FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State published by CounterPunch Books.

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail