FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

John Kerry and the Orwellian Language of War

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).

More articles by:

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.

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail