- Released October 10, 2008
By Marcus Raskin and Devin West
"Collateral damage" is a euphemism used by U.S. military officials to mask large levels of death and destruction. This report uncovers its true meaning.
For decades, U.S. military officials have used the euphemism “collateral damage” to refer to the deaths of civilians and destruction of property that resulted from military operations. As a public relations device, this term has helped mask the true toll of aggressive actions and given the impression that any harm inflicted was purely unintentional. Military officials also repeatedly assert that they make every effort to minimize these accidental results. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated in an ABC interview shortly after the Iraq invasion in 2003, “Our preference is, as a country, to have as little collateral damage as possible.” However the reality is that the U.S. military has made very little effort to avoid massive destruction in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in some cases, policies and practices seem intended to drive up the level of devastation.