The language of “War!”
Today’s (8.14.2007) news featured an attack by Israel, on Gaza, killing ten Palestinians including “gunmen”, “Hamas terrorists” and an elderly mother “being used as a human shield”.
“Well done IDF!” was the most-voiced comment in Israel…great glory and righteousness on the part of IDF; Israel may survive yet another day.
In strategy and tactics of war, the most important weapon is the language of war.
Nations who believe that “shock and awe” will be decisive in defeating the enemy, are usually in for a bigger surprise than the enemy who has been brought to near-destruction. As we have learnt to our sorrow, the winning of battles is a far cry from winning the war, for it is only after defeat on the battlefield that the war of attrition begins; the road to victory is never smooth.
No nation wishes to be seen as the aggressor, neither by those outside nor by those within the nation. Leaders therefore, devise fancy language to justify the need to attack the enemy “out there” so we don’t have to fight him “over here”. The enemy must be portrayed as wicked, bent on the destruction of “our people” and cannot be dissuaded except by war…and we enter into the war of our own choosing, with a great show of reluctance.
War must be sold to the outside world in order to bring allies and to quiet voices of protest from other nations; non-combatant nations are wooed with a mixture of veiled threats (“you are either with us or against us”), money, or other tactical support. But the grease that helps to move any of these mechanisms is provided by the words we use to help justify our war, partly because this same language must also be adopted for use by those who would be our allies, on their own people.
The choice of words is by far the most important tool, more so than any fact or fiction that may be behind them. Thus, we would stand a greater chance of obtaining support from our public and our politicians if we can propose the threat facing us, the futility of any peaceful action we may undertake and the assurance that we will survive only if we face the war that has come to our doorstep.
The craft of language begins…
“They are terrorists”, de-legitimizes our “enemy” and turns him into a mindless being who relishes in killing our women and children. “They hate our way of life”, tells us that no matter what we do, this enemy will seek to destroy us. “We are defending Freedom and Democracy”, glorifies our cause and helps push the questioning mind into our war. Note that all of the emotive terms are deliberately kept vague so as to make it easy to convince our public.
What is “terrorism”?
Who are “they”?
What is “our way of life”?
How do we define “Freedom” or Democracy”?
Left to their own imaginations, people on foundations of vagueness, can devise far greater arguments for war than our propagandists can ever invent
We must win the hearts and minds of our public and the public of the other nations who may be of assistance to us. All communications must be framed in existential terms (“our great battle for survival”) that put us on righteous grounds; it does not matter if the violence is being conducted by the USA, Israel, Russia, India or Pakistan; it could even be Hitler, Milosevic, Al-Qaeda, Pol Pot or Habyarimana, the language of war remains the same. The argument is framed around “facts” that “prove” that “they” will succeed in destroying all of us, our nation and our sacred beliefs (democracy, free market, communism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism etc.,) and our dead will die a glorious death; we have no choice and our sacrifices will not be in vain.
Our enemy has to be framed as an implacable, embodiment of evil who will stop at nothing. We accuse these people of hiding behind their women and children in order to force us to kill their innocents so when we do kill any people they can be stated to either be “insurgents”, “gunmen”, “terrorists” or people being used as human shields. Even the blame for our atrocities must be placed at the enemy’s doorstep.
In such a framework, anyone who questions our positions must be removed fast and in a manner that prevents others from taking his side. Thus we accuse our internal opposition as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” or actually supporting the enemy. In some instances, we freeze our citizens’ rights because we are on the verge of annihilation, in other instances, we suspend all protections for non-citizens, who can be viewed as almost “the other”. The goal is always to keep our public ignorant enough so they will not openly oppose us and confused enough that they may even support our war.
Forget the “War!”, support our troops or their lives are lost in vain.
We do not kill, we “eliminate” and “eradicate” the “cancer” or the “threat”.
We do not torture, we employ “robust interrogation”, we “extract information” and we “apply pressure”.
Under the veil of “Democracy” we impose our own dictators as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and dozens of other countries.
Under the flag of “Freedom” we help to enslave millions of people in lands occupied by Israel, by Russia; in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and many other countries.
We inject our own people with the opiate of “information” recreated by us to support our strategies rather than the realities of events “out there”. Thus drugged, our people maintain a low-grade mumble of protest but continue to support the same politicians who are so complicit in our atrocities “out there”.
Our skill with weapons is useless without our skills with words.
In war, our first goal for victory is not “out there” but right here, with our own people.
Thus begins the language of war…
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