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The language of war

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

With due respect for the Australian men and women who have been killed in war and are honoured on Anzac Day, I would like to send out a warning about the loose language of the current war mongering which has taken over sane debate in Australia.

It’s the obfuscation in the language used that upsets me. Does the industrial military complex think the Australian public is too stupid to see through the pompous language of fear-mongering? So that we don’t realise they’re setting us on a path which would only increase the risk of death for our sons and daughters in an international war ahead?

Anzac Day should be the occasion to remember the bravery of our war dead and argue for peace. The holiday should emphasise a need for pacificism between nations, not engage in belligerent chauvinist nationalism!

Tell me what this extract from the so-called ‘Defence’ Forces means to you. Here’s my take below in a glossary I’ve compiled to unravel the dangerous weasel words throughout the next three paragraphs of a Defence statement:

‘The Defence Strategic Review sets the agenda for ambitious, but necessary, reform to Defence's posture and structure.

The Review includes specific directions to Defence with immediate effect, while establishing a methodical and comprehensive process for long-term and sustainable implementation.

The strategic direction and key findings from the Review will strengthen Australia's national security and ensure our readiness for future challenges.’


‘Defence’s posture’ – I’m wondering: bent over, up straight or slouched? And I’m not referring here to a slouch hat;

‘methodical’ – Method in war madness is a dangerous belief;

‘long-term’ – Either meaning within the next five years or Lala land;

‘sustainable’ – The go-to word for 2023 even if it has nothing to do with environmental protection of our planet, quite the opposite;

‘strategic direction’ – Does that mean missiles flying outwards from Australia, not inwards into Australia?;

‘strengthen Australia’s national security’ – Really? Wouldn’t the best way to strengthen Australia’s security be through diplomatic means, especially with China, our biggest export market, rather than military posturing. Yes, that’s the meaning for posturing I was looking for - ‘military posturing’ means poncing about in uniform;

‘ensure’ – Again, really? These actions to buy bigger long-range weapons are more likely to ensure that a world superpower will be far better equipped with such weapons than we’ll ever be.

And what is this ‘capability’ that is to be delivered? With the acquisition of ‘the precision strike missile’, Australia will be able to fire missiles, ranges in excess of 500km,’ according to Defence Industry Minister Conroy.

Well, that’s okay then. Who’d fire back?

And there’s more …

‘These reforms will cut red tape and see Defence become a better partner with industry, which will help deliver the capability …’ say the Minister for Defence, Richard Marles, and the Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy.

How is that reassuring? The veneer of a promise of increasing Australian domestic manufacturing is supposed to make it acceptable? And I thought the expression ‘red tape’ went out with the use of public service paper documents, since you can’t tie red tape around an email or Word Doc. The crucial point of this playing about with hackneyed language is to produce fear and annoyance at a time when we need more public servants, not fewer, to deliver better services of all kinds to our citizens – to reduce the blockages caused by automation which has overtaken simple interactions between citizens and public servants. For example, let’s return to phone or face-to-face conversations instead of constantly seeing or hearing the one-way message: ‘Go online to our website’.

Marles called for recasting, re-posturing, redefining and reprioritising. I wonder why there’s a hyphen in the word ‘re-posturing’ and not the others? So it stands out, perhaps?

And don't let me get started on the AUKUS agreement, set up for Australia to buy ultra-expensive, and by then outdated, nuclear-powered submarines. Which is worse - the condensed acronym, the sound of which disappoints because it's not, after all, about a pod of graceful orcas, or its puerile submissive purpose?

Finally, I hope you didn’t miss Marles’ singular statement about how ‘the Australian Defence Force’s representation at the new King’s Coronation demonstrates its tireless commitment to the Crown.’

Let’s hope we, the populace, will soon have a say in whether we want that ‘tireless commitment’ to the ‘Crowned’ monarchy of the former Empire to sully our democratic ideals over yet another century.

CV Williams

Copyright text: cv williams; photos: abc news & mfsprout



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