What do collateral damage, friendly fire, special rendition and disposition matrix have in common? They are euphemisms for distasteful operations done by the military. For instance, collateral damage refers to civilians killed in a war zone. Friendly fire refers to soldiers killed by their fellow troops. Special rendition refers to a kidnapping and disposition matrix is a kill list.
Since 9/11, another dubious string of words snuck into the military lexicon, "enhanced interrogation techniques," instead of torture. These words almost have no meaning, at least not in any traditional sense and that is their purpose. They are meant to obscure, obfuscate and conceal acts that otherwise could be considered at the very least inhumane and in the extreme criminal.
Euphemisms fall into use in everyday instances of uncomfortable or even tragic circumstances. When a loved one dies, euphemisms like passed, expired, succumbed or perished are commonly used instead of using died. Some believe it softens the fact that a person is dead. Whether it does or not is open to question. Usually, most euphemisms are harmless expressions used out of respect or concern for an individual or group.
I have written many obituaries as a journalist and words like expired and passed were strictly forbidden. A person either died or was killed. A euphemism does not change the fact that a person or persons are dead as far as news is concerned. Unfortunately, the media regularly uses military euphemisms like collateral damage apparently with little or no thought in describing military actions.
Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands civilians have died and continue to die with the military's continued involvement in the Middle East. They are not just civilians and certainly not collateral damage. They are people, dead people, but nonetheless people. Innocent people die in wars. Sometimes, it is unavoidable. The public deserves to know that civilians were killed, not collateral damaged to death.
Will it change anything? Probably not. Americans have become so self-involved and desensitized that the woes of others have become meaningless or just another story. As distasteful as it was during the Vietnam War, there was a body count telling how many Viet Cong were killed. It was not comfortable, but it exposed the public to the horrors of war.
In many ways, the media is a willing dupe of the military in hiding information by the simple parroting of “militaryspeak.” Perhaps, it might be distasteful to say words like die, torture and hit list when referring to our armed forces, but speaking in euphemisms is equivalent to hiding information. For adults, killed, died and tortured are words we have heard before. Those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attack were not collateral damage they were killed and it was reported as such.
When it comes to military actions euphemisms like friendly fire and police action do not present a realistic portrayal of the events they are used to describe. They also rob the public of a chance to speak out pro or con about happenings that may affect them in some manner. With that said, I am terminating this piece. Maybe I will end it also.