Opinion: The obscene language of modern war

As the dust settles over Fallujah and the Iraqis begin to count civilian casualties, are the self-styled 'Death Dealers' of the US Marines 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion congratulating themselves on how effectively they obeyed the command to 'kick some butt'? Or can even the marines on the ground see that the situation has, if anything, increased in complexity. It is a received wisdom that for an armed force to operate effectively, it cannot wrestle with moral ambiguities. For millennia, language has proved a motivational tool, enabling soldiers to distance themselves from the human cost of military action. And as technological advances have rendered warfare more remote, war's lexicon has expanded to include a plethora of phrases designed to motivate and obfuscate.

by Kate Nicholas, kate.nicholas@haynet.com

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