Glossary of the Iraqi Occupation
by Paul de Rooij
April 29, 2004
(Updated August 30)

Send this page to a friend! (click here)



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, FlashPoints.net, 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 Bogeyman Rex.

There was no link between Al-Qa’ida and pre-2003 Iraq, and even now, the US can’t point to evidence of an Iraqi connection.

Ambassador Proconsul.

It is rather odd to call Paul Bremer an ambassador; the man even wears army boots!

Anti-Iraq forces Catchall Opposition – (and clear example of doublespeak).

“Soon after the Occupation, the United States and its allies—military and ideological—referred to the Iraqi resistance as ‘foreign elements’ ‘terrorists’ or ‘former loyalists of the Saddam regime’. This phraseology has now become redundant and US military spokesman are now referring to the guerrillas as ‘anti-Iraqi forces’ as if to suggest that the US, British, […] and Polish troops represent Iraq but the Iraqis who resist the occupation are anti-Iraqi.”
—Tariq Ali, “The Iraqi Resistance: a New Phase”, CounterPunch, April 10, 2004.

"We've got some strikes  against anti-Iraqi force positions in the city using tanks and aircraft... We have hit some positions"
Lieutenant Colonel T.V. Johnson told AFP Aug. 24, 2004.

Referring to many groups conveys the impression that a significant segment of the population is ganging up against the US, and this is counter to the propaganda claim that the opposition is a “small minority”. Furthermore, Americans, including Bush, are notorious for not knowing who is who in a country. So, forget the details, and go for a catchall group!

Avenge Kill 100X of theirs for each one of ours.

“Iraqi history is already being written. In revenge for the brutal killing of four American mercenaries — for that is what they were — US Marines carried out a massacre of hundreds of women and children and guerillas in the Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah. The US military says that the vast majority of the dead were militants. Untrue, say the doctors. But the hundreds of dead, many of whom were indeed civilians, were a shameful reflection on the rabble of American soldiery who conducted these undisciplined attacks on Fallujah.”
—Robert Fisk, “By endorsing Ariel Sharon’s plan George Bush has legitimised terrorism”, The Independent, April 16, 2004.

NB: the principle of avenging the occupier’s losses by collective punishment is a war crime. In Lidice during World War II, Germans killed at least 172 civilians to “avenge” some of their own, and this was considered a war crime. In Fallujah, the killing of four mercenaries has resulted in “hundreds” of Iraqi civilians killed. Ariel Sharon would approve.

Baathist loyalists Another convenient bogey group.

If the US rejects “Islamic” groups, “Baathists”, … who is left? NB: “Baathists” could be either the nationalists who the CIA helped assassinate in the 1960s or the ones who joined the thugs who killed the former group. The persecuted Baathists (those who opposed Saddam) may have a legitimate grudge against the US, the others were the US’s SOBs.

“Evidently, the CIA helped bring Saddam Hussein’s thuggish party to power and fatally weakened the prospects for Iraqi democracy. Some reliable sources believe that more than ten thousand were killed and more than a hundred thousand arrested in the coup and the bloody weeks that followed, described by historians Peter and Marion Sluglett […] as ‘some of the most terrible violence hitherto experienced in the postwar Middle East’.”
—Hanna Batatu, “CIA Lists Provide Basis for Iraqi Bloodbath”, 1978.

Barrel of the gun Whose guns?

“Last week, in the middle of the growing chaos in Iraqi cities, Bremer savagely denounced groups ‘who think power in Iraq should come out of the barrel of a gun’. He was not apparently referring to the US and British armed forces who seized power in Iraq (and put him into his powerful post) entirely and exclusively by sustained use of the barrels of thousands of guns…”
—Paul Foot, “The beam in Bremer’s eye”, The Guardian, April 14, 2004.

Body Count Number of "enemy" bagged.

So anyway it's not possible to come up with an even moderately hard number, but you can do better than nothing. In the media reports that follow, the primary source of numbers is the Ministry of Health, but also, bizarrely, the U.S. military has on occasion revived the old body count reporting from the Vietnam era. It has several times put out numbers of Mahdi Army members" killed in the operation. Just like old numbers of Vietcong killed, of course, it's likely that many of the people included are noncombatants.

