The Long Lost War

by DAVID PRICE

The Pentagon has officially retired the phrase "The Long War" as the designated moniker for the Bush Administration’s global wars. Apparently the head of Central Command, Admiral William J. Fallon, phased out the phrase because of the message it sends to countries around the globe that U.S. forces are intent on occupying foreign nations for extended periods of time (It is startling to consider what isn’t obvious to the Pentagon). Now Bush’s reckless wars are nameless.

For the past year, General John Abizaid had pushed the term "the Long War" as the preferred phrase for Bush’s terror wars, but outside the select group of military and intelligence insiders this name never really caught on. When I first heard a Pentagon spokesperson say, "the Long War" I was startled to hear someone so openly admit that this really was supposed to be the war without end that we all assumed it would become. We all know that Pentagon spokespersons aren’t supposed to be this honest.

The New York Times story on the shift traced the Pentagon’s failures to find the right name, outlining President Bush’s past descriptions of the war as the "War on Terror," and "a test of wills against ‘Islamofascism,’" as well as Secretary of Gates’ preference of calling it, "the Generational War." But none of these marketing efforts has really taken hold with the public. Imagine that. It turns out that Americans are somehow uncomfortable embracing names acknowledging that Bush’s military campaigns have created quagmires and ill-will that may last for generations.

Lt. Col. Matthew McLaughlin is quoted in the Times article as saying that, "we continue to look for other options to characterize the scope of current operations," which is Pentagon newspeak for: "we’re scrambling like mad to come up with a shinny new name for our broken war."

Since a descriptively accurate title like, "the Long War" didn’t work out very well, the Pentagon will now retreat to familiar territory where it can use deceptive titles to create more marketable war images. We can expect them to sell us images of a war marketed with the opposite attributes from "the Long War," as they try on titles like "The Short War". In fact, the phrase "small wars" has been a key insider term for war logicians and even militarized anthropologists plotting strategies for multi-battlefront wars.

Such christening decisions should not be left to the Pentagon. After all, Ford Motors consulted poets like Marianne Moore when naming the cars they hawked. If they are stuck for a name they should consult Stephen Colbert, I’m sure he could come up with something appropriate that would, ironically, simultaneously please war critics and supporters. But the Pentagon’s obsession with naming their failed war indicates they may be more likely to outsource such a task to Madison Avenue or even seek corporate sponsorship. Whether adapting marketing slogans from existing products (perhaps adapting names from existing products, like, "I Can’t Believe its not the Long War on Terror" and "Gee, Your Terror War Smells Terrific") or following the lead of professional sports stadiums and naming the wars after corporations reaping war profits (Halliburton, Blackwater, etc.), the Pentagon can use some outside help.

That the Pentagon has anyone fussing about what it calls these disastrous short-sighted military campaigns is alarming. Americans and scores of Iraqi civilians are being slaughtered in Iraq on a daily basis, and all the Pentagon seems able to do is to try and come up with new ways to market a hopeless war by renaming it in a newly deceptive way. Our postmodern Pentagon’s top semioticians are acting like they believe that their failures in Iraq and elsewhere are the result of bad slogans, and if only these signifiers could re-brand the war then the signified war will be redeemed.

If the Pentagon is searching for a new name for the war, I suggest we just call it "the Lost War" to honor Bush’s failed presidency and push a surge to bring the troops home.

DAVID PRICE is author of Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists (Duke, 2004). His next book, Anthropological Intelligence: The Use and Abuse of American Anthropology in the Second World War, He can be reached at: dprice@stmartin.edu



 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz