What Makes Groups ‘Special’?

Anywhere you look in the media covering Iraq today, you’ll find tales of the U.S. and Iraqi government forces targeting not the Mehdi Army of Moqtada Sadr, but the “Special Groups.” This capitalized designation refers, ostensibly, to “rogue” units of Sadr’s army, who have been taken over by Iran. Ambassador Ryan Crocker even refers to them as the “so-called ‘Special Groups’.” So-called by whom?

Well, according to Gareth Porter, the term “Special Groups” is not one used by any of the Iraqi forces or by the Iranians, it’s a term coined by the U.S. military. And Porter suggests there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical not just of the term, but of the notion it implies, i.e. that those fighting the U.S. and government forces in Basra and Baghdad are not part of the Mehdi Army, but are instead proxies of Iran.

What never ceases to amaze me, though, is how quickly the U.S. media embraces terminology tossed out — often with a politically loaded agenda — by the U.S. military. Indeed, much of the U.S. media has already dispensed with the quote marks. Do a search on google news and see for yourself.

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6 Responses to What Makes Groups ‘Special’?

  1. As a victim/veteran of eighteen months in the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72), I especially appreciate skeptical refusal to parrot military jargon.

    Unfortunately, I find the necessary skepticism largely ineffective when unaccompanied by a translation into understandable, equivalent terminology. For example: when the U.S. military mis-characterized purposefully provocative tank races through mosque graveyards in Najaf (Iraq) as “Force Oriented Zone Reconnaissance,” I immediately substituted “patrolling” and/or “picking a fight.”

    I think that the erstwhile free-thinker has to creatively develop over time an alternative vocabulary for ready deployment against Orwellian military jargon. Instead of President Eisenhower’s now-quaint “Military-Industrial Complex,” I like to use “Warfare Welfare” and “Make-work Militarism.” For the entire military/bureaucratic nightmare imperialism run amok I like to employ the formulaic expression PARKINSON’S LAW + THE PETER PRINCIPLE = LUNATIC LEVIATHAN. And so on and so forth.

    Again, I appreciate the well-deserved skepticism of mind-numbing military Doublethink/Duckspeaking, but I appreciate even more the antidote of clear and creative synonymous alternatives.

  2. sceptic emeritus says:

    Excellent item & comment; sorry I didn’t see it earlier. It is essential to keep tearing away at the fakery and murky language constantly used to camouflage the reality, not just of the various wars but of all the activities this government has foisted upon people inside and outside its domain. Perceptive observers are not fooled by the obsession with euphemism and obfuscating double talk required of all the pompous spokes-creeps, military and civilian, who peddle their official wares, but as Tony and Mr Murry rightly say, it is the absorption and regurgitation of the terminology and cover-language by journalists and the public which has been far more insidious.
    May I quote some crucial words written down in Dresden in 1946 by Victor Klemperer in his “philologist’s notebook”, LTI—Lingua Tertii Imperii (The Language of the Third Reich): “What was the most powerful Hitlerian propaganda tool?…the most powerful influence was exerted neither by individual speeches nor by articles or flyers, posters or flags; it was not achieved by things which one had to absorb by conscious thought or conscious emotions. Instead, Nazism permeated the flesh and blood of the people through single words, idioms and sentence structures which were imposed on them in a million repetitions and taken on board mechanically and unconsciously. ..But language does not simply write and think for me, it also increasingly dictates my feelings and governs my entire spiritual being the more unquestiongly and unconsciously I abandon myself to it. And what happens if the cultivated language is made up of poisonous elements or has been made the bearer of poisons? Words can be like tiny doses of arsenic: they are swallowed unnoticed, appear to have no effect, and then after a little time the toxic reaction sets in after all….”
    Of course I do not advocate the misuse of “historical parallels”, especially when completely inapplicable, as for eg., the “always 1938 in Munich” obsession of neo-con fantasy Churchills battling the appeaser windmills etc ad nauseam, but one doesn’t have to ignore the true lessons of the past just because some present-day malefactors misappropriate “History” for themselves.

  3. You said true about that point sceptic emeritus, as tony karon said that.

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