It's also worth noting that the numbers they give out are done solely for the purpose of bragging; a military that claims to do humanitarian interventions according to the laws of war should focus particularly on reporting civilian deaths, since one cannot possibly evaluate the proportionality of methods or whether humanitarian bombing saves more than it kills if one isn't even keeping track of how many innocents are killed.
Rahul Mahajan, Empire Notes, August 25, 2004

Casualties American casualties of course.
Casualties used to refer to both dead and wounded. The Pentagon’s reporting of “casualties” only pertains to the fatalities; the wounded don’t count in its grisly accounting.
Ceasefire War by other means.

“With the ‘ceasefire,’ large-scale bombing was rare. With a halt in major bombing, the Americans weren’t attacking with heavy artillery but primarily with snipers.”
—Rahul Mahajan, “Report from Fallujah – Destroying a Town in Order to Save it”, April 12, 2004.

Civilian contractors Mercenaries.

There are more mercenaries in Iraq today than there are British soldiers – an estimated 40,000 “security contractors”. The ads in back section of Soldier of Fortune, the trade magazine for literate mercenaries, indicate boom times for the profession.

Cleanse Massacre.

“It is critical that we cleanse the Iraqi body politic of the poison that remains here after 35 years of Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian rule.”
—Dan Senor (assistant to the US proconsul), April 12, 2004. Commenting on the US Marine attack against Fallujah and Najaf.

NB: Fallujah and Najaf were known for their opposition to Hussein, hardly a “poison”.

Coalition token hangers-on” (John Pilger, Apr. 1, 2004)

“Coalition” only when it suits the Americans. When it comes to reporting casualties, only those of the US military are reported. When it comes to apportioning juicy contracts, US companies get the lion’s share. What do the “coalition” members think about this? The British are complaining that they aren’t even consulted – they dearly would like to play second fiddle.

Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) American Occupation Authority.

“Coalition”? Only when it suits them. Provisional? It is starting to look rather permanent.

Democracy One warlord, one vote.

Hand-picked satraps willing to sign off on the occupation of Iraq, the plundering of its resources, and the construction of several military bases.

It is rather odd that while the US calls on the Middle East to “democratize”, it was actively involved in overthrowing the democratically elected gov’t of Haiti. Here the US armed, trained and funded an armed gang led by death squad leaders to mount the coup. So much for respect for democracy; in the American version even death squad leaders may apply.

Devastating intellect Ebullient accolades

“Bremer was described in a special Financial Times profile last week as ‘an imposing figure with a devastating intellect’.”
—Paul Foot, “The beam in Bremer’s eye”, Guardian, April 14, 2004.

It will be rather amusing to see what the FT will say when Bremer is replaced. The countdown for the sacking of Bremer has begun, and John Negroponte has already been slated as his likely replacement. Negroponte’s experience in running the contras against Nicaragua, and his years as proconsul in Honduras give him impeccable credentials. He is another “intellect that devastates”.

Elections Sometime in the future when Iraq is ready for democracy.

The Americans want “stability” first, and then, after a sufficiently long trial period, there may be “elections”. Of course, the US remains the sole arbiter of whether or not Iraq is “stable.”

End of major combat operations May 1, 2003, the start of the occupation of Iraq.
Evidence-free Just making it up!

"Evidence-free" is the adjective used by David Kay, former head of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group (which searched for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism), to describe VP Dick Cheney's assertion that Saddam Hussein had longstanding ties with Al Qaeda; cited in "Bush Backs Cheney on Assertion linking Hussein, Al Qaeda," Michael Kranish and Bryan Bender (Boston Globe)

Extremist Anyone opposing the American occupation.
Eye-raq Iraq.

Even after several years obsessed with Iraq the president and most of his entourage mispronounce the name of the country.

Flashpoints Cities where Iraqis have risen against occupation.

“Flashpoints” is the BBC’s favorite term when referring to the conflict in Iraq. When referring to the Israeli occupied territories it uses “hotspots”. Contrast this with the BBC’s language used a month ago when referring to the armed gang mounting a coup against a democratically elected government in Haiti. Here “towns rose against Aristide’s oppressive rule.” Never mind that death squad leaders and people accused of mass crimes led the rebels in taking over cities, brutalizing the population.

