Monday, March 2, 2009

The dictionary of empire-speak

By Tom Engelhardt
Asia Times

"Unmanned aerial vehicles called Predators and Reapers (as in Grim Reaper), both of which use Hellfire missiles, criss-cross the skies over the Pashtun tribal lands in Pakistan. Their names are just one example of Washington's imperial language, which both normalizes imperial practices and, in perilous times, blinds United States officials to crucial global realities.....

So it undoubtedly seemed to the Romans, too. And we know what finally happened to their empire and the language that went with it. Such a language plays its role in normalizing the running of an empire. It allows officials (and in our case the media as well) not to see what would be inconvenient to the smooth functioning of such an enormous undertaking. Embedded in its words and phrases is a fierce way of thinking (even if we don't see it that way), as well as plausible deniability. And in the good times, its uses are obvious.

On the other hand, when the normal ways of empire cease to function well, that same language can suddenly work to blind the imperial custodians - which is, after all, what the foreign policy "team" of the Obama era is - to necessary realities. At a moment when it might be important to grasp what the "American face" in the mirror actually looks like, you can't see it.

And sometimes what you can't bring yourself to see can, as now, hurt you. "

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