A Geopolitical Public Relations Clusterbumble

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 9, 2014, before the Senate Foreign Relations hearing on "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against IS." (Molly Riley/AP)

Sometimes there isn’t a joke to make. That is, we can’t even say the secret is out because it never really was a secret. Rather, it is a quiet gratification within the spectrum of grim news coming at us from all sides, and once again Americans are sort of late to the party:

Secretary of State John Kerry is a distinguished diplomat with impeccable manners — but that doesn’t mean he’s above lobbing a well-placed insult when it comes to enemies of the United States.

Kerry made clear earlier this week that he is committed to referring to the Islamic State as “Daesh,” a name that the group considers so degrading that it has threatened to kill anyone under Islamic State rule who uses it. The Islamic State’s opponents in the Muslim world have already embraced the name.

So, to the one, yes, as Akbar Shahid Ahmed explains for Huffington Post, them’s fightin’ words. Which is why others have dispensed with the whole ISIS/ISIL question. That is to say, really, this isn’t quite the same as when the Tea Party referred to themselves as “teabaggers”, but there is a similar aspect insofar as Daa’ish has apparently done this to themselves.

“Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase meaning the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (though the last word can also be translated as “Damascus” or “Levant”), and it is thought to offend the extremist group because it sounds similar to an Arabic word for crushing something underfoot.

Daesh in Arabic “sounds like something monstrous. … It’s a way of stigmatizing [the Islamic State], making it something ugly,” Joseph Bahout, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Huffington Post.

Appearing Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss a new congressional authorization of military force, Kerry said the Obama administration sought an authorization “specifically against the terrorist group known as ISIL, though in the region is it called Daesh, and specifically because they believe very deeply it is not a state and it does not represent Islam.”

So, yeah. Keep up. This is about as much as we’re going to get for humor in war.

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Ahmed, Akbar Shahid. “Bye-Bye ‘ISIL’? John Kerry Calling ISIS By Arabic Term It Hates”. The Huffington Post. 11 December 2014.

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