President Barack Obama’s most recent speech launching yet another self-declared Personal Presidential Crusade against yet another Evil Muslim Acronym (ISIS/ISIL/IS, whatever) reminds me of something that General David Petraeus, Commander of the International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan once said regarding his mission objectives and his prospects for achieving them:
“I think no commander ever is going to come out and say ‘I’m confident that we can do this.’ I think we say you assess, we believe this is, you know, a reasonable prospect.”
This smarmy, management-speak gobbledygook in turn reminded me of something George Orwell wrote in his classic essay, Politics and the English Language:
“The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism.”
Hence, something I wrote four years ago that I find just as relevant today whenever an official of the U.S. Government, civilian or military, opens his or her mouth to speak about something or other while saying nothing about anything.
The Inflated Style as Euphemism
The general has started talking funny
Like, never stating what we can achieve.
Instead, he babbles jargon for the money
Which means he never plans for us to leave.
We’ve been there now so long that few remember
How many times we’ve heard the same old song.
Our plans, those scruffy foreigners dismember
While we proclaim that we’ve done nothing wrong.
The president has donned his bomber jacket
To have his picture taken with the troops:
For conquerors, cheap tools that serve the racket;
For statesmen, simple patriotic dupes.
Our presidents and generals have blundered
And now can only stall for yet more time
While citizens back home whom they have plundered
Refuse to see the nature of the crime.
We went to “war” with tax cuts for the wealthy
And exhortations to consume and spend.
Now broke and begging from the thieving stealthy,
Our leaders promise this will never end.
Our presidents and generals stage dramas
And wave the bloody shirt while spouting gas
To keep us safe from peasants in pajamas
And poppy farmers smoking hash and grass.
We did this once before in Southeast Asia
As names upon a granite wall attest.
The country, though, prefers its euthanasia:
The laying of all memory to rest.
So let us listen raptly to the latest
Inflated euphemism coined to quell
The slightest thought that we might be the greatest
Bullshitters of whom history can tell.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2010.
Michael Murry is a Vietnam Veteran, gargoyle sculptor, and poet. He occupies the Asian Desk for The Contrary Perspective.