Some time ago, I received a reply to one of my blogs which was about the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. The response came from a gentleman who had worked for Paul Wolfowitz when Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. The writer wanted to correct my use of the terms preventative and preemptive strikes. He said I’d confused the two and gave me the meaning of each, as defined by our Defense Department. The distinction was important, he insisted, because one set of words described an illegal action and the other didn’t.
Regrettably, I’ve forgotten which label applies to which action. At the time, however, I recall being non-plussed. I hadn’t realized there was a distinction to be made. The Oxford American Dictionary confirmed there was little difference.
I wrote back, wondering when the government had decided to parse words to justify its actions without giving the public an understanding of what it had done. The gentleman, now a professor at a prestigious eastern college, replied that greater minds than mine had discussed the need for a distinction and had chosen to alter the English language on their own.
I’ve long guessed that people with power feel entitled to privileges unavailable to the rest of us. But I balk at using language to obscure rather than clarify understanding. Simply put, to do so betrays the public trust.
Sadly, our government continues to practice this form of chicanery. In a recent interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell about Edward Snowden’s revelations on government snooping, James R. Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence, explained that when the government gathers all the phone messages and emails of its citizens, it isn’t an abridgement of their 4th Amendment rights. The government doesn’t “acquire” information by gathering it, Clapper pointed out. Information is acquired when it is read. http://http://news.yahoo.com/youll-never-know-nsa-breaking-law-keeping-safe-131042476.html
Anyone who buys this latest bit of parsing, in my opinion, fits the profile of someone who would also buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
(Courtesy of bjkeefe.blogspot.com)