FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

First Bomb the Language, Then the Iraqis

by TERRY JONES

It was interesting to hear Colin Powell accuse France and Germany of cowardice in not wanting to go to war. Or, as he put more succinctly, France and Germany ‘are afraid of upholding their responsibility to impose the will of the international community’. Powell’s speech brings up one of the most outrageous but least examined aspects of this whole war on Iraq business. I am speaking about the appalling collateral damage already being inflicted on the English language.

Perhaps the worst impact is on our vocabulary. ‘Cowardice’, according to Colin Powell, is the refusal to injure thousands of innocent civilians living in Baghdad in order to promote US oil interests in the Middle East. The corollary is that ‘bravery’ must be the ability to order the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis without wincing or bringing up your Caesar salad.

I suppose Tony Blair is ‘brave’ because he is willing to expose the people who voted for him to the threat of terrorist reprisals in return for getting a red carpet whenever he visits the White House, while Chirac is a ‘coward’ for standing up to the bigoted bullying of the extremist right-wing Republican warmongers who currently run the United States.

In the same vein, well-fed young men sitting in millions of dollars’ worth of military hardware and dropping bombs from 30,000ft on impoverished people who have already had all their arms taken away are exemplars of ‘bravery’. ‘Cowardliness’, according to George W. Bush, is hijacking an aircraft and deliberately piloting it into a large building. There are plenty of things you could call that, but not ‘cowardly’. Yet when Bill Maher pointed this out on his TV show, Politically Incorrect, he was anathematised and the sponsors threatened to withdraw funding from the show.

Something weird is going on when not only do the politicians deliberately change the meanings of words, but also society is outraged when someone points out the correct usage.

Then there’s ‘the international community’. Clearly, Colin Powell cannot be talking of the millions who took to the streets last Saturday. The ‘international community’ he’s talking about must be those politicians who get together behind closed doors to decide how best to stay in power and enrich their supporters by maiming, mutilating and killing a lot of foreigners in funny clothes whom they’ll never see. And while we’re at it, what about that word ‘war’. My dictionary defines a ‘war’ as ‘open, armed conflict between two parties, nations or states’. Dropping bombs from a safe height on an already hard-pressed people, whose infrastructure is in chaos from years of sanctions and who live under an oppressive regime, isn’t a ‘war’. It’s a turkey shoot.

But then the violence being done to the English language is probably the price we have to pay for cheap petrol.

Language is supposed to make ideas clearer so that we can understand them. But when politicians such as Colin Powell, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair get hold of language, their aim is usually the opposite. That’s how they persuade us to take ludicrous concepts seriously. Like the whole idea of a ‘war on terrorism’. You can wage war against another country, or on a national group within your own country, but you can’t wage war on an abstract noun. How do you know when you’ve won? When you’ve got it removed from the Oxford English Dictionary?

When men in power propose doing something that is shameful, wrong and destructive, the first casualty is the English language. It would matter less if it were the only casualty. But if they carry on perverting our vocabulary and twisting our grammar, the result will spell death for many who are now alive.

TERRY JONES is a founder member of Monty Python.

 

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail