Exclusive: When soldiers die, the politicians who sent them to their deaths typically use euphemisms, words like “fallen” or “ultimate sacrifice.” On one level, the avoidance of blunt language may be seen as a sign of respect, but on another, it is just one more evasion of responsibility, as Ray McGovern notes.
By Ray McGovern
There has been unusually wide (and for the most part supportive) reaction to my article of Aug, 7 on Afghanistan, “More U.S. Soldiers Die in Vain,” which was picked up by other websites as well.
One comment described a cartoon and struck me as particularly — if sadly — apt: “Two lemmings were chatting while standing in the line to the cliff. One says to the other, ‘Of course we have to go over the edge. Anything else would dishonor all the lemmings that have gone before us.’”
And so it goes, thought I, with our Lemming-in-Chief (LIC) Barack Obama … and those who lemmingly follow him.
The President’s and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s words about the 30 dead soldiers, including members of the elite Seal Team 6, were carefully chosen, but bore the telltale earmarks of “the Lemming Syndrome.”
“We will honor the fallen by showing our unyielding determination to press ahead … to move forward with the hard work,” said Panetta on Aug. 8.
President Obama also stressed how “our troops will continue the hard work. … We will press on.” There was also much talk about how the troops were “lost.”
Gosh, I thought, I did not know that the 30 U.S. troops were just “lost” or that they had simply “fallen.” Sounds like maybe we can still find them and help them get up – when the hard truth is that they’re dead.
Frequent references to the helicopter having “crashed” also played down the details of why the troops had “fallen.” I thought I’d read somewhere that the helicopter “crashed” because it was shot down by folks who do not like American troops making middle-of-the-night raids all over their country.
These unhappy folks are usually described as “militants” or, in a sad reflection on the primitive level of the war discussion in the U.S. news media, simply as “bad guys.”
Perhaps others of my (Vietnam) generation are hearing what I hear — the plaintive lyrics of the song, “When Will They Ever Learn?” More descriptive of such times, then and now, are the words Pete Seeger put to music during a large lemming infestation 44 years ago: “We were neck-deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on.” Pete Seeger, 1967
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. An Army Infantry/Intelligence officer in the early Sixties, he then serves as an analyst of the CIA for 27 years. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).