The “E” Word

February 3, 2011


“Evil” is such an embarrassing word. It’s so… judgmental. So holier-than-thou. Remember how embarrassed Liberals were when Pres. Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and how they howled when Pres. Bush labelled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea the “axis of evil”? But if we can’t call evil what it is, how will we be able to recognize it when it appears, whether in the form of flying airplanes into skyscrapers or gunning down 14 people going about their daily business on a military post?

The short answer: we can’t. We overlook it. We pass the buck. We pretend it doesn’t exist. We willfully misunderstand its intent. We use euphemisms to avoid the “E” word. And then we pay the price.

The Senate has just released its report on the 2009 Ft. Hood massacre. Entitled “A Ticking Time Bomb: Counterterrorism Lessons from the U.S. Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack,” the report is a scathing indictment of the lack of preparedness inside the Department of Defense and the FBI to deal with problems like this. Authors Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins conclude that once again, lack of communication, the passing of the buck, and failure of imagination all combined in an attack that left 14 dead and, at least momentarily, horrified the nation.

NPR reports:

“The Fort Hood massacre could have and should have been prevented,” Lieberman said, adding that Hasan was a “ticking time bomb.” Evidence of Hasan’s radicalization, Lieberman said, “[j]ust shouts out ‘stop this guy before he kills somebody.'”

Appearing alongside Lieberman, ranking committee member Susan Collins (R-Maine), said the investigation dispels the Obama administration’s early argument that legal restrictions had prevented the FBI from thoroughly investigating Hasan before the shootings. She also said no such restrictions barred agencies from sharing information about Hasan. [emphasis mine]

Of course, it doesn’t help when our leaders insist on misleading the world by using euphemisms and, as Roger Simon pointed out, euphemisms of euphemisms about the enemy we are fighting, both overseas as well as at home. And the report rightfully points this out and comes to the conclusion:

“This confirms our concern that DoD, by continuing to avoid the necessity of addressing violent Islamist extremism directly and without ambiguity, is sending a message to the entire military to do the same. It will be more difficult for the military to develop effective approaches to countering violent lslamist extremism if the identity and nature of the enemy cannot be labeled accurately.” [emphasis mine]

Are  “extremists”, “man-caused disasters” and “overseas contingency operations” actually accurate labels of our enemies and our activity around the world? No, of course they are not. But if we want to avoid more “incidents” like “Fort Hood”, we’d all better start calling a spade a spade.