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Two of my colleagues at the Eisenhower Media Network, Danny Sjursen and Matthew Hoh, recently gave the best interview I’ve heard on America’s failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can ">watch it here.

They were described as anti-war veterans, which is true enough. But it did get me thinking about the words we use to describe war in America, or just words in general that we apply to military actions and the broader military world.

For example, instead of describing Sjursen and Hoh as “anti-war,” why not say they’re “pro-peace” or “pro-sanity” or “pro-humanity” or even “pro-using-history-to-avoid-expensive-and-deadly-quagmire-wars”? OK — that last one may be too long, but I often find pro-peace activists being described as critics, i.e. as malcontents.

Another example might be “think tank.” So many of the thinks tanks within the Beltway in DC are fronts for warrior corporations like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and so on. Are they really “thinking” freely? And that “tank” word might be more descriptive than they realize, given they always “think” of expensive weaponry like main battle tanks as the solution to everything. (If memory serves, not only did we use the M1 Abrams tank in Iraq; we also tried a few in Afghanistan; similarly, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army deployed tanks in jungle areas that were designed to battle their Soviet counterparts on the plains of Germany.)

So maybe “think tank” should mean: “Thinks always of tanks and other ultra-expensive weaponry.”

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Here’s a heretical thought: Why are pro-war voices in the establishment referred to as “hawks”? As if they’re noble birds of prey?

Meanwhile, pro-peace voices are dismissed as passive cooing “doves.” More than a few peace activists have all the energy and tenacity of hawks, and most of the pro-war ones are more likely to be cooing like doves in the ears of their bosses about the wisdom and wonders of going to war and staying there.

I suppose you could call pro-war voices “vultures” or “jackals” or perhaps “ticks” or some other parasite on the body politic, but I’d feel like I’m insulting the tick, which just does what it needs to do to survive. It’s not like ticks have think tanks where they can weigh their choices.

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Readers, have a little fun with this. What military/Washington Beltway term annoys you, and how would you define it, in plainspeak? Have at it in the comments section, and many thanks, as always, for reading my posts.

P.S. No one, of course, can beat Orwell and the “war is peace” formulation. And Ambrose Bierce was a master of exposing cant and hypocrisy and dishonesty in his “Devil’s Dictionary.” In their spirit, have at it!

W.J. Astore

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