Propaganda is a political exercise intended to accustom societies to concepts that would otherwise be impossible for them to accept. Modern propaganda employs various psychological methods to influence our subconscious minds. Absurd, immoral practices or notions are engineered to seem innocent and reasonable. A wide variety of techniques are used, but most are related to visual manipulation via the media. People can be made to experience or encounter the intended subject consistently, in various forms. Advertisements, movies, billboards, social media, etc. – all serve this purpose.
An example of the subtle use of such propaganda is the term “collateral damage.” We have heard this term being used often – a concept introduced to describe the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians during military bombardments. Using this concept, headlines portray these random, uncontrolled massacres as par for the course, as something innocent and insignificant.
The term even sounds technical and scientific to a degree. It also, strangely, sounds like legal jargon.
Indeed, wherever you read the expression “collateral damage,” it is persistently emphasized as or associated with “legal” action. In other words, the term makes it seem acceptable for innocent civilians to be killed by military bombers, with no one being held accountable.
Day after day more and more people are massacred.
At this point we have to ask the question: would the people who created and systematized the use of this term ever use it to describe the deaths of their own spouses or children? According to research done by the Iraq Body Count Project (IBCP), from March 2003 through March 2017, the number of civilians who lost their lives in Iraq as a result of bombs and drone attacks alone is 192,730.
The figures revealed by IBCP for the period between March 20, 2003 and March 14, 2013 are frightening.
The number of casualties in Iraq between these dates is 174,000, only 39,900 of them combatants. In other words, the rate of civilian casualties was 77%.
In Syria, according to the study done by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, a total of 470,000 people have lost their lives as a result of the civil war that started in March 2011. According to a report published by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in March 2017, the number of children who died in the conflict was 17,411, and the figure for women is 10,847.
Of course, the conflict zones are not limited to Iraq and Syria. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and many other parts of the world are faced with terrible scenes of civilian casualties. These thousands of innocent people are mere statistics in the data collected by research institutions.
Last week, operations in Mosul were halted after civilian casualties went over 200. The statement, “We are probably responsible for civilian casualties in Mosul,” by the most senior US general in Iraq, is a confession that should be considered seriously. It seems that there is a problem in the system itself, not the terminology.
In an article he wrote in 1946, George Orwell stated that “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible,” and therefore “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
The isn’t a mere definition; such language is actually used to justify the deaths that have taken place in recent years. The term “collateral damage” was first introduced by George W. Bush, and since then civilians have become statistics, “naturally” harmed by war for some arbitrary reason.
This is not the case for us.
Every person on a collateral damage list had family, friends, dreams and life plans. No one has the authority to take their right to live, for any reason. It is difficult to believe that the terminology that camouflages such terrible acts is of any comfort to those responsible.
Under no circumstances is war a concept consistent with the values of mankind. Contrary to the claims of some dialectical materialists, it is neither necessary nor progressive. War is just destruction; it kills humanity, conscience, beauty, love and the joy of life.
It brings poverty, famine, fear, anxiety and disaster. It creates hatred and spite. The human soul is not created for war.
Therefore, it is necessary to believe that war is an illogical and unjust concept, rather than make up terminology designed to hide from us the terrible effects of war. There are certainly more effective and reasonable ways to change people and to stop the violence than dropping bombs. No matter who you are, the human mind is created in such a way that it cannot resist the truth. Therefore, it is enough to show the truth scientifically. If the countries truly want peace, it starts exactly at this stage.
"Documented civilian deaths from violence", Iraq Body Count database, Retrieved 9 January 2015, https://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/.
"The War in Iraq: 10 years and counting", Iraq Body Count, Retrieved 13 July 2014, https://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/numbers/ten-years/
Priyanka Boghani, "A Staggering New Death Toll for Syria's War — 470,000", PBSonline, Feb 11, 2016, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/a-staggering-new-death-toll-for-syrias-war-470000/
"About 465 thousand persons were killed in 6 years of the Syrian revolution and more than 14 million were wounded and displaced", Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=62760
William Zinsser, On Writing Well, 2016, p. 14
Adnan Oktar's piece in The Jerusalem Post & Riyadh Vision: