Quantcast

«

»

Aug 31 2013

Obama’s other ongoing war

Apart from all the other wars that president Obama has inherited, started, and is planning to start, his biggest battle may be with the English language. All politicians twist words, as George Orwell pointed out in a much-quoted passage: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

But Obama seems to have an exceptional level of confidence that he can force words to have the meanings he chooses. Gene Healy says that you should be particularly on your guard when Obama prefaces a remark with the phrase ‘let me be clear’ because what follows will be anything but.

Obama’s policies depends on doing violence to plain language. To our various “wars” on drugs, crime, and terror — add Obama’s “War on Words.”

Last year, the administration added a new phrase to the doublespeak lexicon. Americans slated for death by drone go on something called “the disposition matrix,” which lacks the harsh clarity of “kill list.”

Harry Truman famously redefined war in Korea as a “police action.” For its 2011 Libyan adventure, the Obama Team did HST one better: Raining cruise missiles on Tripoli isn’t “war,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes insisted; it’s “kinetic military action.”

That’s the kind of construction that makes your head hurt: “Kinetic,” “resulting from motion” is the only kind of “action” you can have. What’s the alternative? “Static” military action?

At times, it seems that Team Obama claims full-spectrum dominance over the English language itself. That’s apparent in their legal position papers rationalizing undeclared wars, assassination of American citizens, and mass surveillance.

The ‘double-speak’ of Obama’s NSA is by now well known so that one can no longer believe anything they say. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has provided a handy guide to their misleading use of language while Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU provide a similar glossary for decoding the true meaning of their words

It makes Bill Clinton’s careful parsing of the word ‘is’ seem quaint.

4 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Pierce R. Butler

    Not to mention whatever was meant by “the most transparent administration in history” and the vindictive persecution of anyone who actually lets a little light in on whatever Obama does.

    But could anything top “I am more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards” as an evasion of legal and constitutional duties?

  2. 2
    wtfwhatever

    Just to be nitpicky this morning,

    “That’s the kind of construction that makes your head hurt: “Kinetic,” “resulting from motion” is the only kind of “action” you can have. What’s the alternative? “Static” military action?”

    I’m not sure it’s fair to call the pitch drop experiment a kinetic action.

    The new Stephen King adaptation of Under The Dome, has been fairly static too. :(

    But WWI trench warfare was never described to me as kinetic, but horribly static.

  3. 3
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    But WWI trench warfare was never described to me as kinetic, but horribly static.

    Worst of both worlds; a significant amount of the horror came from the highly kinetic bits; the rest were the diseases that come from being to static in a place with no drainage or septic system to speak of.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    Worst of both worlds; a significant amount of the horror came from the highly kinetic bits; the rest were the diseases that come from being to static in a place with no drainage or septic system to speak of.

    One of the most profound observations about war that I’ve ever heard (and I’ve studied the topic a lot) came from Clay Jenkins in character as Thomas Jefferson, who pointed out that the fascinating thing about wars is that they virtually always end right back where they started, the “status quo ante bellum” — and he’s right. The point is this: if there’s a horror to war, it’s the pointlessness of the whole thing, the waste of lives and effort and the destruction of history and culture.

  1. 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>