Wednesday, April 2
Moral Clarity: An Unauthorized Glossary of War
Cynthia Cotts, The Village Voice, April 2 - 8, 2003
"The liberation of Iraq was seen as a cakewalk, but encounters with death squads led to an operational pause." That kind of opaque military jargon is now infiltrating the media war coverage.
Like fog or white noise, the dead language of bureaucrats drowns out the emotion and details that belong in any credible picture of war.
Instead of improving their argument against Saddam Hussein, Pentagon briefers use patois to deflect sharp questions and camouflage the trail of blood from Basra to Baghdad. Herewith a glossary of
war euphemisms, plus some slang terms that tag along.
Asymmetric warfare: Describes the imbalance between U.S. bombs and missiles and Iraqi soldiers who hide among civilians, wear suicide bombs, and shoot P.O.W.'s
Bomb damage assessments: Official U.S. investigations that follow air strikes, few details of which have surfaced so far. For example, the U.S. has yet to confirm or deny its role in the bombing of two Baghdad markets last week.
Cakewalk: Popular term introduced by U.S. hawk Kenneth Adelman to predict overnight success in Iraq. Adelman now says the phrase was "too glib."
Conundrum: Term favored by New York Times writers such as John F. Burns and R.W. Apple Jr. to describe the paradoxes of war. For example, how can the U.S. win over Iraqis while Hussein remains in power (the so-called "head-of-the-snake conundrum")? And how can news execs be assured of getting access to battle scenes if they offer an honest critique of the war?
Coalition of the willing: President Bush's term for countries that support the war, some of which don't want to be named and most of which have little to offer. Besides the U.S. and Britain, only two other nations are contributing military support, and those troops account for less than 1 percent of "coalition" forces in Iraq.
Collateral damage: Euphemism for civilians killed during wartime. Pentagon briefers refuse to discuss dead civilians by any name, and The New York Times omits Iraqi civilian losses from its daily body count, on page two of A Nation at War. (For Iraqi estimates, see The Washington Post.)