"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." So wrote George Orwell, in phrases often invoked during the Vietnam war, when the Pentagon invented "pacification" to describe deadly military maneuvers and referred to "collateral damage" when civilians were among those killed. This week, students of political rhetoric are circling around the latest high-profile linguistic maneuver by the Clinton Administration, which is applying a new term to countries including Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Instead of being called "Rogue States," they are now to be "States of Concern."
Does that mean they're less dangerous or threatening than they used to be? What does it tell us about the use of language by public officials?