Foreigners Look who is talking!

“ ‘Meanwhile, a U.S. Marine commander said not all the fighters in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are Iraqis.’ Lt. Gen James Conway, the Marine commander in Fallujah, said there are some foreign fighters in Fallujah — and he indicates they may have been there for a while.”
BBC Online, April 7, 2004.

Someone should point out to the gentleman that he is a foreigner too. And is it a justification to attack a city?

“ ‘Foreign fighters’ were now in the battle, according to the US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld. The US media went along with this nonsense, even though not a single al-Qa’ida operative has been arrested in Iraq and of the 8,500 ‘security detainees’ in American hands, only 150 appear to be from outside Iraq. Just 2 per cent.”
—Robert Fisk, “A war that was founded on lies and illusions has one simple truth: Iraqis do not want us”, The Independent, Apr. 9, 2004.

Gathering threats Creating threats.

“Mr Bush also said that the lesson of those attacks had been that America had to deal with ‘gathering threats’ before they came to fruition, a policy that catalysed the US-led invasion of Iraq.”
BBC Online, April 14, 2004.

American policy is not so much about responding to “gathering threats”, but rather one of “sowing and reaping the threats.”

Handover of power Cosmetic rebranding of the occupation
Hearts and Minds Mr. Niceguy only if there is stability.

“Winning hearts and minds from behind the safe walls of Saddam’s palaces, or in an armoured vehicle, is impossible. Yet given the level of risk, we may be now moving to a turning point in the conduct of operations. If the insurgency provokes the coalition forces, then the steady progress to a peaceful democracy in Iraq will be halted. Without a clear, agreed political process, army commanders will argue for priority to go to the safety of their own troops.”
—Tim Garden, “Coalition forces fight a losing battle to win the peace”, The Guardian, April 6, 2004.

“To win hearts and minds, America needs to turn on the lights, provide clean water, give people jobs and impose law and order. But hardly any of this has happened because Bush administration-connected firms such as Halliburton and Bechtel have stolen the vast majority of the money allocated for such tasks.”
—Christian Parenti, “Autopsy of a Failed Occupation”, AlterNet.org, April 14, 2004.

Improving Things are actually getting worse.

One of the justifications for the continued occupation is to help Iraq emerge as a prosperous country. Unfortunately, things are only getting worse. Almost a year of occupation and most of the country doesn’t have electricity, the health system has almost collapsed and so on.

Of course, if one questions what is happening on the ground, then one becomes a “naysayer”.

Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) Satraps in waiting.

On April 10th, one IGC member complained that they had not been consulted on the American onslaught against Fallujah and Najaf. So much for “governing” or “council”.

Kill or Capture Dead or alive.

Wild west terminology utilized by CentCom spokesmen when stating their intentions in finding the cleric Moqtada Sadr. NB: Sadr’s father is highly revered in Iraq, and the family is renowned for its opposition to Hussein. Of course, this ramboism is acceptable due to the inherent anti-Islamic prejudice of the occupiers – to them, the cleric is a mere “raghead”.

Mahdi army Rag tag militia.

“The cleric’s young and largely uneducated followers have been dubbed the Mahdi army. They are not an army — more of a loose-knit group of frustrated Shia Iraqis with Kalashnikovs. As one volunteer, Syad Mustafa, said: ‘We don’t have any bases. We don’t have any tanks. We don’t have any jets.’ ”
— Luke Harding, “Huge US attack to crush Iraq rebels”, The Guardian, Apr. 28, 2004.

Nation building (aka Peace building) Building neo-colonial institutions.

“What the imperialists term ‘nation-building’ or ‘peace-building’ refers to the need to construct and uphold a political and social regime in the ‘post-war’, or more accurately, post-military intervention scenario. It entails a qualitatively more intensive modality of engagement characterized by acute micro-management of the proxy government. According to the Rand Corporation’s best practices study, ‘nation-building’ is not primarily about rebuilding a country’s economy, but about transforming its political institutions.”
—Alejandro Bendaña (Former Nicaraguan representative to the UN), “Nicaragua’s And Latin America’s ‘Lessons’ For Iraq”, FocusWeb.org, April 8, 2004.

