“War is obsolete”
— Anatol Rapoport
The propaganda leading up to wars debases language. In an effort to counter the inevitable prostitution of language, and to perhaps become aware of a different reality, a glossary of commonly post-Gulf War abused terms is presented below. It is an analogous development to the “Glossary of Occupation“, which was meant to clarify the abused terms found in the Israeli-centric discourse.
There is one specific limitation to this glossary; it only discusses terms generally abused in the US-centric discourse. Now, Americans don’t want to talk about what they have been doing to the Iraqis, and therefore there is a tendency for there to be NO words to describe what they do. Americans have no interest in describing, let alone coining terms for the Iraqi condition. For example, there are no words for the myriad cancer patients who don’t have the requisite medicines. There are no words for the huge areas of Iraq polluted by depleted uranium bombs, and so on. Similarly, the media discourse has no words to describe the Iraqi condition because it has adopted a US-centric point of reference. For this reason, defining terms in a glossary is not satisfactory; it only looks at the glaring problems, the instances where there is a descriptive word.
Abused Terms Translation
Collateral damage: Civilians killed–mentioned after the war. Issue not arising before a war, and all references to civilians killed during “no-fly-zone bombing runs” are vigorously denied. When you hear: “Accidental deaths caused by a bomb” ponder what Joan Baez said during her trip to Vietnam: “there is no such thing as an accidental bomb”.
Cost of war: Diversion from profits of war. People moan about costs, but don’t look at the profits. Who cares about a few bucks here and there, just look at the profits gushing forth in a year’s time. If the second UN resolution passes, then get others to pay for the war. Remember Japan was forced to pay $15bn to cover the expenses of the first Gulf War. France and Germany may be shaken down in a similar fashion this time around.
“And consider too the sheer, unadorned hubris of men like Wolfowitz and his assistants. Asked to testify to a largely somnolent Congress about the war’s consequences and costs they are allowed to escape without giving any concrete answers, which effectively dismisses the evidence of the army chief of staff who has spoken of a military occupation force of 400,000 troops for 10 years at a cost of almost a trillion dollars.” –
–Edward Said, “Who is in Charge?“, March 2003
Democracy: A useful dictatorship of the remaining banana republic.
“once big powers start to dream of regime change — a process already begun by the Perles and Wolfowitzs of this country — there is simply no end in sight. Isn’t it outrageous that people of such a dubious caliber actually go on blathering about bringing democracy, modernization, and liberalization to the Middle East? God knows that the area needs it, as so many Arab and Muslim intellectuals and ordinary people have said over and over. But who appointed these characters as agents of progress anyway? And what entitles them to pontificate in so shameless a way when there are already so many injustices and abuses in their own country to be remedied? It’s particularly galling that Perle, about as unqualified a person as it is imaginable to be on any subject touching on democracy and justice, should have been an election adviser to Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government during the period 1996-9, in which he counseled the renegade Israeli to scrap any and all peace attempts, to annex the West Bank and Gaza, and try to get rid of as many Palestinians as possible. This man now talks about bringing democracy to the Middle East, and does so without provoking the slightest objection from any of the media pundits who politely (abjectly) quiz him on national television.” –
– Edward Said, A monument to hypocrisy, Al Ahram, Feb. 13, 2003.
“Democracy traduced and betrayed, democracy celebrated but in fact humiliated and trampled on by a tiny group of men who have simply taken charge of this republic as if it were nothing more than, what, an Arab country? It is right to ask who is in charge since clearly the people of the United States are not properly represented by the war this administration is about to loose on a world already beleaguered by too much misery and poverty to endure more.”
— Edward Said “Who is in Charge?” March 2003.
Depleted uranium aka du ammo: Weapons of indefinite destruction.
“Under the economic embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council, now in its 14th year, Iraq is denied equipment and expertise to decontaminate its battlefields from the 1991 Gulf War.
