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Abstract

In his paper, "Collateral Damage and the 'Incident' at Haditha," Tom Engelhardt provides a comparative analysis of the massacres of innocent civilians in the Viet Nam and Iraqi wars. Focusing on the events of My Lai, Haditha, Abu Ghraib, and Fallujah, Engelhardt traces the uncanny resemblance between the ways that the military attempted to contain the flow of information about these atrocities. Engelhardt analyzes the rhetorical tropes of media coverage via the favored terms of "collateral damage" and "incident" and the preferred statistics that always claim that 99.9% of the military conducts itself professionally. The fact that the media not only accepts but also promotes such specious terms and statistics has dire consequences for the public's ability to make sense of the atrocities of war. Engelhardt's analysis reveals how the practice of war and the language it depends on create a mass of unknowable enemies that are easy to kill and even easier to forget.

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