The Corner

English and Iraq

If one were against the U.S. effort in Iraq, , then one would do the following with the English language:

Always use the passive voice: “Violence was unleashed”, “Fifteen Iraqis were killed”, “More casualties arise from spreading brutality”-anything other than naming an active agent that might suggest one culpable party–the -ex-Baathists and Muslim jihadists who blow up, shoot, gas, behead, and torture their enemies and innocents daily.

Always use the word “civil war” as in “We are caught in a civil war” or “We have no business in a civil war.” And when called on its imprecise usage, retreat to lofty platitudes like “I won’t quibble over a mere term when thousands die” or “Call it what you will, thousands still die” or “This is a stupid debate.”

But a civil war — two clearly defined sides, each striving to seize power, with antithetical ideologies and agendas — is hardly Iraq, where Sunni tribal elders, Shiite clerics, an elected government, and coalition forces all try to stop 10,000 or so nihilists from murdering so barbarously that they incite a backlash from Shiite gangs or a general sense of hopelessness among the population at large that both loathes and is fearful of these terrorists. There is a reason that histories of the Civil War have a special chapter on Quantrill with the assorted specialized vocabulary like “raiders,” “outlaw,” “bushwacker,” “Jayhawker.” What culminated in Lawrence, Kansas — arson, shooting of civilians, settling grudges, targeted assassinations, and general mayhem — was something different from Grant, Lee, etc.

Avoid the word “jihadist,” and especially “murderer” or “terrorist.”

Prefer “militant,” “gunman,” or “insurgent” — any term that disconnects suicide murderers and jihadists from what they exist for (to kill).

It is much worse, after all, for a Marine to kill a “gunman” or “militant” or an “insurgent” than a “terrorist” , “jihadist” or “murderer.”

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

Most Popular

White House

The Democrats’ Burisma Bait and Switch

Imagine you get indicted in a swindle. The prosecutors represent that they can prove you and your alleged co-conspirators planned to fleece a major financial institution. You counter that you weren’t fleecing anyone. Sure, you were asking for millions in loans, but the collateral you were prepared to post was ... Read More
White House

The Democrats’ Burisma Bait and Switch

Imagine you get indicted in a swindle. The prosecutors represent that they can prove you and your alleged co-conspirators planned to fleece a major financial institution. You counter that you weren’t fleecing anyone. Sure, you were asking for millions in loans, but the collateral you were prepared to post was ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More
Politics & Policy

15 Flaws in Adam Schiff’s Case

Adam Schiff did most of the heavy lifting for the House managers, and if he performed ably, he also relied on arguments and tropes that don’t withstand scrutiny. The Democratic case for impeachment and removal is now heavily encrusted with clichés, widely accepted by the media, meant to give their ... Read More
Politics & Policy

15 Flaws in Adam Schiff’s Case

Adam Schiff did most of the heavy lifting for the House managers, and if he performed ably, he also relied on arguments and tropes that don’t withstand scrutiny. The Democratic case for impeachment and removal is now heavily encrusted with clichés, widely accepted by the media, meant to give their ... Read More

When There Is No Normal

One of the ancient and modern critiques of democracy is that radicals destroy norms for short-term political gain, norms that they themselves often later seek as refuge. Schadenfreude, irony, paradox, and karma are various descriptions of what happens to revolutionaries, and unfortunately the innocent, who ... Read More

When There Is No Normal

One of the ancient and modern critiques of democracy is that radicals destroy norms for short-term political gain, norms that they themselves often later seek as refuge. Schadenfreude, irony, paradox, and karma are various descriptions of what happens to revolutionaries, and unfortunately the innocent, who ... Read More