Much is being made of PC and the enemy after the Massacre at Fort Hood. Who knew what? And why were the right people not notified of Shooter Hasan’s nefarious activities on the internet? Why didn’t someone report his interaction with patients and colleagues? The answer to these questions has not yet been determined but the powers-that-be have called called for answers. The President wants a preliminary report by November 30. Senator Joe Lieberman has called for a Senate investigation.

Americans are right to ask these questions. We are at war and we are at war with an enemy that is without a nation. There is a good chance that the enemy is everywhere.

Some of us here on Anti have been watching the 10 hour series WWII in HD this week. We were at war with nations–nations that had borders and boundaries. There were nebulous areas, like our internment of Japanese Americans, but that is a shameful story for another day. We have heard the enemy called Japs and Krauts for 10 hours.

People nowadays would not think of calling a Japanese person a Jap (or nip or any of the other pejorative names American servicemen had for the enemy). We wouldn’t call a German a Kraut. Or would we? My relatives who were alive during WWII sure would still do it. So would many people I know who were of the ‘greatest generation.’

So are these people wrong? Are they politically incorrect? Is it wrong to have a slang nick name for an enemy in times of war? And once the war is over, when do we have to stop calling them by these nick names? Is it something special that those of the generation get to do? Is it okay as long as the last veteran of the era lives? I thought of that as I heard the old veterans talk of their service. I don’t know the right answer. Other opinions?

38 Thoughts to “PC and the Enemy”

  1. JustinT

    M-H, that is one heck of a post. I won’t say I know either but I’m proud to live in a country where we strive to protect everyone’s rights regardless of their skin color or religion, even in times of war. We haven’t always gotten it right with mistakes in both directions, but at least we admit our mistakes and keep striving for perfection.

  2. Wolverine

    Moon-howler, time for a “greatest generation” story. Some years ago, I was once leading a meeting with some Japanese counterparts. I had with me an elderly gentleman, an expert in the field under discussion. I noticed during the meeting that this gentleman was unusually quiet and somewhat fidgety. Later, after the meeting, he came up to me and asked that I not include him in meetings like that in the future. When I asked why, he said it was all he could do to refrain from getting up and jumping across the table at our Japanese friends. It turns out that he was one of those American heroes who flew over The Hump from Burma into war-torn China to aid the Chinese against the army of Imperial Japan. According to him, he saw so much bloodshed and horror inflicted on the Chinese people that he never could get over the nightmares and could never find it in his heart to forgive the Japanese, even though they were now a different generation and our good friends and allies. You cannot erase that man’s memories any more than you can erase the horror for GI’s when they were among those to liberate the death camps in Europe. Allowances have to be made, in my opinion. However, I must say that I have not heard many elderly Americans use those pejorative names lately for either the Japanese or the Germans. It may already be largely a thing of history.

  3. 90% of them are dead might be the reason. My parents sure did use the war terms.

    That is a great greatest generation story for sure. It doesn’t surprise me though at all. Almost all of the greatest generation that I knew hated the Japanese worse than the Germans. Pearl Harbor, Bataan Death March and general treatment of POWs seem to motivate the hatred. There is probably a lot of stuff I wasnt told also.

    Somehow the people I knew were able to compartmentalize the German soldiers away from the SS and special forces types. The true N-zis. My father spent some time escorting and guarding German and Italian POWs. I remember him saying that the Germans were arrogant but that’s a pretty mild statement, all things considered.

    I am not sure that there is an answer to this question.

  4. Second-Alamo

    If I understand the question correctly you’re asking if it is ok to call an enemy by a slang name while we are fighting them. To rephrase the question is it ok to kill the enemy, but not to call them names? War is hell they say, and name calling hardly seems to be that bad in comparison. I’d say while you’re fighting them call them anything you want, except civilian criminals, but then reframe from that when there is finally ‘peace’. It’s probably in the fine print in the peace agreement anyway since people are so sensitive these days!

  5. Starryflights

    When I was in Iraq, I often heard our soldiers and even civilians refer to any Iraqi as a “Haj.” Even black soldiers called them Haj. The use of such terms has not ended.

