June 26, 2004


Henley's right about "homicide bomber," of course (I always preferred "human bomb," myself.) But since we're getting rid of stupid turns of phrase, it's worth pointing out another extremely stupid one, frequently used by the same people: Cato's final sentence in so many speeches: "Carthago delenda est."

People who use this seem to take it as a short-hand for virtuous single-mindedness, of the kind we need in dealing with the Middle East now, which is appalling to anyone who knows their history. Neither the Carthaginians nor the Romans were anything to rank highly in the annals of human virtue, but the simple fact is this... the Second Punic War had reduced Carthage to little more than one city on the coast of Tunisia. They'd lost all their possessions, were entirely at Rome's military mercy, and had no realistic aspirations of a renewal, only a long decline. In a public safety sense, Carthage did not threaten Romans in any way. But Cato was a greedy and envious man, and Carthage was still commercially strong and wealthy. For purely capitalistic reasons then, it had to be destroyed, its peoples enslaved, and its ground salted. Not to protect Rome, but to elevate it. The decision to launch the Third Punic War wasn't just pre-emptive, or even punitive. It was a viciously ruthless act of genocide by what had become an amoral hegemony for purely economic reasons.

You can conclude only one of two things about anyone who uses "Carthago delenda est" on their blog or writing without a great big truckload of irony: one, they're an idiot; or two, they're exactly the kind of bloodthirsty the-globe-belongs-to-Halliburton monster that antiwar types (almost always) wrongly caricature those who favoured the war against Saddam as. Of course, those two possibilities wouldn't be mutually exclusive.

Posted by BruceR at 08:43 PM