8 May, 2004: A patter of incidents

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So then, that Iraq, eh? We've sodded that up right bad, haven't we?

I supported the war -- just -- because the general idea of using military force to get rid of dictators, when circumstances permit, is appealing, and maintaining the alliance between the United States and Britain is probably worth its price too. But more importantly, it had never occurred to me that Britain and the United States could invade a country thousands of miles away with the intention of destroying its government and have no plan at all for what to do next.

(As an aside, whatever the government's publicity material said, nobody sensible really believed that Iraq had chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in 2003. And I should remind you that, should you now be moved to say something about the threat of `weapons of mass destruction', you are a priori not sensible, for reasons I needn't repeat. Neither did the war against Iraq have anything to do with `terrorism' in the September 11th sense, however much the United States is keen to define local Iraqi insurgencies as `terrorism'.)

My anti-war friends have typically responded to my surprise about the cack-handedness of Coalition plans for post-war Iraq by saying, roughly, ``Of course they had no idea what to do next -- what did you expect?''

This time round it turns out that they were correct. However, I have a horrible feeling that many of these people would have said the same about almost any exercise of military force. It's just a pity that in the two most recent cases -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- they have turned out to be correct. Nobody asks them about Sierra Leone or the Falklands.

Anyway, I was going to write a long rant about Iraq, but the more I think about it the more I get angry about the use of language in arguments about the war. So, instead, I present,

Your handy, no-bullshit vocabulary guide to the War against Iraq

Don't say Do say Because
war on Iraq
war in Iraq
war against Iraq
invasion of Iraq
People who use the former want us to believe that the invasion was the moral and military equivalent of (say) liberating France in 1944. But it isn't. We invaded a sovereign nation to overthrow its government. A better analogy would be invading Italy in 1943; Mussolini wasn't as brutal as Saddam, but he was about as useless at foreign policy. Anyone who tries to make an equivalence between Saddam's Iraq and Hitler's Germany is an idiot and should be treated as such.
war on terror nothing at all, please for god's sake Remember when we had a war on drugs, and now there aren't any drugs any more? This is the same. If you use the term `war on terror' in seriousness, please for god's sake stay away from me and other right-thinking people.
terrorist insurgent
resistance fighter etc.
While some of what the Iraqi resistance are doing could in another context sensibly be described as `terrorism', that word is now far too loaded to use unless you really mean al-Qaeda or some other established group of murderers. Now when you say `terrorist', people think of September 11th, al-Qaeda's plan to destroy Western civilisation, and George Bush's `war on terror'.
abuse torture Speak English, man!
detainee prisoner
contractor mercenary, unless you're actually talking about an electrician or something, in which case say that
withdraw abandon
weapons of mass destruction
whichever of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons you actually mean; if you don't know, shut up See rants passim.
winning hearts and minds
whatever the soldiers are actually doing, for instance ``imprisoning and torturing prisoners'', ``handing over control of a major city to one of Saddam's generals'' or whatever There's no peace to keep yet.
Mission Accomplished nothing at all You are probably George Bush.

Right, that's enough Newspeak for now. Any other suggestions? Stick 'em in the comments, please.


Since I haven't written anything here for a bit, some random updates. Chris Brooke encourages us to classify things as to whether they're splendid, meaning `coherent, and I approve'; rubbish, meaning, `coherent, and I disapprove'; or nonsense, meaning `incoherent'. So in that vein, I bring you:

(Sorry, no graph or holiday photos this time. Also, thanks to Tom for correcting a typo.)

Copyright (c) 2004 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.