From tomdispatchIn September 2001, the President announced that we were at war with terrorism. It was to be a conflict far longer than World War II, a titanic generational struggle more in line with the Cold War in its prospective length. It was a war that naturally deserved a name. Administration officials promptly gave it the somewhat less than sonorous, slightly tongue-twisting label of the Global War on Terrorism, which translated quickly into the inelegant acronym GWOT. That name would be used endlessly in official pronouncements, news conferences, and interviews, but never quite manage to catch on with the public. So somewhere along the line, administration officials and various neocon allies began testing out other monikers -- among them, World War IV, the Long War, and the Millennium War -- none of which ever got the slightest bit of traction.
In the meantime, the President launched his war of choice in Iraq, an invasion given the soaring name Operation Iraqi Freedom. What followed -- from the days of unrestrained looting after Baghdad fell to the present violent and chaotic moment -- has gone strangely nameless. Perhaps this was because the administration had been so certain that the invasion would shock-and-awe sufficiently to be the end of it, or perhaps because Operation Iraqi Occupation (to pick a name) ran so against the idea that we were liberating the Iraqi people. Instead, well into our third year of combat in Iraq, we find ourselves in an unnamed war -- rarely even called the Iraq War -- spiraling into nowhere. Just in the last week, 23 American soldiers died in combat; the American Air Force was let loose to bomb parts of the city of Ramadi and en! virons, bombings in which children died; mortars fell in Baghdad's Green Zone; and numerous Iraqis including 6 Shiite factory workers, 3 election commission officials, and 2 bodyguards of the governor of Anbar Province died in drive-by shootings or attacks of various sorts.
And yet none of this has a name. Perhaps the namelessness acted as a distancing mechanism, one of a number that, for long periods, have allowed the war to fall out of the headlines as well as American consciousness, while the dead and wounded (unless killed in staggering numbers on any given day) head for the deep middle of the newspaper. As the British in imperial days once dealt at arm's length with endless border wars in distant lands while life continued at home, so perhaps Americans responded to this nameless war once it turned sour. What makes this so strange, however, is that the particular "borderland," the global periphery, the Bush administration picked for its war lay, of course, right smack in the middle of the oil heartlands of an increasingly energy-thirsty planet. Under the circumstances, it may be worth taking a moment to consider what names might be applied to our war in Iraq and what they might reveal about our situation.
The Precipice War?
"Publicly, administration officials hailed the result but privately some officials acknowledged that the road ahead is still very difficult, especially because Sunni Arab voters appeared to have rejected the constitution by wide margins. As one official put it, every time the administration appears on the edge of a precipice, it manages to cobble together a result that allows it to move on to the next precipice."
The edge of a precipice -- an image offered to the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler by one of those anonymous officials who always seem so omnipresent in Washington, and included in a post-Iraqi-election piece headlined, For U.S., a Hard Road Is Still Ahead in Iraq. (Is that the hard road to or from the precipice?)
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