Bush's Anti-Terrorist Language Reform
Having failed in defeating Osama bin Laden with military weapons, the Bush Administration has decided to give a linguistic reformation a go. Perhaps because of a misguided belief in Orwell's thesis that political language can determine political thought, the Bush Administration has decided that we should no longer call Al Qaida a "movement." One wants to ask whether it was okay to call them that right after 9/11 but not now? Was it ever okay to call them that?
Bush doesn't want us to see Al Qaida as "an organized effort by supporters of a common goal, a leader of the labor movement," as Answers.com puts it.The reason, of course, is that there is no evidence that Al Qaida is organized in the way that the labor movement is. The problem is that the Bush Administration has been using the threat of concerted actions by members of Al Qaida to destroy us for the last seven years to scare us into letting him do whatever it is he wants to do to kill them off -- undermine our civil rights, engage in torture, etc. So, unable to defeat the Bogey Man, Bush now tells us that there is no Bogey Man. Good luck with that.
According to the AP story I am referencing
Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as "jihadists" or "mujahedeen," according to documents obtained by the Associated Press. Lingo like "Islamo-fascism" is out, too.The reason is that
Such words might boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.Since bullets, bombs, and other weapons of war have failed to kill bin Laden or those who practice terrorism, it seems that we will use language. The AP story continues with this amazing statement:
Language is critical in the war on terror, says another document, an "official use only" memorandum circulating through Washington.Maybe these people didn't get the memo most children get that sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. I hate to be the one to break it to our government officials, but our linguistic reforms will have no impact whatsoever on the actions of those who hate us for this, that, or the other thing.
One of the reasons that we are so widely hated in the Muslim world is that we are occupying several Muslim nations, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. Another is that we are killing ordinary people in Afghanistan (and maybe Pakistan as well) and Iraq who have never shot a bullet in our direction, committing the very crime that we accuse terrorists of, namely the killing of innocent civilians. Perhaps we do not do so deliberately but the law in the United States reserves cells for those who kill without the intent to kill. At the very least, this counts as Involuntary Manslaughter.
I'm afraid that the Bush Administration thinks that a linguistic reform will achieve what he has not been able to achieve with his sticks and stones. It may help to ease the fears of domestic Muslims but to think that seriously is an insult to these Americans. They are not as stupid as our Bush Administration linguists. What the Bush Administration might think of trying is such things as (a) an even-handed approach to Israel and Palestine, economically and militarily, (b) a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Kuwait, and (c) a determined effort to get Muslim states to join with NATO in the effort to root out the terrorists along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If we cannot get them to join us, then that will be pretty good evidence that we should consider withdrawing from that country as well. The fact is that the correct way to deal with terrorism is to see it as a policing problem. Where training camps pop up, I would suggest asking the host nation to destroy them with or without our help using carrots (money) and sticks (uninvited strikes by American special forces units), when carrots don't work. It would be a simple thing to tell countries that if they host such camps there will be consequences.