  6. Second-Alamo

    Think about it, if we can refer to our president as a moron or idiot as part of our free speech, then calling people who are trying to do us harm by some derogatory slang name is fair game in my book. Besides, I wasn’t aware that anyone was upset over it. This must have come out of some sensitivity training session somewhere.

  7. kelly3406

    “Americans are right to ask these questions. We are at war and we are at war with an enemy that is without a nation. There is a good chance that the enemy is everywhere.”

    We SHOULD be at war, but remember that Obama ended the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism). I agree that the name was always a problem (how can you be at war with a tactic?), but the fact that we were fighting Islamists as part of the GWOT was not in question. Since Obama “ended” the war, he has not replaced it with anything else.

    That’s why the government has switched from a strategy of holding enemy combatants to putting criminals on trial. The justification for holding prisoners of war (albeit illegal combatants) has ended. So now each incident has to be treated as a separate crime rather than for what it really is, which is an individual skirmish in a protracted, strategic war against America.

    The implications of Obama’s early natinional security decisions (end GWOT, close GITMO, etc.) are now becoming more clear to the public.

  8. Rick Bentley

    It has to be said that both the Germans and the Japanese were big believers in their own racial superiority, and prone to slaghtering people not of their race, and that’s why a war was underway. Slurs used against them are probably a natural reaction to what they were doing.

  9. Lafayette

    My redneck neighbor from Luray that married a German lady during the Korean War still calls his wife “the ole Kraut”. He did this yesterday while updating me on his wife’s three week long stay at the hospital.

    I agree with Second Alamo at 6:53.

  10. Mando

    Anybody remember some of the old Looney Toon cartoons? They’d probably be considered right-wing racist hate propaganda today.

  11. Mando

    Here’s a good one:

  12. Mando

    Even Popeye got in on the action:

  13. Yeah, those old cartoons are some of the most un-PC things still alive and kicking.

    Since I can’t say what I might call someone who has a gun to my head, I reserve judgment about war-time language.

    Off the battlefields, however, we should try to speak of one another as human beings as opposed to an evil, vile person representing an entire cultural heritage which we demonize via generalization.

  14. SA, I promise you I didn’t go to sensitivity class. Far from it. I was raised by my parents who weren’t PC on this subject at all. It was just a question I thought about in the wake of Fort Hood and WWII in HD. No one PC was whispering in my ear.

    On another note, I think probably the occupation forces after WWII did a great deal to put a face on an enemy. I know my uncle who spent several years in Japan after the war came back with a very different attitude after getting to know the real people of Japan. I think it always grated on my parents nerves that he saw good things in the culture.

  15. PAP, but at what point to we cut it off? Should the older gentleman in Wolverine’s story be told to to lighten up or should his wishes be respected? When is a culture asked to just get over it and move on?

    The Armenians still demonstrated in the 2000’s because of genocide at the hands of the Turks during WWI. Some of this conflict goes on for centuries.

  16. Witness Too

    The problem with racial slurs being substituted for action to keep our country safe is that after a while you start to channel your animosity toward the race of your enemy, instead of fact that you’re at war with them.

    I think the pet name for your wife thing is okay. But to refer to total strangers in a derogatory and racist way is not okay.

    M-H, I thought your bigger question was about how Muslim American soldiers should be treated. That’s a hard one. I’m glad all I have to deal with is whether or not racial slurs can be justified. That’s easy.

    I would like to think the same standards could be applied to all soldiers regardless of religion AND we could keep our country and our soldiers safe. There were a lot of warning signs about Hasan that had nothing do to with religion.

  17. The 2 issues sort of exist side by side, Witness. We certainly have done a serious 180 degrees in 60 years.

    Mando, Mr. Howler confirmed that he watched those loony tunes and Popeye cartoons all the time and that they were shown up into the 50s. I must have seen them too. Even though I don’t remember them being that specific, I do remember the buck teeth and the Japanese enemy at some point. But when I was a kid, all movies had a cartoon and a news reel as part of the movie experience, before the feature length started.

