I’m playing a new PC game at the moment, ‘Command & Conquer Generals’ and I have to admit, it’s pretty enjoyable. You get to be the Americans, the Chinese or the GLA, the terrorist equivalent. You can’t be offended at the use of stereotypes, because it’s a game, with phrases from the GLA suicide trucker like ‘watch out for the bump’ and ‘why don’t you drive?’ and quips from the Chinese such as ‘making China bigger’ and ‘expanding the Chinese empire’. The American phrases are the most laughable, with ‘protecting freedom’, ‘doing the right thing’, ‘protecting our people’, ‘fighting the enemies of the free world’, amongst others.
It’s funny, and tolerable, because it’s a game. I admit it started off as being obnoxious, because over the years I have trained myself to pick out those kinds of words and see the bullshit, but after a while I just started to see the amusing element to it.
Because it’s just a game.
Last night after switching off this game, I caught a show on Discovery called ‘Future Weapons’, in which it showcased the new and upcoming instruments of death being utilized by the U.S. Army and other military organizations around the world. It discussed the new ‘Thermobaric Cave Bomb’, the BLU-118B warhead. It is specifically designed to kill people in tunnels and cave systems because it sustains a high degree explosion with sweeps through the tunnels in a kind of rolling ball of flame. Very nasty.
What is interesting is the kind of language used by interviewed bomb experts and scientists who were involved the project, the language that utterly separates humanity from the destruction, and the use of formulaic and rhetorical terminology to justify their actions.
I remember sitting there wondering how these bomb designers, like those who develop nuclear weapons, justify to themselves what they are doing, and just like magic the chief scientist Anh Duong, answered my question. She said that her reasons were because how ‘preserving freedom and democracy was important in light of the events of Sept 11th.’ She also mentions in her interview with the Washington Post that in defense against critics:
“People will ask why I’d utilize my intelligence and training to make explosives . . . but [rather than destruction], foremost in my mind is coming up with ways to protect our troops.”
It’s just rhetoric, using the often seen ‘protect our troops’ catch phrase. I heard someone say once that stating it is absolutely essential that you support the troops is similar to approving of someone walking into a burning building. When you cut the crap, look past the bullshit, it makes sense. Words like that, words of little meaning but huge implications are all over her terminology. She talked about how her bomb will easily ‘defeat the target’, how it ‘creates a lethal environment’ and ‘provided a destructive force’. She justifies what she does by using language that separates herself from the horrific damage her bombs cause to life and limb. It’s the same way that the news networks detach people from the pain that the government inflicts on people around the world for the sake of oil, profits and power. It allows them to maintain dinnertime conversation and flippantly discuss America’s successes in war without making them actually think through the implications of their statements. When I hear someone mention that ‘enemy suffered casualties’ I feel like slapping them in the face. It means someone actually died! Run that through the brain for more than ten seconds, or speak to a soldier, and then you might get close to understanding what it feels like.
With language, life can remain sterile, safe, boring and numb. As Bruce says so eloquently in his blog ‘The River’:
…the War on Terror is, for the majority of Americans, a TV show. Unreality is our reality. The United States of Fantasyland. This state of affairs gives enormous power and advantage to the owners of mass media. They do indeed control the horizontal and the vertical. The “TV show” frame excludes everything of importance and spins simplistic and increasingly fear-based yarns.
And carrying on what he’s saying there, I think people prefer that false reality, and prefer that language, those simple words over the caustic and truthful.
Here is my translations of the language Ms. Duong used when she described what her explosive concoctions would do:
“Creates a lethal environment” – (As opposed to the bombs that create a nice environment?) Surrounds the air around you with spinning shrapnel/boiling chemicals, killing you quickly, but with excruciation pain.
“Defeat the target” – This seriously sounds like it’s an effort to kill someone with a 2,000lb bomb. This literally means that the person whom you dropped this bomb is no longer there, no single organ remains intact.
“Exhausts the targets capacity for retaliation” – The people you were shooting at are either so disorientated, probably bleeding from the ears and therefore deaf, or are hideously wounded so as not to be able to stand and surrender.
“Complete target package” – Not one word of this comes even close to describing what it actually means. It describes attacking people over a large area, and since the last conventional war was in 2002 (and I use the term ‘conventional’ very loosely, that probably means attacking insurgents, which therefore includes civilians. Israel used this to their advantage very recently.
I also heard on an NPR interview regarding Iran that it is America’s duty to spread peace and democracy, freedom and liberty to the rest of the world. Only problem is, now that freedom is practically a marketable thing (a complete contradiction), it is the good ‘ole American brand, making the words freedom and justice inseparable from the American way of life, inextricably linking that word with the distorted template of American life that we feel we should impose all over the place.
‘Freedom’ is the ultimate ‘bullshit’ word, as George Carlin calls them, the concept of which is spoken by many and understood by so very few. But much like how the mere mention of Osama Ben Goldstein inspires terror into most hard working Fox-watching zombies, freedom is the word that in our fear we fanatically try to protect, even as in its name we watch our liberties come crashing down.
Death is death, not causality, or collateral, or a target.
Life is important, be it here or in Iran.
Bombs don’t protect anyone.
Killing is always the same, brutal, awful.
It’s not a game.
…and the words don’t make it okay.
4 thoughts on “Doing the Right Thing”
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Any scientist who creates such weapons should be forced onto a battlefield, and subsequently forced to kill someone; watch them die. Every single one of them, that way, when their in the lab quipping about how the bomb radius should be maximized for a greater kill zone, they can imagine what its like to be in a kill zone, watching death.
