Media Analysis

The U.S. did not ‘take out’ Qasem Soleimani. It ‘killed’ or ‘assassinated’ him

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One of the disgusting features of the U.S. effort to provoke conflict with Iran is the widespread use of the euphemism “take him out” instead of “kill” or “assassinate” to characterize the death of General Qasem Soleimani. Those Americans who employ it include not just Trump acolytes, but politicians from both parties, TV reporters, and others who should know better.

Just yesterday evening, the top anchor at the CBS Evening News, Norah O’Donnell, used it in an interview with Vice President Mike Pence. Vox uses it. NPR does. Evan Osnos of the New Yorker says it, and so does Terry Gross, on “Fresh Air.” Democrats do it. And Republicans.

The euphemism has an ugly history. In the late 1970s I reported from Rhodesia, the white minority-ruled nation in southern Africa that eventually won independence as Zimbabwe. Back then, the young white “troopies” who waged a bitter 7-year fight against the national liberation movement regularly boasted of “taking out” the black guerrillas who opposed them. From there, the euphemism migrated, possibly spread by war correspondents who like to talk tough, and today you hear it everywhere in connection with Iran. 

Most obviously, “take him out” is used by people who are either too squeamish or too biased to admit that what the United States did was “kill” someone. But the euphemism has an additional implied meaning, an arrogant swagger. You are really saying that the people your government kills are not fully human. 

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Thanks for saying this. Swagger has been a bane of our foreign policy for a long time. I recall the neocons before the second invasion of Iraq. I recall, for example, a press conference a couple of days before the attack started. A reporter asked Junior’s press secretary why the hurry: Iraq had been cooperating with inspections, which were going on until the U.S. effectively told the inspectors to get out or be killed. No… Read more »

The late great George Carlin on the use of euphemisms:

Anyone for a little enhanced interrogation?

“Targeted killing” is another base euphemism. I noticed Susan Rice using it the other day in the first paragraph of her article in the NYT, and, sickened, read no further. The word “kill” does appear in this phrase, but it’s the word “targeted” that is the operative one – making the killing seem somehow the result of rational and careful (perhaps even lawful) forethought. An equivalent phrase would be “premeditated killing”, but we all know… Read more »

I think the expression comes from treating a conflict as a board game. If you play chess or checkers or go and you capture a piece you ‘take it out’ — remove it from the game. The fact that you achieve that by killing is unimportant.

Watching Trump [The godfather]and his Generals [made men] at the Press conference felt like I was watching ‘the scum of the earth’ It would be understandable if the Iranians have contracts out on all of them. I hope those scumbags are soon sleeping with the fishes.