EYE ON WASHINGTON | Linguistic Legacies of the Iraq War, Abbreviated

Jeremiah Goulka

Linguistic Legacies of the Iraq War, Abbreviated 



CF – (a) Coalition Forces: The U.S.-led invasion and occupation force.

(b) Charlie Foxtrot: Alphabetic code for an epithet frequently used by CF about CF.  (Hint: first word is “cluster”)


COINCounterinsurgency (one word, sometimes two).  Theory developed by military scholars after invasions in the Philippines, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., surprisingly led to local discontent and violence.  Area of professional expertise for numerous DoD consultants.  Summary of theory: Insurgencies can be handily countered through an 8-hour web-based cultural awareness training module, compensation for mistaking a family member for an IED ($2,500), and civic empowerment of local leaders (easily identified by large number of followers carrying automatic weapons).


CPA Coalition Provisional Authority (defunct).  The temporary government of Iraq during the first year of the occupation, featuring L. Paul Bremer, Ahmed Chalabi, and several 22-year-olds who were excited to get their first passports.  Among the CPA’s many accomplishments: (1) sending the Iraqi Army home with their weapons and the promise of severance, (2) failing to pay that severance, and (3) creating an armed insurgency.


CTCounterterrorism (one word, sometimes two).  Similar to COIN, but unlike the tendency of insurgencies to be limited to a single country (usually a devastated war zone), terrorism can be worldwide or even at home, making CT contracts much more fun.  Impetus of the award-winning See Something, Say SomethingTM campaign, the long-overdue purchase of tanks and armored personnel carriers for your local police department, and a constant flow of new terrorists to counter.


DoDDepartment of War.


GOIGovernment of Iraq.  That thing the Iraqis wanted to do for themselves.


GWOTGlobal War on Terror.  (Alt. “War on Terror”)  The term (now out-of-fashion) encompassing America’s bold thirteen-year effort to punish Al Qaeda for 9/11 by forcing it to open new franchises in other countries.


IEDImprovised Explosive Device. What insurgent and Al Qaeda franchises serve, sometimes by drive-thru.


KBRKellogg Brown & Root, Inc.  (NYSE: KBR)  The top services contractor (by far) in OIF, becoming to military privatization what Coke is to fizzy drinks, Kleenex is to tissues, and Blackwater is to mercenaries. Praised by accusers for the creativity of its indiscretions, such as forgetting where it left $100 million of U.S. Government property and accidentally electrocuting soldiers in the shower.


OCOOverseas Contingency Operation.  How the Obama Administration ended the GWOT by renaming it.


OGAOther Government Agency.  What CIA-types call the CIA so that everyone knows they’re CIA.


OIFOperation Iraqi Freedom.  The official name of the mission to bring freedom to Iraqis by way of an operation.  Saddam Hussein was surgically removed.  There were complications.

Etymological note. Originally called “Operation Iraqi Liberation” until White House communications professionals realized that its acronym might make it appear that a war started by the former chairman of an oil company and the former chairman of an oil-services company might something to do with oil.


PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Not original to Iraq War, just made a lot more common by it.


SMESubject Matter Expert (pronounced “smee”).  Recommended personnel for nation-building efforts.  (This acronym is less well known, possibly due to their absence.)


TBITraumatic Brain Injury.  Hopefully you didn’t get one of these, because then you’d have to go to the…


VAU.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Where GWOT veterans who were trained to hurry up and wait to be shot at are still going to hurry up and wait for shots.




Jeremiah Goulka is a writer based in Washington, DC.  Before he couldn’t stand it any longer, he worked at two federal agencies and a prominent think-tank.  You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website www.jeremiahgoulka.com.




EYE ON WASHINGTON | The West Point Commencement Address I Would Have Given

Jeremiah Goulka

Hello, West Point!

(Allow applause to die down.)

(What, no applause?)

(Try not to look so surprised. They’re waiting for the president.)