“[The Office of the Secretary of Defense] recently took unqualified possession of the emerging American way of war, and began supplanting the traditional grammar of war with a new one. However, this new grammar-which focuses on achieving rapid military victories-was equipped only to win battles, not wars. Hence, the successful accomplishment of the administration’s goal of building a democratic government in Iraq, for example, is still in question, with an insurgency growing rapidly.”
—Lt. Col. Antulio J. Echevarria, “Toward an American Way of War”, Strategic Studies Institute, March 2004.

Even the military find that although having won the battle they may well lose the war. Obviously, some are questioning Rumsfeld’s “grammar”.

Not Flinch The British version of “resolve”.

“I will not flinch from historic Iraq fight”
—Tony Blair, The Observer, April 11, 2004.

Nothing like suggesting that others have to continue fighting. This was appropriately uttered when Blair was in Bermuda.

Pacification Counterinsurgency warfare.

“By its heavy hand, and growing Iraqi recognition of its intention to dominate, the United States has stoked an insurgency that has been growing by leaps and bounds. The only Bush administration answer to this development is the application of more force. When applied to a revolt deeply rooted in the civilian population this means counterinsurgency war, with lavish use of deadly weapons, and therefore escalating civilian casualties. So, added on to an initial war of aggression we are now descending into a war of pacification. This will involve a further destruction of Iraq in order to save it — for Western ends and to save the Bush election campaign.”
—Edward Herman, “We Had To Destroy [Fill in Country Name] In Order To Save It”, Swans.com, April 12, 2004

Peacekeepers Occupation troops
Prisoner Abuse Torture
Putting your tax dollars to work Shooting civilians

"I'm in the desert, I'm gung-ho, ready to kill, putting your tax dollars to work. Unfortunately, your tax dollars went into a lot of civilians. I was there. I pulled the trigger."
-- Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey, quoted in: Natalia Muqoz, Soldiers tell stories about Iraq, The Republican, July 26, 2004.

Radical cleric Convenient oxymoron. Someone who can galvanize the resistance.
Moderate clerics are, of course, “our” type of guys.
Reconstruction Getting the oil to flow.

When a CentCom spokesman was recently (April) asked where one could view a reconstruction project that directly benefited the Iraqi population, he couldn’t name one! Most of the reconstruction projects are centered on the oil industry.

“One U.S. journalist found that many reconstruction projects that had allegedly been ‘rebuilt’ had in reality barely been touched. One ‘repaired’ school was overflowing with raw sewage. When I visited Ramadi and Fallujah in January, people on both towns were angry about chronic water and electricity shortages. Power plants, telephone exchanges and sewage systems all remain looted and bombed out. According to the NGO CorpWatch, only 10 percent of Halliburton’s initial $2.2 billion in contracts has been spent on meeting community needs.”
—Christian Parenti, “Autopsy of a Failed Occupation”, AlterNet.org, April 14, 2004.

Resolve Pigheaded stubbornness.

A distinct unwillingness to recognize that errors have been made, and that to withdraw conveys a sign of “weakness”. To withdraw while conveying a “sign of strength”, then the US would have to follow Sharon’s example in withdrawing from Gaza. In the case of Gaza, this involved transforming it into a giant prison camp, assassinating leaders, stopping the delivery of emergency food…

Shia circle New CNN military analyst terminology.

Just like the “Sunni triangle” [q.v.], these terms convey the impression these areas are tiny and thus no cause for concern. The people living there are “a small minority.” There is never a need to mention how many people live there.

Silent majority Pretense that most Iraqis support the occupation.

While the White House is doing its best to allay comparisons with Vietnam, it chooses to resurrect one of Nixon’s favorite terms to justify the continuation of the Vietnam War. Nixon claimed that the silent majority favored the war. Just as it was a bogus argument then, it is a bogus argument now.

Slight uptick Military terminology for an insurrection.

