FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

John Kerry and the Orwellian Language of War

by NATHAN GOODMAN

When is a war not a war? According to John Kerry, launching cruise missiles at Syria is not a war. Testifying before the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry said, “President Obama is not asking America to go to war.”
Kerry’s argument seems to hinge on the idea that no American ground troops will likely be deployed. Of the proposed strikes, Kerry said, “I just don’t consider that going to war in the classic sense of coming to Congress and asking for a declaration of war and training troops and sending people abroad and putting young Americans in harm’s way.” Perhaps no Americans will be put in harm’s way, although claims of possible Iranian plans for retaliation cast doubt on that hope. But regardless, innocent Syrians will still be killed by American missiles. People’s homes and possessions will still be destroyed. Mass aggressive violence will still be waged by the US government in a foreign land. That’s a war.
And while Kerry is not currently proposing sending ground troops to Syria, he acknowledges that it’s a possibility. Kerry also told the Senate: “But in the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interest of our allies and all of us, the British, the French and others, to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country.”
But to be clear, Secretary Kerry and President Obama are not proposing a war. Yes, they will use cruise missiles to slaughter Syrians, and if they don’t like the Syrian government’s response they may even send ground troops. War profiteers like Raytheon will certainly profit. But the Secretary of State will insist it’s not a war.
So, why the Orwellian “War is Peace” attitude here? Partially because Kerry recognizes this war is not popular with the American public. Polls show substantial public opposition. When explaining that he would not consider American attacks on Syria a war, Kerry went a step further and said “when people are asked, do you want to go to war with Syria, of course not! Everybody, a hundred percent of Americans will say no.”  When most Americans oppose war, the best solution apparently is to change the name to something else.
But this attitude makes sense for another reason: The state wants to conceal the truth about its wars. This is why it employs so many Newspeak terms when discussing war. Murdering civilians becomes “collateral damage.” Any military age male killed by an American drone strike is automatically labeled a “militant.” And a war against Syria becomes not war but “an action that can degrade the capacity of a man who’s been willing to kill his own people by breaking a nearly hundred-year- old prohibition.”
The U.S. government doesn’t want you to know the truth about their wars. This is why Chelsea Manning is in prison for blowing the whistle on war crimes, including an attack in which “U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence.” It’s why the military denied for years that they used white phosphorus, a chemical weapon, in Fallujah.
This rampant dishonesty is precisely why we should never trust them when they want to go to war. Especially when they refuse to call war by its name.

Nathan Goodman is a Senior Fellow and Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

Nathan Goodman is the Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org). He blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail