Tuesday, March 29, 2011

George Orwell and the "Improvised Explosive Device"

As Tom Lehrer said, when China successfully detonated a nuclear bomb, the Americans called it a "device."

As George Orwell said:

"Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

"I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

"Here it is in modern English:

"Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."

There's a lesson here people, which is that an "Improvised Explosive Device" - an invention of the Iraq invasion of 2003 - is the same thing as a land mine, the subject of an international treaty known, ironically in this context, as the "Ottawa Convention," unsigned by the United States, whether locally or remotely detonated. It's not new.

The latest Canadian - Yannick Scherrer - to be killed in Afghanistan is reported to have died from an "improvised explosive device." He was killed by a land mine. He was killed in precisely the same area where Canadians have been killed by land mines for the past five years.