Wow do your futures look bright!  You’re graduating from college, and you’ve already got a job!  And no student loans!

(Cheers and shouts of “Hooah!”)

Remember that old recruiting ad?  “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines: It’s a great place to start.”  So true.  Why?  Transferable skills.  (Not grammar.)

When the day comes that you leave the Army and return to civilian life – yeah, yeah, I know, here you are graduating and I’m talking about that time in the future when you have to choose your own clothes, but let’s face it, you can’t stay in the military for the rest of your life … unless … um …  well …

Anywho … when you do leave the Army, wow will you have opportunities!  It is a great place to start!

Now you’ve probably heard some folks say that your futures are under THREAT!  What is this CREDIBLE THREAT to your future opportunities?

No, it’s not Al Qaeda, insurgents, or budget-cutting Tea Partiers.

It’s privatization.

(Make a scary sound: oooooooo.)

Yep, privatization.  The fearmongers seem to be under the impression that the Pentagon and Congress are selling you out to a bunch of scheming mountebanks by privatizing so many of the jobs that had once made the military such “a great place to start.”  As if it’s part of some fiendish master plan to trade technology and logistics jobs and whatever for campaign donations and a twirl of the revolving door.  These critics clearly hate America.  It’s so tiresome to listen them ask: “How will the Army recruit or retain our talented youth if the only thing you get to do is shoot at people?”

(The audience is booing the critics, not you.) (Right?)

I know!  How dare they besmirch the good name of this great nation’s esteemed defense contractors like that?

These critics, who are obviously radical extremists, clearly don’t understand the New Economy.  There’s nothing wrong with shooting at people.

I am here today to tell you this: shooting at people is a great transferable skill!

Want proof?

The private security field is hot and growing hotter worldwide, what with all the instability caused by the arrival of climate change and, well, the United States military.  Talk about a growth industry!  They want you!

Or if you’d feel more comfortable behind a badge, I’ve got great news.  The police forces of America are getting more and more militarized.  Wanna drive a tank?  Become a cop!  And if you’re worried that you won’t get to shoot at people as often as you’d like, never fear: the nation’s biggest law enforcement agency is hiring.  Protect the nation from the invading hordes of wannabe taxpayers: The Border Patrol wants you!

Or, better yet, go where the real money is.  Sign up with a defense contractor!

You’ll never make less than six figures, and you’ll be doing exactly the same thing you would have done in uniform had the contractors not stolen all those jobs.  Only you’ll cost the taxpayer more to do it!  Yippee!

If you retire as a general, you can join a board of directors and get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just for calling up your old buddies at the Pentagon to play golf.

Or if you sign up sooner, and you work really hard, with the values that West Point has instilled in you, and if you’re really lucky, you might just rise to the top.  Know how much money the CEO of Lockheed Martin makes every year?  Thirty million dollars.  Every year! Almost entirely on government contracts.  Which makes it public service!

What a way to serve your country, in style.

Shooting at people is a transferable skill.  Of course it is.  It’s so obvious.  What does it take to effectively persuade a bunch of eighteen-year-olds to shoot at people?  Leadership. Tough-mindedness.  Decision-making.  You’ll learn these in today’s increasingly privatized Army.

You’ll learn how to navigate overly complex and bloated bureaucracies.  You’ll learn how to fight off doubts that what you are doing may not be quite what was advertised.   You’ll learn how to obey orders without question, even if they are stupid and possibly illegal.

The perfect transferable skills for Corporate America!

Yes, Corporate America wants you!  They want to say thanks for all the work you’ll be doing for them in the Army after you graduate today.  You’ll thrive!

Firing people?  That’s nothing after you’ve fired at people.

So congratulations, graduates.  Don’t listen to the critics.  They’re obviously jihadists.  Be all that you can be.  And don’t get killed.


Jeremiah Goulka is a writer based in Washington, DC.  Before he couldn’t stand it any longer, he worked at two federal agencies and a prominent think-tank.  You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website www.jeremiahgoulka.com.