BAGHDAD (Reuters) – “Hi Sergeant, we hear there are clashes in Baquba. Do you have any information on that?” screams the journalist down a bad mobile phone line from Baghdad.
“Well Ma’am, MNF and ISF engaged with AIF, who were planting IEDs, after coming under small arms fire,” came the reply.
Confused? So was she.
The history of warfare is written in acronyms that cleanse the blood from gory wounds and strip the horror from bombs.
The Iraq war has spawned its very own alphabet soup of abbreviations and battlefield buzzwords intelligible only to the military and war correspondents trying to make sense of it all.
Many, like MNF, just make the longwinded multinational forces less of a mouthful.
Some, like IED, take the bang out of an improvised explosive device — a makeshift bomb.
Others, like AIF, or anti-Iraqi forces, are part of the information war — the U.S. military uses the phrase to describe insurgents.
Ready for a translation? “U.S. and Iraqi forces fought with insurgents who planted roadside bombs and fired guns.”
Long the exclusive lingo of soldiers on battlefields and generals in command centres, the era of satellite television and instant Internet has brought the bewildering jumble of military jargon into living rooms the world over.
From the hunt for WMDs to the search for HVTs, high value targets such as Saddam Hussein, reporters “embedded” with U.S. military units since the 2003 invasion of Iraq have brought the language of war and occupation into the public consciousness.
IEDS SPELL DEATH
The IED long predated the Iraq war, but as rebels get more creative, so tongue-twisting variations on classics are born.
VBIEDs, or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, often spell death for Iraq’s fledgling forces, who have borne the brunt of such rebel attacks. They are better known as car bombs.
If the bomber is still in the vehicle when it explodes, it is an SVBIED — S for suicide. When the bomber straps the explosives to his person, he becomes a PBIED.
Since roadside bombs have emerged as the weapon of choice for insurgents attacking U.S. patrols, the military has begun to “up-armour” its “soft” vehicles. Sometimes soldiers harden their vehicles using odds and ends. This is “hillbilly armour”.
When American soldiers are hit, they are often “medivaced” to the CASH, or combat support hospital. If they recover, they will end up RTDed, or returned to duty.
If not they become Angels, a euphemism U.S. military doctors use for troops killed in battle, and contender for Word of the Year 2004, the American Dialect Society’s annual competition for the best new word.
Despite persistent bloodshed in Iraq, not all are fighting words. The new U.S.-backed bureaucracy has its own lingo.
When journalists in Iraq want information about the U.S.-led military, we call CPIC, the Combined Press Information Centre.
They sometimes refer us to the IIG, or Iraqi Interim Government, which took over from the defunct occupation authority, the Coalition Provisional Authority, or CPA, in June.
In a month, Iraqis will elect a TNA, or Transitional National Assembly, which will appoint a new government and make a permanent constitution out of the TAL, or Transitional Administrative Law. Iraqis call the TAL the interim constitution.
The Iraqi government, as well as the U.S. and British embassies, are based in the Green Zone, a fortified compound considered safer than the rest of Baghdad, which is a Red Zone.
Six months ago, the Green Zone was officially renamed the International Zone. That name never stuck.