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Lemmingly, We Roll Along

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Headlined to H2 8/20/11

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When soldiers die, the politicians who sent them to their deaths typically use euphemisms and circumlocutions -- like "lost," "fallen," or "ultimate sacrifice." On one level, the avoidance of blunt language can be seen as a sign of respect, but on another, it is just one more evasion of responsibility for the snuffing out of young lives.

There has been unusually wide (and for the most part supportive) reaction to my article of August 8 (They Died in Vain: Deal With It) on the killing of 30 American troops when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan on the night of the 6th. One website posting the article clocked 181 comments; scanning through them, I found many substantive, helpful ones.

Let me share one telling comment, which seemed to me particularly -- if sadly -- apt:

"Two lemmings are chatting while standing in the line to the cliff. One says to the other, 'Of course we have to go over the edge. Anything else would dishonor all the lemmings that have gone before us.'"

And so it goes, thought I, with our Lemming-in-Chief (LIC) Barack Obama ... and those who lemmingly follow him.

The President's and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's words about the 30 dead soldiers, including members of the elite Seal Team 6, were very carefully chosen. But they bore the telltale earmarks of "the Lemming Syndrome."

"We will honor the fallen by showing our unyielding determination to press ahead ... to move forward with the hard work," said Panetta on Aug. 8.

That same day, President Obama also stressed how "our troops will continue the hard work ... We will press on." There was also subdued talk from both leaders about how the troops were "lost."

Gosh, I thought, I did not know that the 30 U.S. troops were just "lost" or that they had simply "fallen." Sounds like maybe we can still find them and help them get up -- when the hard truth is that they're dead.

Similarly, persistent use of "helicopter crash" seems to be a deliberate attempt to hide the hard reality that it was a rocket-propelled grenade that downed the helicopter and that this is why the troops ended up "fallen." The anodyne language helps soft-pedal the fact that Afghans who don't like American troops making middle-of-the-night raids all over their country have access to RPGs capable of downing aircraft.

These angry Afghans are usually described as "militants" or, in a sad reflection on the primitive level of the conversation on the war, simply as "the bad guys."

Perhaps others of my (Vietnam) generation are hearing what I am hearing as background music -- the plaintive lyrics of the song, "When Will They Ever Learn?"

More evocative of such times -- then and now -- are the words Pete Seeger put to music during a large lemming infestation 44 years ago:

"We were neck-deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on." Pete Seeger, 1967


Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
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Speaking honestly about death and war has been mad... by Marta B on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 2:37:25 AM
nonsense. Rumsfeld sent the initial troops into Ir... by bogi666 on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 5:14:12 AM
I really don't care about the troops. They go ther... by Marta B on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 7:51:54 AM
I do think there are some innocent 'troops' though... by Ned Lud on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 10:38:11 AM
How innocent is it to take a job where you are sup... by Marta B on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 11:09:49 AM
He sacrificed the well being of his family to emba... by bogi666 on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 4:45:40 AM
From birth (roughly speaking), we find ourselves i... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 6:15:08 AM
It's sad that someone who apparently was well read... by Marta B on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 9:04:59 AM
When the Nazis invaded France, and the Resistance ... by Marta B on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 8:04:55 AM
countries we invade terrorists. Even worse USAn's ... by bogi666 on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 4:36:09 AM
the difference between a Hero in the Resistance VS... by Marta B on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 8:49:21 AM
Smedley Butler summed it up perfectly in 1935.But ... by 911TRUTH on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 9:57:47 AM
Smedley Butler summed it up perfectly in 1935.But ... by 911TRUTH on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 10:02:53 AM
Yeah, I read Butler's book. A highly ethical man, ... by Marta B on Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 11:18:34 AM
And Gen. McChrystal covered up the Pat Tillman mu... by 911TRUTH on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 12:00:53 AM
McChrystal, eh?  Didn't know, but not surpris... by Marta B on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 2:40:36 AM
military/judicial[scotus]coup in Florida. A bloodl... by bogi666 on Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 4:58:41 AM
This is how wars have always been sold, in every... by Maxwell on Monday, Aug 22, 2011 at 7:49:35 AM