draining the swamp
vze36g5m at VERIZON.NET
Thu Jan 3 21:21:37 UTC 2002
(My Lexis-Nexis access is down; but this is what I've come up with on Dow
Jones. This is just some supporting information, not a claim at antedating,
sourcing or of finding a coinage).
It could have originated as an engineering phrase:
>From the Australian Financial Review, 06/08/1984:
"ENGINEERS HAVE A SAYING WHICH RUNS ALONG THE LINES THAT WHEN YOU ARE UP TO
A CRITICAL PART OF YOUR ANATOMY IN SNAPPING ALLIGATORS IT IS HARD TO
REMEMBER THAT THE ORIGINAL OBJECT OF THE EXERCISE WAS TO DRAIN THE SWAMP."
"Exactly how high will the "alligator index" (as in 'When you're up to your
butt in them, it's long past time to drain the swamp.") get?"
In some circles, it may be related to the "Alligator Allegory," which is
supposedly affiliated with Murphy's Law:
(and many other sites)
The objective of all dedicated product support employees should be to
thoroughly analyze all situations, anticipate all problems prior to
their occurrence, have answers for these problems, and move swiftly to
solve these problems when called upon. However, when you are up to
your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your
initial objective was to drain the swamp."
I suspect the malaria connection is also likely. The phrase itself is not
used, but the idea is clear in this army document "THE ARMY MEDICAL
DEPARTMENT 1865-1917." But as it concerns that large engineering feat, the
Panama Canal, it might be worth looking at.
"Because destroying all infected mosquitoes in the entire Canal Zone was
impossible, the fight to reduce malaria rates required eternal vigilance and
considerable ingenuity. Any time a district physician reported a significant
rise in the number of malaria cases, Le Prince was required to send experts
to assess the situation and pinpoint the cause of the increase. Sometimes it
was determined that the mosquitoes were breeding in a swamp too large to be
dealt with by ordinary methods. "
Standard methods included draining standing water, pouring oil over
containers to smother oil and introducing salt wather that is inhospitable
for the insects.
The earliest citation of "drain the swamp" I can find in the popular news
media in connection to the events of Sept. 11 is from The Times of London,
09/13/2001 , by Michael Gove:
First paragraph: "YOU don't eliminate malaria by swatting mosquitoes. And
the violence unleashed on America yesterday will not be contained, let alone
eradicated, by measures taken against individual terrorists. Tough action is
now required by the West not just against groups of politically motivated
criminals but against the causes of the world's greatest single crime."
Then, near the end of the article:
"Which brings us to the third key point. The only way to end malaria is to
deprive the mosquitoes of their breeding ground. To drain the swamp.
"The marshland in which Islamist terror, including Saddam's prospers, is a
consequence of the wetness of the West. As the Middle East scholar David
Wurmser has pointed out, Islamism was never weaker than after the Gulf War."
The earliest citation I can find in relation to terrorists is from USA
Today, 12/02/1987, by Jim Phillips:
"The USA should learn from Jefferson's example: Punish terrorists, don't
reward them. Military action may not be a realistic option given the ability
of terrorists to conceal themselves within Lebanon's anarchy, but it mustn't
be ruled out. We must help Lebanon's government regain control of its
territory and deny sanctuary to terrorists. To get all the alligators, we
must drain the swamp. "
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