The Obama administration has come under intense criticism for replacing the term “war on terror” with the emaciated euphemism “overseas contingency operations,” and for referring to individual acts of terror as “man-caused disasters.”
This semi-official attempt to disassociate the administration from the fierce rhetoric favored by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney has enraged Americans on both the right and left. Many feel that such vaporous bureaucratese is a self-emasculating action that plunges us into an Orwellian world where words have no emotional connection with the horrors they purport to describe.
Yet, if the intention of the Obama administration is to tone down the confrontational rhetoric being used by our enemies, the effort is already reaping results. This week, in a pronounced shift from its usual theatrical style, the Taliban announced that it will no longer refer to its favorite method of murder as “beheadings,” but will henceforth employ the expression “cephalic attrition.” “Flayings” — a barbarously exotic style of execution that has been popular in this part of the world since before the time of Alexander — will now be described as “unsolicited epidermal reconfigurations.” In a similar vein, lopping off captives’ arms will now be referred to as “appendage furloughing,” while public floggings of teenaged girls will from here on out be spoken of as “metajudicial interfacing.”
A Taliban spokesman reached in Pakistan said that the new phrasing was being implemented as a way of eliminating the negative associations triggered by more graphic terminology. “The term ‘beheading’ has a quasi-medieval undertone that we’re trying to get away from,” he explained. “The term ‘cephalic attrition’ brings the Taliban into the 21st century. It’s not that we disapprove of beheadings; it’s just that the word no longer meshes with the zeitgeist of the era. This is the same reason we have replaced the term ‘jihad’ with ‘booka-bonga-bippo,’ which has a more zesty, urban, youthful, ‘now’ feel. When you’re recruiting teenagers to your movement, you don’t want them to feel that going on jihad won’t leave any time for youthful hijinks.”
No no, perish the thought. More Barrackledegook here:
The current president’s U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, was on Sunday television recently explaining why she thinks Iran, now several decades into its pursuit of nuclear weapons and close to consummation, might succumb to the siren song of sweet reason and retreat from success. Doing so, she said, would enable Iran “to be a responsible member of the international community”—perhaps not the highest priority for a regime that denies the Holocaust happened, and vows to complete it—and “enter the community of nations.” Otherwise Iran will face “the full force of the international community.”
Rice really thinks there is a community out there. To believe that is to believe, as liberals do, that harmony is humanity’s natural condition, so discord is a remediable defect in arrangements.
Regarding North Korea’s missile launch, Rice was very stern. She said the U.N. Security Council would “meet,” and there would be “consultation with our partners,” who “all need to come together” and “add to” the 2006 U.N. resolution that North Korea had just disregarded, the one that demanded a halt to future missile-related activity, including launches. The Security Council met. It could not even bring itself to say North Korea’s launch had violated the resolution against launches.
Methinks I perceive a bit of empty windiness to all that meaningless liberal verbiage. To stand Marx (Groucho, not Karl) on his head, any “international community” that would let Iran in is not one to which any truly civilized nation ought to aspire to belong.
But that’s probably a little too straightforward of me, I admit. That sort of thing is clearly out of vogue these days.