    The Popeye cartoon certainly captured the suicide experience that our troops looked on with such distain as well as the sneak attack thing. Question for Mando: Did the government have those produced or was that the sole work of the Popeye producers?

  18. Witness, I will have to say, as a boomer, I don’t think that race was an underlying agent in the WWII slurs. I never got that impression. It was all about behavior. Hell, the ‘krauts’ were the same race. I also never got the idea that ‘kraut’ and ‘jap’ were horribly bad slurs. Those were just the words used to describe the enemy.

    I never condemned McCain for saying ‘Gook.’ It was the enemy slur of the war he was in. He was a POW for 5 years in the Hanoi Hilton. You don’t just get over that overnight.

  19. Starryflights :When I was in Iraq, I often heard our soldiers and even civilians refer to any Iraqi as a “Haj.” Even black soldiers called them Haj. The use of such terms has not ended.

    “haj” is the bastardization of an Arabic term “Hajee” meaning one who has gone on the Haj or Pilgrimage to Mecca. Around the Middle East, Hajee is often used as a friendly term to address an older man that you know.

    Having a total stranger call you that is not a major insult, but is pretty rude, like walking up to an old man you don’t know and saying “hey geezer.”

  20. I wonder how many German Jews, Swedes, Danes and Poles were called kraut and how many Chinese, South East asians and Hawiians were called Japs while walking the streets of America during war time?

    That’s the problem with refering to your enemy under racial slurs, because you can’t always tell them apart from your friends unless you grew up around minorities or are well educated.

    I’ve seen people on this forum refer to terrorist’s as Arabs, when in fact they are equally composed of Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Maghrabies, Egytpians, Turks, Albanians, Uighurs, South East Asians, Africans and any number of converts from Europe and the America’s.

    Islamist terrorism represents a small sample of Muslim’s from around the world, and is much harder to wipe out if you decide to insult all Muslims in a show of patriotism.

  21. Those names were not racial slurs. They dealt with nationality.

    Terrorists do not have a political geography that binds them to a nation. If people have said Arab terrorists, is it possible they mean Arab terrorists rather than some other kind of terrorist? I am not sure who you are defending Rob. Arab is just too generic of a word for me. I am not sure who Arabs are. The first Arab I knew was Christian.

  22. @Moon-howler

    History books may say they dealt with nationality, but there were a lot of Americans who saw “slanted eyes” and instantly thought “jap” or heard the word “Vindow” used to say window and instantly thought “Kraut.”

    The whole thing is dumb… having a loose slang term to call your enemy just shows that you are capable of living under the lowest common denominator…name callin.

    The question is, does calling people japs, nips, gooks, crauts, dune koons, camel jockies, sand ni##er’s and muzzies really give you a moral advantage over your enemy and win the war any faster?

    I don’t think it does, but everyone is entitled to their own maturity level when it comes to hate.

  23. Moon-howler :
    PAP, but at what point to we cut it off?

    One of the hazards of war is that we learn to dehumanize one another, verbally and otherwise. So it would be difficult for vets to just turn this stuff off, especially if they have been saying it for years. (I one referred to someone who said he “learned” to constantly swear while enlisted as having “military mouth” because he couldn’t stop once he got out of the military.)

    I know the military is different now in that they do have classes on cultural sensitivity, especially for those deployed overseas. I don’t know how successful these are, but it’s a start anyway. Does anyone know what these classes cover?

  24. How else do you get perfectly decent people to go out and kill an enemy that they don’t know? Seriously here, it isn’t the human condition with many of us to just go around machine gunning down as many people as possible, regardless of which war.

    Having an unflattering name for the enemy is something soldiers have done since the beginning of time, I expect. To say that those chaps who gave their lives to defeat an enemy were immature just isn’t right.

    I have nothing to go on but history books and my own conversations with people who lived through the times. What else is there?