“Things are getting worse, much worse in Iraq. Yesterday’s horrors proved that. Yet just a day earlier, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, […], assured us that there was only an ‘uptick’ in violence in Iraq. Not a sudden wave of violence, mark you, not a down-to-earth increase, not even a ‘spike’ in violence – another of the general’s favourite expressions. No, just a teeny-weeny, ever-so small, innocent little ‘uptick’. In fact, he said it was a ‘slight uptick’.”
— Robert Fisk, “Things are getting much worse. It’s not just a ‘spike’ or an ‘uptick’ in violence”, The Independent, April 1, 2004.

Small minority; aka extremists Majority opposed to occupation

“Among the more laughable assertions of the Bush administration is that the mujaheddin are a small group of isolated ‘extremists’ repudiated by the majority of Fallujah’s population. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
—Rahul Mahajan, “Report from Fallujah – Destroying a Town in Order to Save it”, April 12, 2004.

Sovereignty Neo-Colonization.

“Today the Free Press is refusing to look beneath the claim of an intention to grant ‘sovereignty’ and to transfer power to Iraqis on June 30th, to see the ways in which a US military presence and veto power and constraints on the Iraq constitution and law would give this country continued domination.”
—Edward Herman, “We Had To Destroy [Fill in Country Name] In Order To Save It”, Swans.com, April 12, 2004

Stability A quiet occupation.

When Iraqis submit and are silent about their lot, and when the media stop reporting it, then Iraq may be deemed “stable”.

“Stability” is also a justification for continued occupation – if the US forces leave, then anarchy will break out, and “even the Iraqis don’t want that.” This overlooks the fact that most Iraqis already live without security, electricity, clean water, proper jobs, press freedom… To call this situation anarchic would give anarchy a bad connotation.

Success Causing an insurrection or a high body count.

“The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff [Gen. Myers] said Thursday that the deadly insurgency that flared this month is ‘a symptom of the success that we’re having here in Iraq’ and an effort to undermine the country’s transition to self-government.”
—Sewell Chan, “General Calls Insurgency in Iraq a Sign of U.S. Success”, Washington Post, April 16, 2004.

Echo from Vietnam: General Myers sharpened his teeth in Vietnam where a high body count was considered a “success”.

Echoes from Gaza:

“… this operation was a great success.”
—Ariel Sharon, Oct 2002, commenting on the bombing of the Khan Yunis refugee camp where a one-ton bomb dropped by a F16 killed 14 and wounded 80 Palestinians.

Sunni triangle CNN terminology for another small minority.

“And, as the attacks against US forces increased around Fallujah and other Sunni Muslim cities, we were told this area was the ‘Sunni triangle’, even though it is much larger than that implies and has no triangular shape.”
—Robert Fisk, “A war that was founded on lies and illusions has one simple truth: Iraqis do not want us”, The Independent, Apr. 9, 2004.

The use of words like “triangle” has much to do with the “military experts” who draw lines on maps for the BBC or CNN. See Shia circle.

Target-rich Mass murder. Non-combatant civilians included.

“Marine experts say Fallujah is among the most ‘target-rich’ battlefields for snipers since the World War II battle for Stalingrad… In nearly two weeks of conflict in Fallujah, the unnamed corporal has emerged as the top sniper, with 24 confirmed kills.” The Los Angeles Times reports that US snipers have been killing hundreds of insurgents:

“Sometimes a guy will go down, and I’ll let him scream a bit to destroy the morale of his buddies,” a Marine corporal said, “then I’ll use a second shot.”
—Tony Perry, “For Marine snipers, war is up close and personal”, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 19, 2004

NB: Snipers continue murdering Iraqis even during the putative “ceasefires”.

Terrorism The violence of the resistance.

When US generals and Rumsfeld complain about violence against US troops, the label “terrorism” sounds increasingly hollow. NB: violence against a fully armed occupation force is not terrorism.

Thugs & terrorists Demonizing the bogeymen.

“Donald Rumsfeld claims that the resistance is just a few ‘thugs, gangs and terrorists’. This is dangerous wishful thinking. The war against the occupation is now being fought out in the open, by regular people defending their homes and neighbourhoods – an Iraqi intifada.”
—Naomi Klein, “An Iraqi intifada”, The Guardian, April 12, 2004.

Trafficability problem The Iraqis travel to other cities in Iraq.

