Wed, 4 March 2009
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“With the turn of a phrase, President Obama has placed himself to the Right of his own party.”
Barack Obama, who was never an anti-war candidate, reveals himself as a pro-war president who would rather mangle the English language than tell the truth. Obama and his generals are agreed that the U.S. should leave about 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after the targeted withdrawal of so-called “combat” troops by the end of August, 2010. So, what are we supposed to call these 50,000 American military personnel, if they are not “combat” troops? Obama wants us to call them a “transition force” – presumably, they will transition to death anyone that opposes them. Obama thinks that by changing the nomenclature, he can announce “mission accomplished,” declare peace, and then keep the war going indefinitely. That’s why the Joint Chiefs of Staff are happy, John McCain is happy,http://www.blackagendareport.com/images/stories/128/FAIRarticle.jpg but Democratic congressional leadership is anything but happy. With the turn of a phrase, President Obama has placed himself to the Right of his own party, and stabbed all of his wishful anti-war supporters in the back.
When it comes to torturing the language, Obama is more shameless than Vietnam-era presidents, who persisted in calling U.S. troops fighting in that country “advisors” until the term became laughable. As much as they would like to, the American generals in Iraq and their commander-in-chief can’t call the 50,000 soldiers and Marines that are to remain behind “advisors” – there are far too many of them, and they will continue to be organized for combat at the drop of a hat. Instead, the name-game describes the troops as a “transition” force, as opposed to a combat force. Which doesn’t mean they won’t be in combat; on the contrary, armed Americans in full battle gear will be roaming around looking for targets and fighting alongside the Iraqi military. It will look and sound just like combat; people on both sides and civilians will be killed, just like in combat, but it will not be combat because President Obama says the mission is “transition.” After August of 2010, U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq will be engaged in “transitioning,” not combat.
“Obama has spoken. Semantics equals reality.”
Obama is worried that many people may not be sophisticated enough to understand the fine distinction between combat soldiering and “transitioning.”
"Let me say this as plainly as I can,” Obama told Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, last weekend. “By August 31, 2010,” Obama said with a straight face, “our combat mission in Iraq will end." Why? Because Obama chooses not to call it combat. Obama has spoken. Semantics equals reality.
Which makes you wonder: what kind of semantic trick was Obama playing when he told the joint session of congress, “I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture?" If methodically killing people is not combat, then maybe the methodical infliction of physical and emotional pain isn’t always torture. Maybe torture, like combat, is in the eye of the beholder – or, more to the point, the Presidential Definer, the Semanticist-in-Chief.
Apparently, when Barack Obama promised change, he meant a change in definitions.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.