Tuesday, May 18, 2004

They are not really human, so they will not feel the pain, by ROBIN TOLMACH LAKOFF
"An American soldier refers to an Iraqi prisoner as "it." A general speaks not of "Iraqi fighters" but of "the enemy." A weapons manufacturer doesn't talk about people but about "targets." Bullets and bombs are not the only tools of war. Words, too, play their part. Human beings are social animals, genetically hard-wired to feel compassion toward others. Under normal conditions, most people find it very difficult to kill. But in war, military recruits must be persuaded that killing other people is not only acceptable but even honorable. The language of war is intended to bring about that change, and not only for soldiers in the field. In wartime, language must be created to enable combatants and noncombatants alike to see the other side as killable, to overcome the innate queasiness over the taking of human life. Soldiers, and those who remain at home, learn to call their enemies by names that make them seem not quite human — inferior, contemptible and not like "us."..."