From Ancient Greece to Modern Times

In Robin Tolmach Lakoff’s “From Ancient Greece to Iraq, the Power of Words in Wartime,” the author depicts the degrading connotation that military soldiers reference the opposing side. Lakoff argues that soldiers dehumanize “enemies” in order to justify their unjust actions (1). Soldiers will “refer to an Iraqi prisoner as ‘it,'” as a sufficient coping mechanism when the torture or killing is to follow (1). An “it” is something someone may call an insect that they can so easily step on and kill because there is no profiling to the insect. “It” is not granted enough credit to be anything other than a disgusting, creepy-crawling thing that pesters around. Soldiers instate such slang for the comfort of justifiable living.

The author specifically references the wars in the past and present to validate¬†that actions have yet to change. The phrase “history repeats itself” is clearly evident. Lakoff explains that in World War I,”the British gave the Germans the nickname ‘Jerries,'” (1). The word itself is stated on as “a German soldier;” however, it is self-evident that this word denounces a German soldier. The word collectively portrays that specific group for the prime purpose to make killing justifiable. They wouldn’t be killing a German soldier, they would be killing a Jerry – so technically no harm, no foul. That, in my opinion, is not the case. I understand that killing is only used when we need protection; however, if someone is to commit the act, they should be content with knowing it was for their own protection. There should not be any slang that dehumanizes the victim just so the murderer can sleep soundly at night. The murderer – and I say that term very loosely – should be comfortable to sleep at night knowing he took a life for the right reason. Yes, took a life. He did not kill a “‘handjis,'” but an actual human being (2). Too often in life do we degrade those around us to get “a sense of superiority and control,” (1). If your local judge or even a Supreme Judge, along with Congressmen, can look at you right in the face and call you a fellow American or citizen knowing the death penalty still exists and he has granted approval for the death, our soldiers should not be able to dehumanize another country. The judges can sleep soundly because they know their actions are just. If the soldiers can’t sleep at night, maybe their actions aren’t just.



  1. K · September 11, 2015

    I agree with your thought process on the understanding of what people are doing during the war. I understand that people need that to cope but if the soldiers are not going into the war understanding they will be expected to kill then they should not be in the war. I cannot help but think people are not prepared for that aspect of the war. The amount of death and torture people see in the war is not fully acknowledged before hand.


  2. morgannporter · September 11, 2015

    You make an excellent point about killing someone for the right reason. There is absolutely no need for people to degrade others to that extent. There should not be any degrading whatsoever. Soldiers need to acknowledge the fact that they are murdering these people for an acceptable and righteous reason.


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