Much has been written about the vicissitudes of counterinsurgency as a crucial complement to counterterrorism in the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2005. Such a strategy necessarily depends on the mastery of local languages by way of translation. This essay focuses on the military’s attempt to convert language, both its own and those of others, into a weapon of counterinsurgency. It delves into such tactics as the training of soldiers in foreign languages, the attempts to develop automatic translation systems, and the protocols for the conduct of native translators. It also inquires into the limits of such tactics and the unintended effects of their deployment. Finally, it asks if it is possible to grasp the workings of an alternative mode of translation that in evading militarized speech gives rise to a questioning of the ethics and politics of translation in wartime.

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