30 January 2015

The junior varsity of terror: Language parsed

This week, the White House Deputy Press Secretary described the Taliban in Afghanistan as an "armed insurgency" (compared with ISL which is a terrorist group) and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made sure that the US press corps understood that he was not labeling the group as a terrorist organization. "The threat that they (Taliban) pose is different....[it is] acute." He was comparing Taliban to Al Qaeda at the time. When asked "Aren't all terrorist groups different from every other terrorist group?" Earnest affirmed, "Yes, they are. But in this case, there is a clear difference between the aspirations that have been articulated... and the way they carry out, or the way they resort to some of their terror tactics and (in comparison to) the terror attacks that are carried out by Al Qaeda."

Back story: The Taliban killed over 120 children in their school in December. The Taliban has killed thousands of allied troops and maimed thousands of others. The National (US) Counter-terrorism Center has the Taliban on their list of terrorist groups. So does the National Security Council and the US Treasury Department.
Another back story: Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of the Taliban for five years, was released last US summer in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees. He indeed may be charged with desertion, and CNN's Barbara Starr reported on Tuesday that a decision may come very soon. But the Fox and NBC reports explicitly said that the decision had already been reached.

Question: Is the White House working hard to avoid the breaking of US policy: "We don't negotiate with terrorists"? By changing the label on the Taliban, downgrading them to junior varsity level, does that allow the US to negotiate with them?

What did Shakespeare write Juliet's line to be? “Tis but thy name that is my enemy, thou art thyself though not a Montague. What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. O be some other name! What‘s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; so Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title/ Romeo, doff thy name and for that name, which is no part of thee, take all myself."

Juliet's advise to her suitor Romeo is to delete the names of Montague and they could run off into the fairy tale climactic ending of a Hollywood movie. Changing the name of anything doesn't change its basic nature, she affirms. Romeo is still sweet smelling and this parsing of the English language by the White House staffers this week will not change the nature of the terrorist organization The Taliban. It still stinks. It's uncivil. It's just wrong. All because (perhaps) a lawyer suggested a name change. Calling the varsity team the "junior varsity" doesn't change its game plan. They still play the same game. And we hope they lose very soon.

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