Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New Name for an Old War

As I wrote recently in my other blog, FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS , we live in a time when euphemisms are substitutes for solutions -- “issue” instead of “problem”, “challenged” instead of what my grandmother called “afflicted”, “food insecure” instead of “hungry”, and “tough interrogation” instead of torture.

Now the Bush administration is scurrying about looking for a new word to make something sound better than it is. As we all know, the flurry of the moment is NBC’s decision to describe the slaughter in Iraq as a “civil war”.

This war has already had more names than there have been sequels to “Halloween.” First it was “The War to Eliminate Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Whoops – no WMDs. Well, it must be “The War to Topple an Evil Dictator”, and then “A War to Bring Freedom and Democracy to Iraq”. Hmm, no sign of freedom or democracy yet. It must be part of the “The War on Terror”. As President Bush explained, his war in Iraq is now the leading edge of the “War on Terror”, without which the Iraqis would soon be lobbing mortar shells into malls in Minnesota. Never mind that Iraqis are fighting Americans only because we invaded their country. If Bush makes them mad enough that they actually attack Minnesota, he’ll need to run a contest for a new war name.

And now the journalists have re-christened it “The Iraq Civil War”. Same war, different name, but names can make a lot of difference. The nightly flapping jaws suggest that Bush is going to be very unhappy about the term “civil war” because it goes against his optimistic predictions as well as, incidentally, showing that he has completely failed in Iraq. But the wagging TV tongues also suggest that it will now be easier to get out of Iraq because the American people won’t stand for our soldiers to be killed intervening in a civil war – even if they did open the Pandora’s Box that had contained the civil war.

Actually, the American people will stand for whatever they’re told to stand for because the majority will think whatever they’re told to think. Noam Chomsky has eloquently described the situation in the U.S. in which Big Brother simply writes off 80 percent of the population as too stupid or too uninterested to be counted as significant. A few simple slogans are all they can absorb in addition to their sports, sitcoms, music, movies, actors and actresses, sex scandals, and medical and nutritional and fashion and crime and accident news. Bread and circuses. Anything to keep their minds off what their masters are up to.

Ironically, wouldn’t it serve Bush’s most pressing needs if Americans, sold on the semantics of “civil war”, really did demand swift military withdrawal from Iraq? The shame of “cut and run” becomes, “It’s not our war!" "Those people are nuts." "It’s a way of life over there.”

So, maybe Bush will bow out more quickly than we might have expected, saying as he shakes the dust of Iraq off his feet (or rather, as the Americans who actually fought there shake the dust off their feet), “We tried to bomb them into democracy, but if they’re going to act this way they can just stew in their own juice.”

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