Monday, March 31, 2003

Hertzberg has a very short yet thoughtful piece on the meaning of collatoral damage.

Collateral damage is one of those antiseptic-sounding euphemisms that are sometimes more chilling than plain language, so hard do they labor to conceal their human meaning. It would be indecent to belittle the agony that has already been inflicted; you have only to imagine yourself, for example, as the parent or child of one of the dozens of people who were blown apart or maimed last Wednesday, and again last Friday, when stray bombs plowed into Baghdad marketplaces. But this kind of “damage” is indeed “collateral,” not only in that there is a serious effort to avoid it but also in that the intended purpose of the bombing of Baghdad, which so far has apparently been aimed only at military and government installations, has been to break not the will of the Iraqi people but the connections between them and their tyrannical rulers. Indiscriminate bombing would actually strengthen those connections, as we know from the experience of the Second World War and Vietnam. What we do not yet know is whether a different intention, backed by technologies of precision, will produce a different political result. And we do not yet know whether even the intention can survive the transition—which suddenly seems more likely than not—from a quick war of shock and awe to a grinding, protracted struggle, hand to hand and house to house.

Hersch also has much-anticipated article on Rumsfield in this issue of the New Yorker, but I haven't had the patience to read it. I'm getting to that bury-my-head-in-the-sand media saturation point. I'm also scared of what's happening and what may happen.

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