civilizations..? Reminds of the reading I did for Asian Studies this semester..by Samuel Huntington...his works..are very bias...something about how Muslims and Christans cannot co-exist..

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