Term used by a CNN military analyst to refer to the possibility that Iraqi resistance fighters may join the pilgrimages to travel to other “flashpoints”.

“With the pilgrimages we have a trafficability problem.”
— Kelly McCann, Military Annalyst, CNN, April 11, 2004.

Traumatic wounds to the head Killing with impunity.

"Not long ago, six corpses arrived at the Baghdad mortuary after being brought in by US forces. Three were unidentified. Three had names but their families could not be found. All had suffered, according to the American records, "traumatic wounds to the head", the normal phrase for gunshot wounds. There were no autopsies. Death is now so routine even the most tragic of deaths becomes a footnote."

--Robert Fisk, "Baghdad is a city that reeks with the stench of the dead", The Independent, July 28, 2004

UN Occupation with blue window dressing..
Unshakable resolve Weaponized obtuseness
Vietnam Yes, quagmire.

“[President Bush] dismissed as ‘false’ comparisons between the fighting in Iraq and the bloody Vietnam War which embroiled the US three decades ago. ‘I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and sends a wrong message to the enemy,’ he added.”
BBC Online, April 14, 2004

It is not an issue of “message”, it is an issue of evaluating what this war was about, and what the American occupation of Iraq is trying to accomplish. Resistance to the creation of an American-subservient regime implies that the analogy with Vietnam is useful.

The comparison with Vietnam has more to do with references to quagmire but little else. However, there are many differences, and a striking one dealt with the logic of continuing both wars. In the case of Vietnam, there was an ongoing ideological and realpolitik logic to the pursuit of victory. What is different about Iraq, and the American public in particular, is the lack of resentment/reaction once the paper thin justifications for war were debunked.

Volunteer army Professional army


Some “forbidden” propaganda topics

The list of media neglected topics is long. There are innocent sounding items like the temperature in Iraq that are suddenly “suspended” during the summer. Knowing that US troops work in conditions that seriously endanger their health and safety are similarly being suppressed. What happens to the Iraqi population in similar conditions is rarely mentioned. The parallel to Vietnam is worth noting; while there was some mention of the effects of Agent Orange on American military, there were an insignificant number of reports on the effects on the local population. In Iraq, the same media-reporting syndrome is prevalent.


Media Neglected topics: Explanation
Gulf War syndrome Recently it was found that some soldiers already have been afflicted with Gulf War Syndrome. This syndrome killed more soldiers after the 1991 war than during the hot war. Will this happen again?
Responsibility for the bombing of Kerbala In Tariq Ali's opinion: the biggest question is who was behind the Kerbala bombing. The intention of the bomb was to provoke hostilities between the Shia and Sunni communities. All groups deny responsibility, so the question is who was the sinister force behind this. (Tariq Ali on DemocracyNow, Apr. 23, 2004).
Iraqi prisoners or “detainees” No lists are kept or made available to family members of prisoners – they don’t know if the person is a prisoner or has “disappeared”. The same thing happened during Hussein’s era. Source: May-Ying Welsh, FlashPoints.net, April 13, 2004.
Iraqi casualties This is certainly a revealing gem:

“As the casualties mount in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah, Qatar-based Al Jazeera has been one of the only news networks broadcasting from the inside, relaying images of destruction and civilian victims – including women and children. But when CNN anchor Daryn Kagan interviewed the network’s editor-in-chief, Ahmed Al-Sheik, on Monday – a rare opportunity to get independent information about events in Fallujah – she used the occasion to badger Al-Sheik about whether the civilian deaths were really ‘the story’ in Fallujah.”
FAIR, April 14, 2004.