I don’t see how, or why, it takes such things to get people to see. I don’t need to watch someone die to know how horrible death is, or the fact that if every scientist thought about what they were doing, and none of them decided to create nasty weapons, we would have to resort to rocks and sticks, which last time I checked isn’t as dangerous when compared to bombs which incinerate all known life in seconds.
The troops wouldn’t need protecting if we thought about the implications of a war and the reasons for going to one before we jumped into it.
“’Creates a lethal environment’ – (as opposed to bombs that create a nice environment?)”
I laughed at this; in a way it isn’t funny, but your observation points out the obvious, (and very funny) redundancy in the language. I can’t imagine why this would even be necessary to say. The word bomb is synonymous with lethal. There are no such things as a happy tickle bomb, or a loves you long time bomb. Which would be awesome, but we need a point before making a statement, and a redundant statement is everything we’ve been hearing out of monkey bush from day one.
Yes, the point on America spreading freedom…like its an std or something. We need to spread it so that others can spread it. I’m sorry, but democracy does not equate freedom. The only reason why we want the entire world to be a democracy is because of the theory that two democratic countries cannot go to war with one another. Yes, so instead they war with themselves, but this theory has been claimed other times in history about other forms of government. So if the entire world were a communism we wouldn’t war with one another either, this doesn’t mean that democracy equates freedom, or constitutes safety. Its like what we were talking about in the bar, every area of people in different parts of the world, needs or wants different things. We as humans don’t all have the same types of needs, we aren’t all at the same levels intellectually, religiously, etc. to say that the world needs freedom and liberty, and that liberty is sovereignty is making an obvious statement, and again redundant. The problem is, that American politicians speak in absolutes, generalized absolutes, as if they have forgotten what the words perspective, and subjective means.
I just watched Good Night and Good Luck, as I told you. But it amazes me how different the media was back then, they were nervous about running a story, which contradicted the government, but in so doing, they actually got something accomplished. They pointed out the contradictions, people noticed, took a stand, and things were changed. My god, why cant things like this happen today, why cant there be an honest reporter working for a TV station who believes, and is allowed to say, that what is happening is wrong. And what would be even more amazing is that afterwards, something was done about it.
If only this could have happened with the patriot act. The instant an innocent civilian was held against their will, and subjected to the alienation of their rights as a human, a reporter who stood for an ideal took a stand, pointed out the horrible nature of the crime committed against the civilian, and in response people took notice and stood up against it.
The people of this country used to make a difference. People’s opinions, their feelings and reasons; these things used to matter. Now we get blanket responses and generalized excuses for actions and atrocities committed in the name of what’s “good” and “true.”
Listening to Bush talk is like listening to a priest at a church give a sermon. The way and manner of speaking is very similar. Over the years of hearing this person speak, on repeated subjects, you begin to pick up repeated phrases and generalizations, they can only say so much. This is much more common in Christian churches than anything else, and its no surprise that our president is Christian. I wonder what would happen if there was no such thing as religion suddenly, and people had the eye-opening realization that the life their living today, is the only one they have to live. I think we would see a different world.
My goodness how short life is, how much could be done within that life, how much joy there could be in that life; Like the joy you see in the eyes of a child, before so-called civilisation has had its way with, corrupted, distorted, that pure innocent mind.
And what are we really trying to kill here? It’s not people we are trying to kill, it’s the ideas they carry within them. But you cannot kill an idea, history proves this, has proven this time and time again, since the begining of time. You cannot kill an idea. You can disperse it, suppress it, subdue it even, and then never more than temporarily. For if that idea is based on truth, on justice or against injustice, against hypocrisy, for freedom or against the lack of it, then it will resurface, no matter how long it takes it will resurface. This is what it means to say that violence begets violence. Violence is never ending and it never solved one problem in the entire history of the world. NOT ONCE!
This is why scientists (and politicians ) who do what they do, practice what they practice, will always speak of their dealings in remote, disconnected terms, in terms of anything but never, never in terms of life, in terms of humanity, in terms of reality; the reality of their own lives, of their own mothers, fathers, children, friends.
The reason? Because I suspect if you go deep enough within them (if you only could, if they only could) you and they would find that they already know that what they are doing is wrong, absolutely wrong. Everything piled up inside them above that truth is fear and fear alone.
As was said “the truth will set you free”, but not if you spend your entire life actively avoiding it it wont!
That often is what terrifies me; the prospect that there might actually be people in the world who cant look outside themselves, who believe with all of their being, that what they are doing is right and can be no other way. Unfortunately there are people like this, who are so uneducated, who want to so badly not to know, that they are incapable of seeing things in ways that others can.
But you’re right, we cannot kill ideas, cannot kill thoughts and feelings.
This is the problem with being on a side. We have side A and side B, and since people on side A have not grown up to know what side B’s perspective is like, it is relatively impossible for a lot of side A’s government (and people) to understand. We have attacks and killings on one side or the other, and both go through similar emotions and thoughts, yet both believe that their side alone is going through the turmoil that both are. It’s a collective objectivism that incites and encourages the problem
But as you and I know, objectively speaking there is no side a, no side b, no side at all, just life, a life we are all living to the best of our very limited ability.
But it gets really shakey down here when people begin to project their ideas beyond the grave. When people begin to project either a continuation or a new beginning beyond the grave, beyond thier own physical death.
Then John Lennon’s words are circumnavigated, bypassed and their true meaning, that death is in fact THE END, FULLSTOP, gets completely lost.
I remember a philosopher I used to read saying “its all very well getting people to realise that they are going to die. The real work begins when you try and get them to keep on remembering that fact”.
But even that gem of wisdom loses its power in the face of an all powerful God, in a paradise called heaven to where we will all go when the end comes (or doesn’t as the case may be.)
We are I think wasting our time trying to change this. One is absolutely powerless in the face of insanity.
Just sit back and watch the fireworks?