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Tomgram: The Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq

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laststeamtrain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-19-07 07:26 PM
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Tomgram: The Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq
Tomgram: The Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq

Words to Die For
... or a New Dawn in Baghdad?
By Tom Engelhardt

My aunt Hilda, whose very name came from some other century, once told me her earliest memory: She was a little girl standing under a large tree in the backyard of her house in Brooklyn, New York, and she cried out for help. Her mother (my grandmother) Celia came out to ask what the matter was. An enormous spider was descending on her, she said, and she was scared. No, my grandmother told her gently, that's not a spider; that's just the tree's shadow. There's nothing to be scared of.


A Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq

The developing administration language for the President's surge plan in Baghdad (and al-Anbar Province) does several things. It manufactures "newness" from some of the older and less promising materials around; it creates a "new" plan out of ancient, failed strategies, not to say, the thinnest of air. It also strips Iraq of some of its recent horrendous past, and us of our responsibility for it. In this case at least, that is what "starting over" really means.

This new, hopeful language offers one group -- and only one -- a "second" chance: the top officials of an administration that otherwise looked to be in its last throes. It has bought a little time for George Bush, while adding some new twisted definitions to an American Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq, all the while carefully leaving blank pages where significant definitional chunks of reality should be.

But make no mistake, whatever words may be wielded, that "clock" of General Petraeus's is indeed ticking --loudly enough to be a bomb. Sooner or later, it will go off and whether it proves to be an alarm, waking Congress and the American people, or an explosion demolishing some aspect of our world remains unknown. In June or August or October, when horrific reality in Iraq outpaces whatever the Bush administration tries to call it, we may have our answer and perhaps then reality will name us.

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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-19-07 08:28 PM
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1. Shucks.
I was expecting something akin to Bierce's, which managed to be cutting and humorous. Instead, there's only humorless. Much less effective, but probably good therapy.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-20-07 05:10 AM
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2. Perhaps I can recommend the 'Unspeak' blog (and book)
British-based (so you may not have the context for a few of his pieces, but the USA and Iraq feature heavily). It's a dissection of the use of phrases and language as framing, or euphemisms with a dry wit. An example from yesterday:

Think tank

Tough love and young boozers

April 19, 2007

What is a think tank? Is it an armoured vehicle with caterpillar tracks and a swivelling turret that occasionally blasts out hot, radioactive chunks of pure Think? Or is it more like a fish-tank, a container of fluid featuring ersatz vegetation in which Think can swim in morose circles while getting fatter and occasionally breeding? Or does Think grow in its tank somewhat like mould in a petri dish, eventually attaining such a large mass of quivering, greyish brain-jelly that it bursts the walls and comes wetly bouncing all over the general population? Consulting the OED, I find that think tank was originally a US colloquialism for the brain (first citation 1905); the present use of a research institute or other organization providing advice and ideas on national or commercial problems is first exampled in 1959. But there is no help here on the origin of the phrase.

I only ask because the dicta that are regularly fired from think tanks, or burst wobblingly free from think tanks, are on the whole indistinguishable from the general run of moronic opinion journalism, and have to recommend them only the dubious glow attached to their supposed origin in such a tank, as opposed to in the feverish mind of some hack. Last week, for instance, the Independent reported:
... /
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