There is a simple way to keep a country at war: language tricks that obscure what is going on.
The Afghanistan War has contributed several. The most widely used is "militants."
There was "surge" before it. Instead of calling an offensive an offensive, which clearly implies increased casualties, the spinmeisters came up with surge.
The etymology of surge is somewhat confused. The following is in a Wikipedia history of the Vietnam War. "South Vietnam was inundated with manufactured goods. As Stanley Karnow writes, "the main PX [Post Exchange], located in the Saigon suburb of Cholon, was only slightly smaller than the New York Bloomingdale's..." The American buildup transformed the economy and had a profound impact on South Vietnamese society. A huge surge in corruption was witnessed."
The use of the word militant, instead of insurgent/fighter/rebel/guerrilla may be clearer. There are many times when it is anything but clear who has died in a drone attack in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Was it an insurgent? Was it a member of the People's Front for Judea? Or the Judean People's Front? The Judean Popular People's Front? It just drones on.
Was it a civilian? Who knows? Who really cares? Other than the families of the dead. If NATO calls it an insurgent then the mainstream media could end up appearing like an embedded writer who doesn't want to risk his/her ride. That's if President Karzai or Pakistan says those killed were civilians.
I could swear that militant used to mean someone who as an activist. Like the Students for a Democratic Society. They didn't carry AK-47s.
In this Internet age the No. 1 definition of a word, meaning the one most used, can quickly change. Now it seems to be someone who is "warring or fighting."
Dictionary.com stills lists its No. 1 definition of militant as: vigorously active and aggressive, esp. in support of a cause: militant reformers."
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