Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Language of War

As the Presidential candidates trade slurs, lies and videotape in their effort to prove they are qualified for moral leadership, they should know that use of language can be more significant than words themselves. One of the men I went through the Shot House training with is a history buff. When we talked he reminded me how America speaks of wars we are winning versus stalemates and losses. In World War One, we sailed to "Fight the Hun." Twenty-five years later, our soldiers were going "to kill Krauts and Japs." Popular usage also had us beating the Kaiser, Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. We didn't "go to Germany, Guam and Tarawa." We went to fight armies (or leaders personifying armies) and win.

But when I enlisted at the end of Viet Nam, those who fought "went to Viet Nam." The sons of candidates McCain, Biden and Palin are "going to Iraq." Others are "going to Afghanistan." In 2001 and 2002 American soldiers were going to "fight the Taliban" or "fight Al-Qaeda" and "get Bin Laden." In 2003 we were going to "fight the Republican Guard" or "beat Saddam."

If I lived 150 years ago, I would be "fighting the Rebs" and people who lived less than 100 miles from me would be going to "fight the Yanks."

The candidates can talk about war plans, but when we are collectively talking about fighting an enemy rather than going to an inhospitable place, that's when we'll know that victory is in sight. Those of us who have been dumb enough to take a swing at the wrong guy in a parking lot or a bar were fighting a particular "loud-mouth @#$%."
When things turned out badly we "went to the hospital" or "went to jail."

As of now, I am "going to Iraq." I was glad to hear in the debate that Senator Obama is planning to send someone to "kill Bin Laden" crossing the Pakistani frontier if necessary. I want to win.

My First Military Haircut, February 1, 1972

The night before my Basic Training haircut. When I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base on February 1, 1972, among the first order of bu...