The language of warfare and the huge grain of salt needed to decipher it

Is it me or do words take on new meanings during a time of crisis or war?

They’re spelled the same and are used in the same connotative manner but somewhere along the lines of communication a subtle change occurs giving them new life, new gist.  They suddenly no longer mean exactly what they say they mean, taking on underlying and sometimes sinister characteristics that weren’t present in their use before the conflict.

Syrian soldier wearing a Soviet-made Model ShMS nuclear-biological-chemical warfare mask aiming a Chinese Type-56 automatic assault rifle

Syrian soldier wearing a Soviet-made Model ShMS nuclear-biological-chemical warfare mask aiming a Chinese Type-56 automatic assault rifle

An example: Who knew that the words, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” didn’t mean exactly that?  What person of sound mind, after seeing those characters emblazoned on a banner underneath the bridge of an aircraft-carrier would even doubt that all hostilities had ceased and that we could pack our bags and go home?  It’s no way anyone would’ve anticipated an additional decade of fighting; the words didn’t say that.

But yet, that’s what happened.  And now, we’re faced with yet another decision about embarking on a military action that could quickly become a huge problem for the US.  But statements from all parties continue to be the same, colorful and misleading words and phrases that we still haven’t quite learned to decipher accurately.

Not that we should have to decipher anything; any communique coming from Washington or any world body should be very clear and concise and easily understood by every member of the global public.  We should be able to make sound decisions about government policy based of that information we receive.  But the sad truth is we can’t because the words stop meaning what they imply.

In fact, we know we’re in trouble when talk of military actions and movements center around phrases and adjectives like “primarily”, “limited and proportional” or “on a rotational basis”.  And you might want to start ducking and covering when the principle parties involved in the approaching storm start calling their conversations “candid and constructive”.

But exactly how candid and constructive could a conversation be during a time leading up to a conflict if that conversation didn’t include talks of peace or any kind of cessation of the fighting?

Of course, that’s the real problem here.  That instead of using succinct, crisp and easily understood speech we’re left at the mercy of non sequiturs and double entendres.  Because it’s occurred to me that peace is a word that has only one meaning and can’t be misconstrued this way or that.  It’s tragic that it’s the one word missing in all of these conversations.

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