Apparently the US military has been using the phrase "catastrophic success" to describe the Iraq invasion for several months now. The Guardian UK picked up on its usage back in March in their series, "The language of war."
Amid their excitement at taking on a depleted and demoralised Iraqi army, US commanders are talking about sweeping triumphantly into Baghdad in a "catastrophic success". By catastrophe, they do not mean a disaster, because they are dismissing the idea of thousands of civilian casualties. Instead they are using a negative adjective - catastrophic - to emphasise the positive, in the way that anyone under 21 describes something that is "cool" as "wicked."I missed this absurd turn of phrase until this morning, when I read that President Bush had used it in an interview with TIME magazine.
"Had we to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day," Bush said.To call the phrase Orwellian really doesn't do it justice. Try for a moment to appreciate the twisted logic behind it. First, assume that the Iraq invasion was a success. Then add a modifier that will concede that the "success" has come at a cost, without undermining the impact of the positive. But maybe you're thinking, that's ridiculous! How could something be both a success and a catastrophe? Aren't those words mutually exclusive? How could anyone be misled by such a bald faced deception?
Vice presidential candidate John Edwards responded for Kerry and the Democrats. "President Bush now says his Iraq policy is a catastrophic success. He's half right. It was catastrophic to rush to war without a plan to win the peace," he said.
The New York Daily News set the wheels in motion back on July 31 with their story, "Gen. saw chaos coming," a loosely veiled promotion piece for Gen. Tommy Franks' new book.
The U.S. General who routed Saddam Hussein's army in three weeks warned before the invasion that a quick victory could lead to a "catastrophic success" because they were not prepared for postwar anarchy in Iraq.The phrase is catching on, thanks to a docile press that ran a story first run by a newspaper not fit for fish wrap. A search of Google News shows that it has turned up more than 300 times in the past 12 hours, and then not at all until nearly four weeks ago.
They say that in war, the first casualty is truth. The Bush administration is now waging their war for global dominance on the English language. Who will stand up in her defense?