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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 13:30 GMT
E-cyclopedia's words of war, part 2
The words used during war can have special significance. E-cyclopedia will be keeping an eye out for the words being used in this conflict, and what they actually mean. Here is a second selection of words from this war.

Send your suggestions too, using the form at the bottom of the page.

E-cyclopedia is BBC News Online's guide to words behind the headlines

attitude lobotomy - what, according to New York Times writer Thomas L Friedman, the US administration needs. "It needs to get off its high horse and start engaging people on the World Street, listening to what's bothering them, and also telling them what's bothering us."

called an audible at the line of scrimmage - reported phrase by Gen Tommy Franks, allegedly said when ordering a surgical strike to decapitate Saddam Hussein. Irked some commentators for overtly being a sports phrase. One said: "The militarising of sports terms makes me vaguely uncomfortable. The practice tends to trivialize war and place too much importance on sports."

catastrophic success - a bad case scenario, identified by the Financial Times. "US troops saunter into Baghdad, opposed only pathetically by poorly equipped Iraqi forces. Then, in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, the supposed existence of which has provided the main public justification for war, they find nothing but a few rusty canisters of chemicals. The name for this outcome: Catastrophic Success."

decapitation - the attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein, the belief that killing the leader and his cohort cuts the head off the enemy beast. A policy going back decades, but frustratingly for the US with little recent success. Castro, Gaddafi, General Aidid, and Osama Bin Laden himself have escaped decapitation attempts. General Noriega is, however, in a US jail.

decisive precision shocks - alternative phrase for bomb, according to General Tommy Franks. Reference to doctrine of shock and awe.

effects-based targeting - a term, initially used by British commanders, characterised by pinpoint rather than blanket bombing - the effect being to strike only military targets. "Put simply," suggests reader AF, UK, "it means 'why use a sledgehammer when a nutcracker will do the job?'"

embedding - the 500 journalists who are based within US and UK military units, living and travelling with them before and during the war.

FIBUA, DIBUA, OBUA - "fighting in built-up areas", "defence in built-up areas" and "operations in built-up areas". Reader Anthony Kay, UK, suggests these military acronyms will become common currency as battles are taken into cities and urban warfare becomes the new shock and awe

friendly fire - one of the most widely loathed terms to come of the first Gulf war, because although the fire comes from friends, it is anything but friendly. Sadly in use again, but alternatives may become popular, eg "blue on blue" casualties, or the more serious-sounding term "fratricide".

full force and might - President Bush's description of the sanction being used against Saddam. "[T]he only way to reduce the harm and duration of war is to apply the full force and might of our military, and we are prepared to do so," he said in his ultimatum speech.

hammer time - alternative to going kinetic (cf) - time to make an attack. As used by US Vice Admiral Timothy Keating on board USS Constellation on eve of war, to strains of Queen's We Will Rock You: "Make no mistake, when the president says go - look out, it's hammer time." Stands in contrast to rhetoric used by UK Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins. Reader David, UK says: "Inspires strange images of parachute-pant-wearing rapper MC Hammer."

lightly - the correct approach for much military activity, according to Colonel Tim Collins. "Tread lightly" on Iraq, he said, adding that killing was not to be done "lightly". At the same time, he encouraged them to be "ferocious" in battle.

mercenaries - US and UK troops, according to Mohamed Said al-Sahaf, Iraqi Minister of Information. Other words used include "superpower of villains", "superpower of Al Capone", "devils", "tyrants of the century".

moab - acronym either for "Massive Ordnance Air Blast" or unofficially "Mother of All Bombs". An experimental US precision-guided bomb weighing about 21,000lbs, the largest non-nuclear bomb there is, intended to update the infamous BLU-82B Commando Vault or "Daisy Cutter". Name is a reference to Saddam's phrase "Mother of all Battles", but residents of Moab, Utah, unhappy at new connotation of their name. Reader Chris Bowden-Green, Canada, says: "It's designed for maximum psychological effect at dissuading entrenched troops."

mosaic - according to General Tommy Franks, the pattern made up by simultaneous approaches of air forces, ground forces and special forces. "That plan... gives me latitude to build the mosaic that I just described in a way that provides flexibility so that we can attack the enemy on our terms, and we are doing so," he told reporters.

pre-H hour - another phrase for the time of invasion. "...Delta Force and CIA operatives, many of whom are foreign nationals, have been in Iraq for weeks conducting what military planners call 'pre-H-hour' (hour of invasion) activities..." wrote Jack Kelley in USA Today. Reader Johnny Brown says: "Just the right amount of jargon-coolness."

s, g, a - the format of battle, again according to General Tommy Franks. In his words: "The initiation of combat operations, we refer to that as D-Day. The introduction of special operations forces, we refer to that as S-Day. The introduction of ground forces, G-Day. And the introduction of shock air forces, A-Day. So the sequence you have seen, up to this point, has been S, G, A."

Stalingrad in Mesopotamia - the historical point of reference of the week, amid fears of prolonged siege and urban warfare around Baghdad

target of opportunity - related to window of opportunity, a one-off chance which hadn't been planned, perhaps inspired by intelligence. Used after the attempt to "decapitate" Saddam Hussein when his location was believed to have been identified to US forces.

the mark of Cain - the phrase for being known as an unlawful killer, according to Colonel Tim Collins, when addressing the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish regiment on the eve of war. "It is a big step to take another human life," he said. "It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them." Draws on religious imagery, which he later emphasised by saying Iraq was the site of the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.

tick-tock - the second-to-second attention to detailed events. Donald Rumsfeld said he was "not into the tick-tock of every hour and every minute".

urban warfare - fighting in streets, houses and buildings, as is feared might happen in Baghdad, when many preparations had been centred on fighting a war in a desert.

Comments on previous entries

collateral damage - the first use of this phrase was during the Korean war, 40 years before the first Gulf War. And by the time of America's next big adventure overseas in Vietnam, it was a commonplace phrase.
Mike, UK

big lie or great lie are in fact a direct borrowing from Mein Kampf where it is used in a particularly unpleasant way. One wonders if it is used deliberately given its history as part of anti-Semitism;
Nigel Edwards, UK

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