Friday, May 22, 2009

How to screw up the language

I could swear President Roosevelt declared war after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, but apparently not--he declared a discussion or negotiation, as Bush should have done, but didn't. Congress must have misunderstood him. And it was his words, and not Japan's actions, that propelled us into war.
    "I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire." FDR, December 8, 1941
Yet that's what this article in Scientific American Mind implies. We have terrorists because of the words we use. Reminds me of the mothers of pre-schoolers, "Now sweet dumpling, use your words not your fists. Johnny's nose is bloody." It's not their fault--we're inflaming them with our choice of words. We should have treated the attack like street crime. Declaring war is for a country, and this was just a world wide movement. And apparently Obama read the article!
    "The Bush administration’s framing of terrorism as an act of war is a departure from past administrations’ ways of thinking. Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan, for example, preferred a disease metaphor. President Bill Clinton’s general themes were the pursuit of justice, law enforcement and international cooperation. Clinton wanted to deny “victory” to terrorists, but he and other previous presidents stopped short of the word “war.”

    President George W. Bush adopted the war construct immediately. On the morning of September 12, 2001, after a meeting of the National Security Council, the president told reporters: “The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war.”
Refresh my memory. Did Nixon or Reagan or Clinton field any attacks on US soil the way FDR and GWB did? Must have missed that in the news.

The author is hoping now that there are more academics in counterterrorism, we can develop more successful strategies. Must be working. We haven't had any attacks for 7 years, thanks to Bush and Cheny. Article here. I wonder if these are the guys who gave us "enhanced interrogation techniques."

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