Sep 03

Euphemisms and Waste: A Poisonous Mix

In Brief— The author describes the corruption of our language and the prodigious military waste that robs Americans of precious dollars. He provides information about what is done in our name. [Written in March 2015. Revised in May 2017.]


The Orwellization of Language—

Surprise! The American military not only wastes prodigious amounts of taxpayer dollars, it corrupts the language, using euphemisms when straight talk would tell us what they’re really about. Here are just a few examples of Orwell-speak.

Department of Defense. Soothing and inaccurate. Collateral Damage. How vague and deceptive. Insurgents. Crudely evasive. Neutralize. Vague and inoffensive. Extreme Prejudice. Evasive.

Department of Defense— Until fairly recently it was called the Department of War. What does it actually engage in? War!

Collateral Damage— These are real humans who have been killed by the American military and its allies. They may be opposing armed forces for any of several reasons OR they may simply be inhabitants simply going about their daily business. Some have been killed by drones and others have been killed by bullets or bombs, but they are just as dead.

Insurgents— These humans could be anybody from opponents acting for any of several reasons OR they could be civilians identified by the military as being opponents even though they are not. As we now know from reliable sources and the military itself, military documents reveal that the majority of victims are ordinary civilians that the American military deliberately calls “insurgents.”

Neutralize— This means killing other humans. Got that? Killing! Rendering another human dead.

Extreme Prejudice— This means killing another human. Publically released government reports show that Osama bin Laden was unarmed and in custody, but he was killed. Assassinated. The Obama administration simply didn’t want a public trial because his defense would have revealed America’s complicity. Anwar al-Awlaki and, later, his young son, both Americans, were killed by a drone strike ordered by Obama without the benefit of a trial.

Unprivileged Belligerent— According to the Pentagon manual, any reporting by a reporter that the American military considers unfriendly to American actions can be grounds for detention or killing. There goes the First Amendment.

These are just a few of the euphemisms that are used to assure us that “The Other” human or reporter is not one of us and that this once-living human has been killed in the name of the American style of “freedom.” These euphemisms are part of the propaganda we breathe. What’s just as bad, the print and visual media perpetuate the euphemisms to such an extent that they become embedded in our thinking.

The Propaganda Fish Bowl—

As pointed out in my blog piece “Propaganda is Us…and Them,” we swim in a fishbowl of comfortable myths that are more accurately called “propaganda.” Every nation and group has its own myths, and America is second to none when it comes to myths.

America has a first-rate propaganda machine. Most of the movies on foreign screens or on their TV are American. Much of the fast food and drink served all over the world is American. American businesses populate every corner of the globe. American news is read and watched everywhere. And the American government blankets the planet with the American story.

A huge part of that story is that America is defending everybody’s freedom. The War Department has become the Defense Department and the world is expected to respond to the dog whistle. Sit, World, Sit!

The Second Part: Military Waste—

Former Senator Everett Dirksen famously said, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.” Although vanishingly few Americans have even an idea of a million dollars let alone a billion, the American military wastes billions of dollars on phony wars and weapons that don’t work or are obsolete before they can be used. Politicians who want to get reelected give the military money they don’t need. The military motto is: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Trump and the Republican Party are busily increasing the excess.

So what does America get for the massive amount of money it feeds the War Department? Putting aside the Iraqi and Afghan wars that continue, does American “defense” get value for those billions? Just three examples will illustrate the extent of military waste.

Fact: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is obsolete, problem-plagued, overpriced and unneeded except by bought-and-paid-for politicians and the delighted contractor. Senator Bernie Sanders is a cheerleader for the F-35 because it’s built in his state.

Fact: The Litoral Combat Ship is problem-plagued, of doubtful combat effectiveness.

Fact: The USS Gerald Ford-class Carrier costing billions of dollars is beset by cost-overruns, untested technological systems and vulnerable to vastly cheaper missile attacks.

Back to the duplicitous euphemisms that blinds Americans to reality and the breathtaking waste that sucks money out of taxpayer wallets while pumping brains full of dangerous myths. Who is to blame and what can be done about it?

Every time you cast a vote for that representative who is supposed to represent you, you have a chance to change the words used and the policies that affect your life.

If you think you’re entitled to honesty and money intelligently-spent, your vote and your words in that letter to your representative or to the Editor, can have a profound effect on the direction the nation goes. Small acts done consistently can have a profound effect. The 2018 elections are your chance.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on May 2016.


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    • dave Meyers on September 3, 2017 at 20:01

    It’s all quite disgusting and does not serve to make me, at least, a proud American.
    But, let’s not forget one of the military’s least favorite terms…. “tactical retrograde.”
    Plainly and simply, it means…RETREAT.
    They can’t even be honest about that term when they are forced to do it.

      • Don Bay on September 5, 2017 at 06:50

      I learn something every time…Tactical Retrograde. Thanks!

  1. Even Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex. A Republican military general. How far we have sunk. And how far again with Trump at the helm?

      • Don Bay on September 4, 2017 at 06:45

      The military is in all 50 states. Contractors who are dependent on military largesse are there, too. Now the military is at the highest levels of the American government. Does that tell us anything?

      Eisenhower served at a time when the military was still subservient to civilian control. Times have changed. Like killing a frog, the American populace is unaware of the silent takeover, and even worse, applauds the military now. I call this a “soft coup.” Is autocracy waiting just around the corner? And, as you say, Trump is at the helm.

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