Depleted Uranium – affecting Iraqis. There has been some mention of DU effects on US soldiers, but no in-depth investigation of the effects on Iraqis.
Nature of diseases afflicting Iraqis Iraqi doctors are dealing with an epidemic of water borne diseases, and have trouble coping with this.
The school curriculum Old textbooks are out, or at least the photo of Hussein removed. Several odd groups are supplying books of unknown provenance or with a dubious message.
Temperature in summer Last year the summertime temperatures in Baghdad were censored in the US Free Press. Are temperatures in excess of 50C somehow provocative?
Torture Some Iraqis have been killed while in US custody, and their bodies showed signs of torture. So, has the US hired former regime torturers or are they employing their own?
Remuneration of soldiers and pensions Scant attention is given to the remuneration of soldiers and their spouses. Some of the spouses of the soldiers survive on food stamps! The pension or compensation paid to the survivors is pitiful.
Electricity or water supplies There are no statistics on the capacity availability of the electrical or water supply systems.
Oil production How many millions of barrels are being pumped, and what is happening to the proceeds? Who is auditing this?
Assassination of intellectuals There has been a spate of assassinations or kidnappings of well-known intellectuals – over 1,000 of them. The warnings/threats against such people appear in the US-funded newspaper. What is behind this?
Cost Last year estimates for the cost of the occupation ran at US$4bn/month. Given that there is active resistance, what is the cost now?
The Israelization of US military tactics Israelis boast that the US is applying its tactics in Iraq. Given that several of these practices amount to war crimes, then what are the implications for the US? Is the US implementing “targeted assassinations”, torture, house demolitions…? And why not employ the real thing – getting Israelis to fight this war?
Increasing oil prices. While the war was also meant to safeguard oil reserves, why has the price of oil risen?
The mercenary industry Elite soldiers around the world are abandoning their units and joining the mercenary operators in Iraq. The British note that it costs US$3m to train one of its elite troops (SAS), and they are upset that they have been recruited by the merc-companies. On average, soldiers working as mercenaries earn more than 20X their standard army wages (tax free). So, are the national armies going to be replaced by the corporate mercenary armies?

The Graveyard of Justifications

The list of justifications for the war and the subsequent occupation keeps expanding. Every time a justification is demolished, another one is produced. Here is a brief list of justifications that have been demolished, and a few that are rarely discussed.


Justification What happened to it…
WMD Safely disposed of.
Terror Bogus from the beginning. If anything, US actions are causing terrorism.

“Two nights ago, this most dangerous man, George Bush, talked about ‘freedom in Iraq’. Not ‘democracy’ in Iraq. No, ’democracy’ was no longer mentioned. ‘Democracy’ was simply left out of the equation. Now it was just ‘freedom’ — freedom from Saddam rather than freedom to have elections. And what is this ’freedom’ supposed to involve? One group of American-appointed Iraqis will cede power to another group of American-appointed Iraqis. That will be the ‘historic handover’ of Iraqi ‘sovereignty’. Yes, I can well see why George Bush wants to witness a ‘handover’ of sovereignty. ‘Our boys’ must be out of the firing line — let the Iraqis be the sandbags.”
—Robert Fisk, “By endorsing Ariel Sharon’s plan George Bush has legitimised terrorism”, The Independent, April 16, 2004.

Democracy See “freedom”.
Stability US actions are provoking the opposite
Liberation Only liberating the oil production. The occupation clearly indicates that Iraqis will be under an American yoke for some time.
Support our troops We don’t hear this one anymore. This was a pretext to get those opposed to the war to shut up during the war.
Religious tolerance

“We are locked in an historic struggle in Iraq. Were we to fail, which we will not, it is more than the ‘power of America’ that would be defeated. The hope of freedom and religious tolerance would be snuffed out.”
—Tony Blair, The Observer, April 11, 2004.

This statement was uttered the same week the Americans sought to “kill or capture” the cleric M. Sadr.

The Iraqis wanted the Americans to intervene There are an increasing number of polls trying to prove that Iraqis were in favor of the war or are doing “better” now (even without electricity). The value of these polls is dubious, and even so, it is clear that Iraqis want the Americans to leave.
Oil Although this motivation reigns supreme, it is curious why the Free Press barely manages to question the Bush regime about this. And why would the US have to conquer Iraq to be able to buy oil?
Military bases and “power projection” There are seven military bases planned at present.
Supporting Israel Finally, Philip Zelikow, a Bush advisor, revealed that the US-Iraq war was launched to “protect Israel”. The Free Press did not follow up on this, nor have questions arisen why Israelis aren’t fighting this war. “Israel: America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East” is starting to ring rather hollow (especially at US$6bn+/year).
Corporate interests With few exceptions, the role of the large American corporations in promoting the war has not been investigated.


