Saturday, February 17

Watch your language

Let's stop calling our occupation our war in Iraq.

There's a war going on, yes, between Sunnis and Shiites and among various militias. But we're no longer at war. That mission was accomplished years ago.

The verb for what we're doing is "to occupy."

The noun for what we're doing is "occupation."

The noun that most accurately describes our nation is "occupiers."

Despite its horrors, war often sounds noble and grand. As Lincoln so eloquently described it, the "exceeding brightness of military glory -- that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye that charms to destroy." People get angry when you question the mission of our men and women at war. They don't listen.

An occupation doesn't sound so noble, and people are more willing to listen. Yes, there have been moral and effective occupations. Our occupations of Japan and Germany come to mind. But there are ignoble occupations that corrupt the occupiers: the Soviet occupation of Germany, the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. From the Iraqis' point of view, we're more like the Soviets in East Germany than the Americans in West Germany.

When the occupied country emphatically doesn't want the occupiers there, an occupation corrupts the occupying country. What we did in Japan was noble. What we're doing in Iraq is corrupting us, both there in Iraq and here at home.

It's harder to fit on a sign or on a lapel button, but "End the occupation" is a more powerful slogan than "End the war." Dirty hippies are anti-war. Decent people who take showers want to end an occupation and bring their men and women home.

Repeat after me: America's occupation of Iraq… Our occupation of Iraq… Occupation forces in Iraq… The nearly four-year-old occupation… Our occupiers are caught in the crossfire of an Iraqi civil war…

End the occupation. The war ended long ago.