"Collateral Damage"

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Jan 18 20:19:55 UTC 2002

(apologies if I sent a blank e-mail ahead of this time---I hit the wrong

"Collateral damage" supposedly is a US Armed Forces term (although in my
experience it is used almost exclusively by reporters) meaning "civilian
casualties."  The phrase became well-known with the Gulf War (actually during
Desert Shield, the build-up for the Gulf War).  Since the US Armed Forces
have not been deliberately targeting civilians (else there would have been a
lot more civilian dead in the last decade!), the implication of "collateral
damage" is "unintentional casualties" or "unfortunate casualties".

>From two news articles on the collapse of Enron:

David Wessel "The America That Says 'No'"  _Wall Street Journal_ January 17,
2002, page A1 column 5:  "Enron...was more like junk-bond pioneer Drexel
Burnham Lambert, a case in which the Treasury and Fed [Federal Reserve] coped
with collateral damage but didn't save the firm."

Allan Sloan "Who Killed Enron"  _Newsweek_ January 21, 1902, page 19 column 3:
"The collateral damage keeps spreading." followed by sentences describing
victims, presumably of the collateral damage in the quoted sentence (Arthur
Andersen, Wall Street's credibility, utility deregulation, and "impoverished,
unemployed Enronians".

Two observations:
1) "collateral damage" is being used, not as a euphemism, but as a
descriptive phrase, meaning (financial) damage to those collaterally involved
in the business collapse (lenders, stockholders, other creditors, i.e. people
who did not cause the business collapse but who ended up suffering financial
losses because of it)

2) the people who suffer the "collateral damage" are not the innocent
bystanders implied by the (alleged) military use of the term, but rather
people who were involved in the company as lenders, stockholders, etc.  They
were not random victims of a war that was not supposed to come to them, but
rather had made of their own free will the decision to put money into or to
accept employment from Enron.

               - Jim Landau

P.S. I doubt if either of the quoted authors realized it, but there is a
far-fetched play on words.  The victims who had loaned money to Enron
suffered damage (or destruction) to their "collateral".

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