Taliban Not Buying Obama’s “Overseas Contingency Operations”

The Obama administration has come under intense criticism for replacing the term “war on terror” with the emaciated euphemism “overseas contingency operations,” and for referring to individual acts of terror as “man-caused disasters.”

This semi-official attempt to disassociate the administration from the fierce rhetoric favored by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney has enraged Americans on both the right and left. Many feel that such vaporous bureaucratese is a self-emasculating action that plunges us into an Orwellian world where words have no emotional connection with the horrors they purport to describe.

Yet, if the intention of the Obama administration is to tone down the confrontational rhetoric being used by our enemies, the effort is already reaping results. This week, in a pronounced shift from its usual theatrical style, the Taliban announced that it will no longer refer to its favorite method of murder as “beheadings,” but will henceforth employ the expression “cephalic attrition.” “Flayings” — a barbarously exotic style of execution that has been popular in this part of the world since before the time of Alexander — will now be described as “unsolicited epidermal reconfigurations.” In a similar vein, lopping off captives’ arms will now be referred to as “appendage furloughing,” while public floggings of teenaged girls will from here on out be spoken of as “metajudicial interfacing.”

A Taliban spokesman reached in Pakistan said that the new phrasing was being implemented as a way of eliminating the negative associations triggered by more graphic terminology. “The term ‘beheading’ has a quasi-medieval undertone that we’re trying to get away from,” he explained. “The term ‘cephalic attrition’ brings the Taliban into the 21st century. It’s not that we disapprove of beheadings; it’s just that the word no longer meshes with the zeitgeist of the era. This is the same reason we have replaced the term ‘jihad’ with ‘booka-bonga-bippo,’ which has a more zesty, urban, youthful, ‘now’ feel. When you’re recruiting teenagers to your movement, you don’t want them to feel that going on jihad won’t leave any time for youthful hijinks.”

Central Asia is not the only place where the coarse terminology of the past is being phased out. In Darfur, the words “ethnic cleansing” are no longer in use, either by rebels nor by the government itself. Instead, the practice of targeting a particular tribe or sect or ethnic group for extinction is being called “unconditional demographic redeployment.” In much the same spirit, the archaic term “genocide” — so broad and vague as to be meaningless — has now been supplanted by “maximum-intensity racial profiling.”

“We’ve got problems here, sure, just like any other society,” explains a high-ranking Sudanese official. “But we’re not talking about Armenia 1915. We’re not talking about the Holocaust. The Eurocentric term ‘genocide’ gives people the wrong idea. And it really hurts tourism.”

Another very positive sign that global rhetoric is being turned down a notch is the decision by the North Korean government to refer to its offshore nuclear tests as “intra-horizontal aqua-aeonic degradation simulations.”

“You start throwing around terms like ‘nuclear testing’ and you scare the hell out of the Japanese,’ says a Hong Kong-based expert in East Asian euphemisms. “It’s why the expression ‘people’s liberation army’ always worked so much better as a recruiting device than ‘mass murderers.'”

Another hopeful sign of a subtle cooling of heated diplomatic rhetoric is an official directive by the Hugo Chavez administration instructing journalists to stop using the term ‘nationalizing oil fields.’ Last week, the more graceful term “petrolic resource reapportionment” began to appear in prominent Venezuela media, along with “amicable annexation.”

Yet perhaps the most encouraging sign of all is in Mexico, where vigilante groups have announced that they will no longer use the term “death squads” to describe their activities. Instead, death squads will be identified as “terminus-inducing claques,” “free-lance resolution facilitators,” and “off-site impasse adjustors.”

Finally, in yet another determined effort to disassociate itself from the bellicose imagery favored by the Bush administration, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff will no longer employ the term “bad guys” to describe al Qaeda.

“It’s juvenile, it’s demeaning, and it’s judgmental,” says a high-ranking administration spokesman. “From now on, the bad guys will be referred to as ‘the ostensibly malefic.’ We’ll get back to you when we have a new term for ‘the good guys.'”

Mr. Queenan, a satirist and freelance writer, is the author of numerous books. His memoir, “Closing Time,” will be published this month by Viking.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12395830
5263912309.html#mod=rss_opinion_main

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