“Professor Doug Rokke, the US Army physicist responsible for cleaning up Kuwait, told me: ‘I am like many people in southern Iraq. I have 5,000 times the recommended level of radiation in my body. Most of my team are now dead. We face an issue to be confronted by people in the West, those with a sense of right and wrong: first, the decision by the US and Britain to use a weapon of mass destruction: depleted uranium. When a tank fired its shells, each round carried over 4,500g of solid uranium. What happened in the Gulf was a form of nuclear warfare.
‘In 1991, a United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority document reported that if 8 per cent of the depleted uranium fired in the Gulf War was inhaled, it could cause ‘500,000 potential deaths’. In the promised attack on Iraq, the United States will again use depleted uranium, and so will Britain, regardless of its denials.
— John Pilger, “Inside Iraq–The Tragedy of a People Betrayed”, The Independent, February 23, 2003
Dual Use: Justification to reject large proportion of Iraqi requests for imports.
While food and medicines are technically exempt, the Sanctions Committee has frequently vetoed and delayed requests for baby food, agricultural equipment, heart and cancer drugs, oxygen tents, X-ray machines. Sixteen heart and lung machines were put ‘on hold’ because they contained computer chips. A fleet of ambulances was held up because their equipment included vacuum flasks, which keep medical supplies cold; vacuum flasks are designated ‘dual use’ by the Sanctions Committee, meaning they could possibly be used in weapons manufacture. Cleaning materials, such as chlorine, are ‘dual use’, it seems, considering the frequency of their appearance on the list of ‘holds’.
As of October 2001, 1,010 contracts for humanitarian supplies, worth $3.85bn, were ‘on hold’ by the Sanctions Committee. They included items related to food, health, water and sanitation, agriculture and education. This has now risen to goods worth more than $5bn. This is rarely reported in the West.
— John Pilger, “Inside Iraq–The Tragedy of a People Betrayed”, The Independent, February 23, 2003 [NB: this is a reprinted chapter from a book published before SCR1409]
Since SCR1409 (14 May 2002), the Sanctions Committee only deliberates on items on the Goods Review List. The vast majority of goods have always been given import licenses, but often one or two components being held up and would scupper the effectiveness of the permitted imports (e.g., if essential tech components of a water treatment plant are held up, then the percentage of holds is less relevant than their nature).
Evidence: Any rotten factoid to prove Iraq is evil. An unfinished PhD thesis written by a graduate student was used to prove that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Most documents used as evidence date from 1991–hardly relevant in the current context. No attempt was made to cover up the plagiarism or the deceit.
Failure to comply: Foregone conclusion: Iraq will never be able to live up to the US’s high standards. US tactics: force Iraq to do something that will most likely lead to an Iraqi rejection. If Iraq complies nonetheless, then change the standards or objective. No matter what it does, “Saddam has failed to comply, over and over and over again.”
Freedom fries: the US House of Representatives cafeteria’s new name for french fries; (ditto french toast).
Gulf War syndrome: Gulf War veterans who were victims of US chemical or nuclear weapons. All efforts by the US and UK Defense establishments were made to stall investigations into the causes of this syndrome afflicting thousands of veterans–about 6% of veterans. The likeliest cause is immune system damage due to exposure to the radioactivity emanating from depleted uranium weapons. Other weapons systems are also thought to have caused serious disorders. Will the weapons causing this syndrome be proscribed during the next war? Answer: No.
A cause for a disease that is not usually discussed because one may possibly wonder what happened to the Iraqi people.
Gulf War II: US-Iraq War.
Iraqi Opposition: Iraqi opportunists on the US payroll. The head of this group, Mr. Chalabi, was on the run from Jordanian law because of a massive fraud perpetrated there. He has since been magically pardoned.
Justification for war: Lies. There are many reasons: Oil, arms industry, deflect attention from political scandals, deflect attention from nose-diving economy, Israel [oops, can’t mention this one], protect the hegemony of the US dollar, create another arms race Of course, these reasons are too crass, and must instead refer to the threat of WMD or making Iraq safe for democracy.
Moral Case: The morality thing.
[Another] thing hasn’t been reassuring. That was his [Blair] seeming to discover a week ago, after some months of ardent campaigning and presumably reflecting on Iraq, that there was a moral case he could make — presumably about the right thing to do. It was about possible or probable effects on Iraqis themselves of leaving Saddam in power. That raises a question. What kind of case did Mr. Blair think he was making in connection with the war before then?
— Ted Honderich, Killing in Defense of Ideology, CounterPunch, March 5, 2003
Neocons: “Chicken hawks”- Ralph Nader. Neo-Likudnik right-wing warmongering politicians. The “intellectual” progenitors of war plans.
Neutralizing agents: If we use them, it is OK. It is no secret that the US plans extensive use of chemical agents to “neutralize” the enemy. Never mind that this is in breach of Chemical Biological Warfare treaties. If Iraq were to possess, let alone use, such weapons then it would be chastised for using weapons of mass destruction. In the hands of the US military, this is another matter. Ample supplies of CS and stinging gases have been produced for the US military. However once these gases are spread, then can people run away? If not, then it could count as a war crime.
“I would not hesitate to state that the spraying of CS from the air–which is an action entirely impossible to control–and the imposition of a curfew after its wide use, should be thought of as a war crime.”
— Prof. Israel Shahak, AIC, Jan. 5, 1991
New Europe: The neo-vassals. European governments willing to subvert democracy to play second fiddle to the Americans.
“What I say to France and Germany–and all my other European Union colleagues–is take care. Because just as America helps to define and influence our politics, so what we do in Europe helps to define and influence American politics. We will reap a whirlwind if we push the US into a unilateralist position.”
— UK (New Europe) Foreign Minister, Jack Straw.
A poodle’s argument: Is he saying that if we don’t play along with the US, then it may carry on its unilateralist tendencies without European participation? The fact that the US is undermining post-war legal framework and 30+ multilateral agreements should be the basis to shunt the US. The US already has taken a unilateralist position–Europe will not change this into “multilateral” by sycophantically coddling up to it. Europe is the principal countervailing power to the US, but it is a role which some don’t want it to assume.
No fly zone: A unilateral demarcation imposed by the US. The “no fly zone” has no legal basis, and was never approved by the UN.
I made two trips last month into the ‘no-fly zone’ created by the U.S. with Britain and France in southern Iraq. Actually it would be better named the ‘only we fly’ zone or the ‘we bomb’ zone. ‘We’ refers to the United States who does almost all of the flying and bombing (France pulled out years ago, and Britain is largely a nominal participant). –
-Thorne Anderson, journalism professor and photojournalist
Nothing against the Iraqi people: We’ll massacre them, but it is not personal. If the strategy is to “shock and awe”, then the interests of the Iraqi people can hardly be expected to be taken into account.
I read recently a statement by a Pentagon official about the impending war on Iraq: ‘There will not be safe place in Baghdad.’ Well, that is interesting. Five million people live in Baghdad ‘There will not be a safe place in Baghdad.’ I thought you were only going to bomb military targets, then there should be safe places where there are no military targets. No, ‘there will be no safe place in Baghdad.’
— Howard Zinn, speech given at New School University, Feb. 2003
Oil: America’s Oil — of course! The Marines used to fight to keep the American banana companies safe. Doesn’t it sound a bit more glamorous to have the Marines fight to keep America’s oil safe? Just wait, these folks will get the Exxon-Mobil medal for valor.
Old Europe: France and Germany. If you aren’t with the US, then it will conjure deprecating statements. “France is no longer our ally”, “At a political level, Donald Rumsfeld was making it brutally clear to Europeans that the sole superpower will not pay much attention to what they think.”…
Permanent war: The war on terrorism entails endless wars. Iraq now, Iran tomorrow, Syria, Libya The wish list is updated weekly by Ariel Sharon.
