Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Turning ‘Combat Casualties’ into ‘Victims’ & Vice Versa

Curious Terminology Game in the US Media

VictimLast Friday as I was searching the headlines for noteworthy and interesting news articles I came across a fairly lengthy and detailed story on Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. Considering the saturated state of this recent CIA slaying story and the reporting source, I almost skipped the article, but then, something caught my eye; something easy to miss with the naked eye, at least those of gullible US Media readers-believers. It wasn’t the story itself, nor was it the flowery details in an attempt to make it a possible future ‘Hollywood Action Drama’ worthy of a six figure movie rights offer. It also wasn’t due to the authors, since neither one of them was familiar to me. No, it was none of that. What caught my attention and held it there for the next few hours was the very calculative and selective usage of a word in the title; Victim:

“In Afghanistan attack, CIA fell victim to series of miscalculations about informant”

With that word, victim, in mind, I quickly checked a few other media sites, and sure enough the word was there. I will give you a couple of quick examples, starting with NY Daily News:

Among the CIA victims, including several contractors, was a mother of three who directed operations and intelligence gathering at Forward Operating Base Chapman, a secretive site in Khowst province on the Pakistan border that also houses a State Department reconstruction team.

An eighth American victim was a State Department worker. An Afghan also was killed in the attack and six other Americans were wounded.

And the next excerpt from the so-called lefty PBS:

Families of some of the CIA victims have released information about their lives. Harold Brown Jr., 37, from Massachusetts, had a wife and three children; Jeremy Wise, 35, was a former Navy SEAL and worked as a security contractor; Scott Michael Roberson, 39, worked as a security officer and had a wife who was eight months pregnant; and Dane Clak Paresi, 46, was a contractor and retired soldier.

First, let’s get the very simple facts straight here:

These were not some CIA paper pushers in some office building overseas, nor were they the stereotyped useless undercover social butterflies hanging out in embassies’ cocktail parties. These were the other breed: Combatants in the so-called war zone, actually in the heart of the combat zone, engaged in combat involving the deadliest of attacks using unmanned drones. As for the other two Blackwater contractors, I don’t have to tell you what they do. Do I?

With our military guys who get killed in wars, this same media reports using words such as combat casualties, killed, slain… Please be my guest and comb through the unfortunately plentiful reports on US military casualties. In fact here is the straight forward definition of casualty by the military:

A casualty is a member of personnel unable to fulfill their duties within a military organization due to death or incapacitation by injury or illness.

And here is how it is defined by encyclopedia

A hostile casualty is any person who is killed in action or wounded by any civilian, paramilitary, terrorist, or military force that may or may not represent a nation or state. Also included in this classification are persons killed or wounded accidentally either by friendly fire or by fratricide, which occurs when troops are mistakenly thought to be an enemy force.

As for general usage of Victims of War, this is what usually is meant:

…to those who may be described as the victims of war-that is, noncombatant civilians and those no longer able to take part in hostilities.

I know what you are thinking; kind of. Why split hairs over some terminology usage that may or may not have been calculated, selected, and then given to the public by the media. And, that’s exactly why I ended up spending several hours researching after coming across that article by the Washington Post.

I spent a few hours combing through the Washington Post archives. I am sure I wasn’t able to check hundreds of their semi-fiction reportage, but I’d say dozens of articles should suffice to establish selective usage of the word victim when it hardly applies, and never using the word where it would be 100% correct and applicable.

Wouldn’t you, or almost anyone, even those with only a minute trace of comprehension-knowledge-brain-common sense, consider the civilian casualties, when it’s comprised of babies, toddlers, grandmothers, as victims of war? As victims? Every dictionary, encyclopedia, and everyone with certified expertise in the English language, would say ‘YES.’

Then how is it that when reporting on established, 100% confirmed, civilian casualties of US combat attacks that include innocent children, this same Washington Post does not use the word victim; not even once? Not in relation to the family members of those children and mothers killed; as in “…the uncle of one of the victims…’ or something like ‘these children fell victim to inaccurate…’ I could go on and list dozens of links from past articles on major heart wrenching civilian casualties of our senseless and perpetual war(s), and show you the absence of the word victim in all. Or you can easily do that yourself: visit Washington Post, enter the key words ‘Afghanistan civilian casualties war’ in the box, click on search, comb through tens if not hundreds of resultant articles on civilian casualties of our war, and look for the word ‘victim.’

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