I nearly gagged on my coffee this morning when I opened the Oregonian and was hit with the paper's front-page banner headline:
How we got bin Laden
The only thing lacking was an exclamation mark.
"We"? Is that the editorial "we"? The editorial board "got" bin Laden?
Is that "we," as in "We, the People"? American citizens? I suppose our taxes had something to do with "the getting." Don't they always? Do we hold ourselves accountable? Do we take pride in "our" accomplishment? Was this really money well spent in our names? One wonders how much it cost? Billions certainly.
A more precise description of events leading up to what happened early Monday morning in Abbottabad would highlight the work of a few dozen brave Navy Seals and a small army of intelligence officers. Might they be a tad more "deserving of the credit" (if those are the right words) than "we" are?
Then there's the little matter of the verb "got."
"How we got bin Laden."
If we "got" him, where is he?
No, let's face it, "got" is a euphemism for "killed." During the Vietnam War the military used "neutralized," but they weren't fooling anyone. "Got" is just as bad.
Why couldn't The Oregonian bring itself to write the truth? "How the US stalked and killed bin Laden."
On the next page, on a "FactCheck" column, appropriately enough, the headline writer gets it right, sort of.
Operation began years ago, but credit Obama for the kill
If I'm not mistaken, the use of the word "kill" as a noun appears in stories about fighter pilots in combat. They get credited for "kills." Technically Obama shouldn't get that credit. He didn't literally pull the trigger although he certainly ordered that it be pulled.
Clearly the assassination of Osama bin Laden has put many of us in alien rhetorical and moral territory.
The Oregonian, like us, is groping for words to describe a looking glass world of death, subterfuge and destruction.
Labels: headlines, Osama bin Laden, rhetoric, The Oregonian