Preemptive War aka: preemptive defense: A doctrine that ratifies war without cause, without end.
[if] the US wages a war against Iraq, then it will be violating one of the most basic principles of the UN Charter, not just a Security Council resolution, but the UN Charter. [The UN Charter] makes it clear that it is not legal, it is not legitimate, it is not acceptable to go to war against another country unless you have been attacked. You can only engage in war if it is for self-defense. You can say whatever you want about Iraq  but Iraq has not presently attacked or threatened anybody. Unless you think you ought to attack a country because some day it may threaten you. Well, that is a prescription for endless violence.
— Howard Zinn, speech given at New School University, Feb. 2003
Prime Minister Blair: Poodle, aka English poodle. Long tradition of British prime ministers to ingratiate themselves to the Americans. Prime Minister Thatcher established a precedent and was called a “lap dog”, although less kind commentators insisted she was a lap bitch.
Regime: US Enemy du jour. Bush eloquently stated: “you are either with us or against us.” If you are with America, then you are a democracy. If a country is not sure, then the country is demoted to a regime. NB: the dictionary definition of regime implies no negative connotation.
Regime change: Region change. The real objective of the warmongers is to redraw maps and alter the power configuration of the entire region. A rationale for war proffered early on, but thought too crass to sell the war. It was quickly replaced by the “he has weapons of mass destruction” rationale.
Saddam: Personalizing the enemy.
Powell also personalized the alleged Iraqi prevarication. Instead of highlighting Iraqi mendacity, he always sought to personalize it as “Saddam’s lies”. This construct suggests that the US is only after Saddam, and that “one bullet” would do the trick as Ari Fleischer suggested some months ago. However, at the same time that the US is demonizing Saddam Hussein as an individual, it has been made abundantly clear that the war against Iraq is going to be massive and devastating. If Powell really was only going after Saddam Hussein, then the current war would seem to be unnecessary–a mere assassination is needed. Instead, the war that is being prepared will certainly harm millions of people in the area. This is an admission that Powell would not like to make–millions of people around the world would object. A rather transparent propaganda ploy was used to present the conflict as focusing on one demon–thus diminishing the implications of the horrors that actually await the region.
— PAUL de ROOIJ, Where are the incubators?, CounterPunch, Feb. 6, 03.
Sanctions: A proven weapon of mass destruction. The US instigated sanctions implemented via the UN. The sanctions have made of Iraq, a modern developed society before the war, into a country rivaling Congo in terms of socio-economic statistics.
In response to a question about the effects of sanctions where an estimated 500,000 Iraqis died due to its impact, former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, famously said: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”
Denying Iraq replacement parts to fix its water sanitation and purification systems is a form of bacteriological warfare. Contaminated water is the main contributor to massive increase in child mortality post Gulf War. NB: the US-dominated UN sanctions program has not allowed the repair and rebuilding of these systems. At the same time that water borne diseases stalk the population, the US denies Iraq access to important medicines.
Hey, this can’t happen anymore, now we have smart sanctions!
Security Council Resolution: UN-sponsored declaration of war. Resolution crafted so that the guaranteed outcome is one suitable to the US, in this case war. It turns the purpose of the UN–to avoid wars–on its head.
Shock & awe: Mass murder.
the indiscriminate murder of civilians.
— Chris Hedges, Democracy Now, Feb. 27, 2003
“Recent statement by Pentagon official: ‘the psychological destruction of the enemy’s will to fight’. That was the kind of language used to justify the bombing of Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg and other civilian areas. That was the language used in Vietnam to justify the bombing of villages. The objective is to destroy the morale of these people. They use words like ‘shock and awe’. It sounds like terrorism to me.”
– Howard Zinn, speech given at New School University, Feb. 2003
Smart weapons: Yet another murder implement. These weapons are only so smart as the people that order their launch, and that makes it “at most as smart as Bush”. This is hardly reassuring.