More Glossaries!

Tracking the doublespeak is an amusing way to understand the state of the American empire. Having written a few of these, and having compiled hundreds of propaganda terms, the following patterns about this language emerge.

1) The terminology changes constantly. When propagandists discover a contradiction in the terminology yielding negative connotations, the terms will be immediately renewed. An interesting example is the naming of the grotesque wall surrounding portions of the West Bank. Initially, it was named “separation fence” – with an emphasis on fence, indicating something fragile and moveable. The “separation” part was unfortunate because it implies “apartheid”, and for propagandists this was anathema. The replacement term was “security fence”. And now the Israeli propagandists are pushing “terrorist prevention security fence”… The last one is over the top, too long and transparent – it will be replaced.

2) Another curious aspect of this emerging terminology is the willing participation of “journalists” in propagating the propagandist’s favored terms. For example, the BBC’s James Reynolds’ states: “It used to be called the security fence but officials felt that the name did not work abroad. So now the barrier has a new official name ‘the terrorism prevention fence’.” [2] No worries, from now on this “journalist” will parrot the latest terminology concocted by his Israeli handlers.

3) It is evident from the “talking points” generated by various media consultants that new terminology is tried out on focus groups, and much attention is paid to its “framing”. When circumstances change, or a term becomes transparent to a public, it will be replaced soon.

4) One would expect an educated public to resist the abuse of language and the intended manipulation, and that such propaganda would not be effective. Maybe subtlety would be required to not arouse hostility among the target audience. However, instead of a tendency towards subtlety, we witness the opposite! Propaganda terminology even borrows from colonial/imperial terminology of yesteryear. Propagandists don’t even worry about having American policies labeled as “imperialism”. Part of the reason for this has to do with the self-referential nature of news media. That is, a statement read by a reporter from the White House lawn is considered news. The terminology used has little to do with conditions on the ground in, say, Iraq. When people are not aware what is happening in Iraq, the terminology used can even mimic colonial jargon – it doesn’t seem to matter.

5) It is surprising how the propaganda jargon generated by the US in Iraq resembles the terms Israeli propagandists have used over the years. There are many “civilian” terms used to cover over a military occupation. For example, Israelis used “civil administration” to refer to the military occupation; the Americans use similar civilian terminology in Iraq. Both Israel and the US attempt to portray their occupations as benign and even enlightened (nation building, reform, etc.). On the military front, the US is recycling Israeli doublespeak at the same time that it is adopting the dubious and often bankrupt Israeli tactics. One awaits the use of “targeted assassinations”, “administrative detentions”, and so on in Iraq. The tactics are shared, and the terminology will certainly follow.


Glossaries Description
Glossary of Occupation Discusses common terminology used when referring to the Israeli occupied territories.
Glossary of Warmongering Discusses the terminology prevalent during the months leading up to the US-Iraq war.
A War Weasel Word Watch The second half of this article discusses the terminology used during the US-Iraq war.


[1] “US Military Keeps Track of Some, If Not All, Civilian Casualties in Iraq”, MemoryHole.

[2] James Reynolds, "Sharon prepares barrier defence," BBC Online, Jan. 18, 2004.

Paul de Rooij is a writer living in London, and can be reached at proox@hotmail.com (all attachments will be automatically deleted.) ©2004 Paul de Rooij.

Other Articles by Paul de Rooij:

* The Military Death Toll While Enforcing the Occupation of Iraq
* The BBC and the Quiet Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians
* For Whom The Death Tolls: Deliberate Undercounting of “Coalition” Fatalities
* The Politics of Crying Wolf
* Demolishing the Myths of the Israel-Palestine Conflict
* Amnesty International: The Case of a Rape Foretold
* Predictable Propaganda: Four Months of US Occupation of Iraq
* The Parade of the Body Bags
* Ambient Death in Palestine
* The Hydra’s New Head: Propagandists, and Selling the US-Iraq War
* Gretta Duisenberg: An Activist in the Trenches
* Propaganda Stinkers: Fresh Samples From the Field
* Arrogant Propaganda: US Propaganda During The First 10 Days of the US- Iraq War
* A Glossary of Warmongering