  25. I am not sure you need to dehumanize to get people to serve in the military, MH. People who wish to serve usually believe they are defending our nation. They may not want to kill people, but they may believe at the moment, it’s the only way. I think it’s unfair to suggest that soldiers dehumanize people, at least consistently (excluding sociopaths who just love to kill). Many soldiers have PTSD because they have had to kill someone.

    Most soldiers would prefer to be home and out of harm’s way.

    There’s a quote from a famous General about most soldiers wanting peace. Wish I could find it or remember who said it. Now I have to look that up.

  26. Here’s one, however–

    General Douglas MacArthur:

    I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.

  27. Elena

    rod2155 :@Moon-howler
    History books may say they dealt with nationality, but there were a lot of Americans who saw “slanted eyes” and instantly thought “jap” or heard the word “Vindow” used to say window and instantly thought “Kraut.”
    The whole thing is dumb… having a loose slang term to call your enemy just shows that you are capable of living under the lowest common denominator…name callin.
    The question is, does calling people japs, nips, gooks, crauts, dune koons, camel jockies, sand ni##er’s and muzzies really give you a moral advantage over your enemy and win the war any faster?
    I don’t think it does, but everyone is entitled to their own maturity level when it comes to hate.

    Good post Rod. I would agree.

    The bigger issue is how do we reconile our fear of extreme Islam and its misuse by a few with the democratic principal of treating others with equality unless our until they prove otherwise. It boils down to the old simple Golden Rule, which, by the way, can be quite challenging to live by when the world feels like it can be turned upside down in a blink of an eye.

    If there are 1.5 billion muslims in the world and 1% mean to bring us harm, that is a huge number, but in the scheme of the religion as a whole, it means the majority of Muslims don’t feel that way. Just an observation, not based on any science, just a thought to ponder. We can’t allow a few bad apples to ruin an entire religion.

  28. PAP, I just saw my typo. grrrrrrrr.

    I still ask the question, how do you get the average citizen to follow orders, be the first over the hill for a concept like ‘country’, and mow down other human beings with guns or slice and dice them with edged weapons? How does this work?

    It would seem to me that you would have to demonize the enemy.

    Our recent wars have been wars where we wanted to win people over in addition to blowing some brains out. That’s part of the problem. I am of the mind you either go in and win the hearts and minds OR you go blow some brains out. Mixing the two up just doesn’t work.

  29. @Moon-howler
    I think you have to get them to stop thinking and stop feeling. You teach them to just react. Isn’t that what boot camp is all about–all that “give me 500, dirtbag” stuff?

    Don’t worry about typos. I’m in bad-writing mode today anyway.

  30. Plus, it’s easier to remove yourself from it if you are, say, dropping a bomb.

    War, no matter how you put it, is horrible. It ruins people from the inside out, and even those with the most noble intentions sometimes get sucked into ways of thinking that would have horrified them prior to fighting.

  31. Or ways of NOT thinking, as it may be.

    Sorry to ramble.

  32. I think a certain amount of dehumanizing goes on towards an enemy. You sure don’t put a face on the enemy. Did you happen to watch the WWII series or Band of Brothers? It was very clear that the men wanted to think of them as krauts, gerries, japs or whatever other names they had for the enemy rather than to think of them as boys just like them.

    I am speaking of being at war, not peace time or plain military service. In peacetime, there is no enemy to dehumanize. However, we sure did do a good job on the commies and anyone else who might become a warfare enemy.

    It might have been Lee you were thinking of. I cannot stand McArthur. Every time I hear about him being taken out of the Phillipines and all those troops left there and tortured, it makes me sick. He was arrogant enough to think he could ignore the commander in chief also.

  33. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Say, not to change the subject, but where did we leave off with Man-Made Climate Change? 🙂

  34. @Moon-howler Now I know what you mean about dehumanizing, MH. I guess I didn’t think of not putting a face to the enemy as dehumanizing. I mean, it IS, but I was thinking more along the lines of people thinking of other people as, say, rats to be exterminated.

    You know more about McArthur than I do. What happened in the Phillipines?

  35. PaP, I actually don’t know many details. I have always just thought he was too arrogant. He was removed from duty as a general for publically disagreeing with Harry Truman. I am probably unfair about him.

    He fought in 3 major wars. Or commanded.

    Not putting a face on the enemy is pretty damn dehumanizing. I don’t think regular forces feel the need to exterminate civilians or POWs.

  36. Wolverine

    Moon-howler — I believe that MacArthur was flat out ordered by Roosevelt to leave the Philippines when it became clear that not even Corregidor could be defended for long. He obeyed the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, although some say he was very reluctant to do so. There are those who opine that MacArthur was to blame for not seizing the opportunity right after Pearl Harbor to prepare the Philippines for the expected Japanese attack; but I personally doubt that anything he might have done would have made much of a difference in the eventual outcome. I prefer to think that America itself was at fault for our lack of forethought and preparedness with regard to the Japanese.

    I think that you actually have to have been in battle with your life at stake to really understand or even criticize soldiers for using derogatory language to describe the enemy. I don’t believe that Americans in general have ever been “natural-born killers” or given to the idea of a “warrior race.” Heck, many, many of our ancestors came here in the first place to escape military conscription in Europe, especially given the seemingly endless wars on the Continent. One of ours was a Prussian cavalry officer from a wealthy family who deserted in order to emigrate to America because of the militaristic nature of Prussia under Bismarck. (Ironically, one of his grandsons, an American lieutenant of infantry, died sixty miles from the Siegfried Line in 1944 while trying to save a wounded comrade on the battlefield, cut down by tank fire from the soldiers of the “Fatherland” and later awarded posthumously the American Cross of Valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. That young man came from a family of immigrant “Krauts”, so to speak, who had suffered much discrimination because of the anti-German sentiment in America in 1917-1918. There you have the story of America.)

    Anyway, I have always thought that, since Americans on the whole do not especially cotton to killing fellow humans in warfare, it takes some sort of dehumanization of the enemy to get them fully into battle mode so that the face in the trench across from them becomes an enemy and not just a scared, young man like themselves. It has helped that our enemies have often dehumanized themselves, so to speak, by their own actions and atrocities. An example? Late in the Second World War, a U.S. Army unit was sweeping across Bavaria when its forward elements came to a railroad junction. On the tracks sat boxcars filled with dead and emaciated corpses of Jews. The American troops were stunned. They followed the railroad tracks until they came to a death camp which had not yet been completely evacuated by the SS and where a number of prisoners and SS guards still remained. The American soldiers went berserk at the sight of the camp, seizing the German guards, placing them up against a wall, and executing them summarily with machine gun fire. It did not stop until American officers arrived and intervened.

    In a war like that, how can one expect to avoid the use of derogatory terms for the enemy. That does not surprise me one bit. What does surprise me is how fast most Americans (but not all) got over the extreme bias to a considerable extent after the war. The Athenians burned Troy to the ground. The Romans not only destroyed Carthage but sowed salt on the earth to keep that city state from ever rising again. The army of the Holy Roman Empire not only destroyed almost all of Magdeburg but slaughtered most of the Protestant inhabitants. The armies of the Spanish Duke of Alba levelled the Dutch city of Haarlem in a fearful slaughter. An order was sent from Berlin in 1944 to burn Paris if the city looked to be in danger of falling to the Allies (the German commander did not obey that order). And us? We were instrumental in rebuilding both Germany and Japan. Not half bad in my book.

  37. Thanks, Wolverine, for saying some of what I was trying to say ever so much more eloquently. I obviously have not been in battle but I listened to those who have been.

    Nothing I can add to your excellent mini-essay! Thanks!

  38. Poor Richard

    PC? You want PC?
    Try the nuevo brand of Lou “Amigo” Dobbs

    “Former CNN anchor Lou Dobs, pondering a future in politics, is trying to wipe
    away his image as an enemy of Latino immigrants by positioning himself
    as a champion of the fast growing ethnic group … he told Telemundo he
    now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers.”

    No, not in the Onion – in the Wall St. Journal

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