Video feeds are the main improvement in the newest generation weapons. Improving the video show generated by these weapons was seemingly considered of utmost importance. These weapons should be better known as smart multimedia weapons.
Softening up Iraq: The war already started. Twelve year long campaign of relentless bombing of Iraq. Supposedly, most targets were air defense systems threatening “coalition” airplanes. In reality, a useful area for all sorts of training exercises utilizing both live and dummy bombs. Concrete-filled bombs have been thrown in civilian areas, including schools. (www.ccmep.org/usbombingwatch/2003.htm)
Iraq is expected to disarm while at the same time the US is “softening up” Iraq.
Stability in the region aka making the region safe for democracy: Making the area safe for “our” and Israeli interests. Not necessarily in that order.
Terrorist linkage: Demonizing an opponent. Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11, but strenuous efforts are made to make the linkage. “Saddam funds Hamas”, “a suspected Al Qaeda operative went for medical treatment in Baghdad”, that is about it. NB: The number of Iraqis involved in 9/11 equals zero.
UN: A moribund organization meant to either do what the Americans tell it to do or else it is expected to shut up.
UN inspections: A meant-to-fail futile exercise. Threatening war with a massive build-up, and expecting full disarmament compliance and prying by a hostile UN inspection team is contradictory. No statement by Hans Blix has been issued on the continued bombing of Iraqi positions while the inspections were supposed to be going on.
UN Resolutions: Power projections. Rules only meant to work when the US wants them to. Israel has ignored 64 UN resolutions (with US support), yet this is not a problem. But of course, the UN resolutions were written referent to another chapter of the UN Charter! (chapter VI as opposed to chapter VII) Ah, these tricky lawyers.
Voila Moment: Military wishful thinking.
At the Pentagon they call it the Voila Moment. That’s when Iraqi soldiers and civilians, with bombs raining down on Baghdad, suddenly scratch their heads and say to themselves: ‘These bombs aren’t really meant to kill me and my family, they are meant to free us from an evil dictator!’ At that point, they thank Uncle Sam, lower their weapons, abandon their posts, and rise up against Saddam Hussein. Voila!
— Naomi Klein, “Put away the cuddly toys. Now it’s time to get tough”, The Guardian, March 3, 2003
War: Massacre. Given the imbalance of forces and technology, it is likely that the Iraqi army will be decimated.
[Khokhlov] What human losses could Iraq suffer?
[Slipchenko] Very considerable ones. Since the Americans are planning to physically annihilate the Iraqi army, I reckon that at least 500,000 people will be killed. This will be a very bloody war.
— Russian Expert Predicts 500,000 Iraqi Dead in War Designed To Test Weapons Rossiyskaya Gazeta in Russian, Feb. 22, 2003.
Detailed documentation on Iraqi casualty estimates.
We must do something: Argument leveled against the anti-war movement. It doesn’t mean that we have to massacre them to save them.
Mr. Blair says we can attack Iraq because if we don’t, Saddam will be free to do terrible things to his own people. This is about as alarming as an argument can get. There is no parity between our doing something with the dead certainty of killing and maiming thousands, and not doing it with only some probability that some people will suffer. Saddam may not have changed, but his world sure has.
— Ted Honderich, Killing in Defense of Ideology, CounterPunch, March 5, 2003
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD): Useful excuse to justify war. Despite the fact that reputable sources indicate that Iraqi chemical, bacteriological or nuclear capabilities are not a threat, it serves as a useful excuse for war.
Yes, Iraq at some point had chemical and bacteriological weapons. We know that because the countries selling that technology were primarily the US and UK. When the weapons were sold, Iraq was our bulwark against Iranian revolution. This rationale was quickly forgotten.
Note: Check out the website of Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. It is an awesome resource.
PAUL de ROOIJ is an economist living in London and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.