Don’t Call it War
Stop calling the Iraqi Conflict “war”. If you have to call it anything, it’s a Military Occupation. The war was over when the Iraqi military surrendered years ago. It might sound like I’m harping on a stupid and pointless question of semantics that does nothing to alter the framework of the debate. However, the use of the word “war” is very important if you happen to be a Republican.
“War” implies a grave threat. When the American public thinks of the usual war, we think of a conflict between two nations, or many nations, in which the losing party’s surrender will result in the massive loss of human life and the potential shifting of borders. Even as recent as the Cold War, the consequences of war have moved borders and made the inhabitants of one nation suddenly citizens of another. The term “war” as it applies to Iraq is therefore, inappropriate. “Failure” would result in the rise of a new dictator–a powerless dictator, given that the infrastructure of Iraq is still in shambles and its population is impoverished and unlikely to support continued warfare. The price of “failure” in Iraq, for the Western world, is nothing compared to the price that Iraqis have paid, and will continue to pay for generations. Between a dismantled infrastructure, the leveling and loss of historic monuments, massive loss of life, and the poison of depleted uranium missiles, the occupation of Iraq has taken a very hefty toll from the innocent civilians of an already poor country. No such horrible fate would befall Americans if the occupation “failed”. The use of the word war implies a somewhat equitable consequence resulting from the struggle of two or more equally powerful entities. Thus, the use of “war” is inappropriate to describe a situation in which a wealthy Western nation occupies a Middle Eastern country suffering from poverty and persistent civil violence.
Furthermore, “war” is a romantic term, attracting patriots and idealistic high school graduates who want to serve their country, and the political leaders that cloak their stock gains in nationalistic pride. Republican supporters call President Bush the “war president”, would this title be as romantic if Bush was a “military occupation president”?
In a “war”, we can justify autocratic leadership. We can sit idly by while liberties are sacrificed and foreigners are brutally tortured in our military prisons. We can excuse economic woes at home because of the “war” which “must be fought”. Our “war” justifies airplanes loaded with hundreds of coffins of the Americans who never will make it out of their twenties. Can anyone say that a military occupation merits the same sacrifices?
“War” fashions heroic tales of valor. “War” creates glorious myths of an underdog fighting to protect itself and its freedom. A “war” illustrates nefarious villains would would stop at nothing to see the the destruction of our homes, and who have the means to accomplish this diabolical scheme if it was not for the brave actions of our military. In a military occupation, our heroes are overstressed youths raping each other, throwing puppies over cliffs, and committing suicide en masse. In a military occupation, the underdog is a nation run by oil barons, mercenaries, religious nuts, and construction contractors. In a military occupation, nefarious villains are farmers selling their daughters into marriage at younger and younger ages to support their families after their opium fields were burned, urban youths allying themselves with others sick of the war and prepared to fight back, and many other nobodies with no hope of posing a real threat to those on American soil.
In sum, “war” is what the neo-cons want every American to call the situation in Iraq, because just a single word justifies atrocities that the true situation cannot.
Stop calling it a “war”, and start calling it what it is: the military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. This isn’t just semantics, this is a matter of global importance.