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News ::
Persecution of Iraqi Soldiers and Generals? (english)
22 Jan 2003
President Bush makes a dangerous error in word choice, and the national press lets it slip by.
Today, January 22, 2003, George W. Bush continued his tough talk toward Iraq. He was speaking at a warehouse in St. Louis touting his new economic stimulus plan. This time his warnings were aimed at Iraqi soldiers and generals who might see fit to follow orders and use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops or innocent people in Iraq.
Bush said, “Should any Iraqi officer or soldier receive an order from Saddam Hussein or his sons or any of the killers who occupy the high levels of their government, my advice is don't follow that order. If you choose to do so, when Iraq is liberated, you will be treated, tried and persecuted as a war criminal.” (Washingtonpost.com)
The press and television media made no comment about Bush’s word choice of “persecuted,” which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as “1. To oppress or harass with ill-treatment, especially because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs. 2. To annoy persistently; bother.” It is probable that Bush actually meant “prosecuted”, but no one in the news media seems to have acknowledged it as a mistake. If it was not a mistake, certainly this comment was quite inflammatory given the associations people have with persecution. Also, one of the things the U.S. would supposedly like to accomplish in Iraq is a stop to persecution.
Misuse of language is not particularly uncommon in speeches by the President, as is clear upon hearing his pronunciation of “nuclear” (nuk-u-ler), and ordinarily the press’s tolerance of Bush’s less-than-perfect English does not hurt anyone except children who are trying to learn good grammar. But today’s statement was more than just an innocent case of bad pronunciation or grammar. Rather, it implied that persecution is not always a bad thing, and our press and media have an obligation to point out that most Americans are not in favor of the persecution of anyone. Hopefully our president is not trying to persecute Iraqi soldiers, but certainly individuals in our national media have an obligation to call him on this sort of talk, and at least to question him on whether he meant to use the words that he did.
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