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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
E-cyclopedia's words of war, part 3
The words used during war can have special significance. E-cyclopedia is keeping an eye out for the words being used in this conflict, and what they actually mean. Here is a third selection of words from this war.

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

aggression - the chosen word of the week for the Iraqi leader, or whoever is writing his statements: "The aggression that the aggressors are carrying out against the stronghold of faith is an aggression on religion, wealth, honour and the soul and an aggression on the land of Islam...they are aggressors, evil, accursed by God."

bogged down - what the US and UK armies have been trying to avoid becoming. General Sir Mike Jackson, chief of the general staff, said: "There has been comment about a phrase used... I noticed in somebody's report was 'bogged down'. Well I wouldn't actually describe it in that way. Let us see where we are." He did later describe the Iraqi forces as being "pinned down".

big picture - something which is being distorted by "snapshots", according to a reported statement by Tony Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell, who was concerned that on-the-spot reports were making the overall goals harder to identify. Briefings have thus been making an effort to focus on the big picture.

conventional war - traditionally used to mean a war fought without using nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. But now being used to mean a war fought without using shock and awe, ie extensive prolonged use of air strikes and ground troops, eg LA Times: "Iraq Forcing Longer, Conventional War".

cowboy - in everyday British parlance, cowboy means a dodgy tradesman, but the phrase is now also invested with a barb of anti-American resentment. Lance Corporal Steven Gerrard said, after a US A-10 destroyed a Household Cavalry Scimitar tank thereby killing one of his friends: "He had absolutely no regard for human life. I believe he was a cowboy. He'd just gone out on a jolly."

dead enders - the Fedayeen, fighters who are ultra-loyal to Saddam, according to Donald Rumsfeld. He said: "I suspect that some of these dead enders will be down there shooting people and doing that type of thing... I'm not going to call them troops, because they're travelling in civilian clothes and they're essentially terrorists."

end - something that's not as close as everyone thought it was. Donald Rumsfeld's phrase, which attempted to manage people's expectations: "We're still, needless to say, much closer to the beginning than the end." Perhaps a prosaic echo of Churchill's "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

deconflicting the airspace - at first sight, one of those meaningless military phrases, but this term actually comes from air traffic control and refers to making sure that things in the air do not collide (eg planes, helicopters, missiles). The "conflict" is used in the sense of two things competing for the same space, rather than warfare.

ethical surgery - one way of looking at fighting a war. Used by the Reverend Jimmy Morrison, a former SAS chaplain, on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, who extended the medical analogy: "The chaplain is there... to help the warrior remain human, in God's image, while wielding the instruments of a kind of ethical surgery - in this case cutting the cancer of a corrupt and murderous regime from the body of Iraq."

fog of war - the reason bad things happen. Strangely a phrase rarely used when things have gone well or when good luck has played a part.

hearts and minds - the goal for the coalition forces. Whether by humanitarian aid, food, leaflets, propaganda, wearing soft berets, winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people - and by extension those of the Western public too - takes on great significance.

Mark 7 and 8 Mammal Marine Systems - dolphins.

Mogadishu rules - The style of urban warfare in which civilian disguise and ambush are key factors. As Time magazine puts it: "The ambush in Somalia by armed men indistinguishable from peaceable civilians is more relevant to our future than a full shelf of books on the World War II heroics of the 'greatest generation'."

onesies and twosies - the numbers of people playing by Mogadishu rules, according to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers. "There are... plans in place to deal with those onesies and twosies."

precision weapon - not just a delicate euphemism for bomb, but actually what bombs are now called, eg Group Captain Al Lockwood: "We dropped a precision weapon."

quagmire - what the coalition forces are desperate to avoid. Unlike Vietnam, in Iraq it's used metaphorically. Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf: "We will not let the Allies out of the quagmire we have trapped them in. They will meet their fate." Author William Shawcross: "This word has legs - it was precisely the term applied in the late 1960s to Vietnam, as thousands of US troops followed each other into the seemingly bottomless pit of the Vietnam war. The quagmire image worked in Vietnam because the monsoon weather literally bogged down American soldiers in the rainy season. In Iraq, sandstorm is a better image. These can be very disruptive and disorientating. But at least sandstorms - unlike quagmires - blow themselves out."

snowflakes - Pentagonspeak for the many off-the-cuff memoranda dictated by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "He fires off 'snowflakes', queries that fall on the bureaucracy like 'a blizzard', says an aide." (Newsweek).

soft berets - UK forces in southern Iraq have switched from their hard helmets to their berets, in an attempt to appear less threatening. A source said: "We are moving from a very aggressive stance to possibly getting back to normality."

Vietnam - much cited spectre, especially as used by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz: "People say to me you are not the Vietnamese, you have no jungles and swamps to hide in. I reply, 'Let our cities be our swamps and our buildings be our jungles'."

wargamed - word which gained a degree of notoriety for two reasons when General William Wallace, the US army's senior commander in Iraq, said: "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd wargamed against." Firstly because it indicated that things were not in fact going to plan, as Washington and London claimed, and secondly because some people think it indicated a video-game mentality towards war.

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