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Glossary of the Iraqi Occupation


It is amazing to me that they [CentCom] aren’t more careful with their language. They are talking about it in a language very much of early colonialism, or just in a language of pure military ramboism.

Rahul Mahajan,, April 14, 2004, commenting on CentCom’s [US military command] use of the word “cleansing”.

Any time there is war or an occupation of another country, propagandists or their media surrogates require language that mollifies, exculpates and hides the grim reality or sordid deeds. In an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of what is really happening in Iraq, this glossary elucidates the terminology commonly used in the media. Its aim is to enable us to peer through the linguistic fog.

There is a fundamental problem with such a glossary. The propagandists will coin terms to exculpate or palliate aspects of the occupier’s activities, and aspects of the occupation whose mention cannot be avoided. However, propagandists loathe referring to the uncomfortable and repugnant aspects of the occupation or war. For example, it is very clear that the US military will not publicize lists of Iraqi civilian deaths (NB: they compile some lists, but these aren’t made public [1]). Iraqi hospital officials are “discouraged” from compiling lists of civilian casualties and granting journalists access to morgues. The list of “forbidden” compliant media topics is rather long, but a subset is presented below.

Finally, the justifications for the war against Iraq, and the subsequent occupation, have changed over time, and the third list below documents the justifications proffered by the American occupiers to date. This growing list is the graveyard of justifications.

The Glossary

Abused terminology Translation Al-Qa’ida PAUL de ROOIJ

PAUL de ROOIJ is a writer living in London. He can be reached at (NB: all emails with attachments will be automatically deleted.)

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