TIMOTHY NOAH OCTOBER 28, 2011
The Defense department is no stranger to euphemism, starting with its name (which used to be "War department"). If the Pentagon truly confined itself to providing defense then presumably we wouldn't need a whole separate government agency to provide "Homeland Security." The best-publicized recent creepy example of DoD euphemism is the term "kinetic warfare," which manages to make the killing of other human beings sound like performance art. It first gained traction during the presidency of George W. Bush and went viral in the Obama era.
But God bless drone warfare. I guess because it's still so new, the DoD functionaries who get to name drones haven't yet forgotten how to call a spade a spade. There was little reason to doubt what a "Predator" drone intended to do. But I guess that just wasn't blunt enough. So when time came in 2006 to name its successor, "Reaper" carried the day. (Its builder, General Atomics Aeronautical, more demurely prefers to call it the Predator B.) I'm pretty sure "Reaper" is not intended as a tribute to the great American inventor Cyrus McCormick. When the Reaper reaches the end of its useful life will DoD call its successor the Assassin? The Yippee-Ki-Yay Motherfucker? Maybe euphemism isn't such a bad way to go after all.