"Surge" is Purged

01/12/2007 11:59 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hear ye, hear ye!

Let word go out far and wide -"surge" has been purged from the lexicon of the Iraq war debate.

A term that once promised to join the ranks of "personal accounts," "clear skies," "healthy forests" and other Bush Propaganda All Stars met a quick demise Wednesday when the president decided he could not credibly use the term to describe his Iraq escalation policy.

As you may know, "surge" was a recently invented term - leaked by Bush Administration officials to the press after the November elections - that existed nowhere in Department of Defense's official Dictionary of Military Terms. By contrast, "escalation" is an official military term and has been used historically to describe troop increases (see Vietnam).

But for months, proponents of escalating the Iraq war have insisted on using the term "surge" and the media have gone right along. Did you ever wonder why this word was pushed so hard?

A recent CBS poll lends a clue. Only 18% of Americans support putting more troops in Iraq. But when the question is framed as a "short-term" troop increase, support jumped to 45% (still a minority, but more substantial). And as CNN analyst Bill Schneider points out, "surge sounds temporary."

Some excellent research by Nico Pitney at Think Progress bolsters this theory. Between November 19 and November 22, there was a series of leaks by "senior officials" to the press - linking a possible "surge" to the concept of "short-term."

"Short-term surge," reported the New York Times and MSNBC. "Short period," reported the Washington Post. "Temporary surge," reported the Christian Science Monitor. ABC's Jonathan Karl even reported a "temporary surge of no more than 60 days."

We could win Iraq in 60 days, wow! The media was primed. The public was primed. There was just one small thing standing in the way - the truth.

That truth started coming out a month later - on December 27. In a joint Washington Post op-ed, the architects of the Bush escalation plan (retired General Jack Keane and right-wing scholar Fred Kagan) said they needed to "cut through the confusion." They admitted a troop increase would require "at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so."

(Umm, General - quick question. Don't ya mean 60 days? Winning this thing in 60 days sounded great!)

"18 months or so," they wrote, "Any other option is likely to fail."

(Drat...Well, maybe they are just scrooges. Any other opinions out there?)

On January 8, the New York Times reported on Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. "The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush's new war strategy it might take another 'two or three years' for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war."

(Ok, I hate to be a downer, but this is officially the suckiest "short-term" plan to end a civil war ever. John McCain, you're a straight talker. Back in November, you "continued to argue vigorously for a short-term surge in American forces." Please, John, would you talk some sense into these people? Can I hear 45 days? A quick one-two punch. In and out. Whuddyasay?)

On January 9, in a Sacramento Bee op-ed, McCain wrote: "The worst of all worlds would be a small, short surge of U.S. forces."


McCain continues, "A short surge would have all the drawbacks associated with greater deployments without giving our troops the time to be effective. Announcing that we are surging for three or six months -- or any other timeline -- would signal to the insurgents and militias that they can wait us out."

(This is why John McCain will never be president. He's supports leaving someone as incompetent as Bush in charge of an ineptly-run, open-ended intervention in Iraq's civil war - and he doesn't have the courtesy to hide it! Well, when all else fails, the White House will do it right. Please, Tony Snow, show these other losers how to spin the "surge." Short term! Short term!)

On January 10, hours before Bush's big speech, the New York Times reported, "Mr. Snow last night said that the president would not be using the word 'surge' in his speech, adding that it implied what he called a 'rush hour' approach to a serious policy."


And there, my friends, is the rise and fall of "surge." Born approximately November 19, 2006 - Deceased January 10, 2007.

In contrast, the term "escalation" - the accurate, historical, official word for a troop increase - is alive and kicking. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have been rightly using this word for weeks.

And after Bush's speech, first reports from the New York Times, Washington Post, AP, USA Today, ABC, and CBS had zero references to "surge" while the Washington Post, AP, and CBS all mentioned "escalation." NBC had one reference to "surge" but it was a Republican Senator saying he opposed it. And this Washington Post story had five references to "escalation," zero "surge."

Now that the term "surge" is dead, let's do right by our troops and our country and stop the escalation.

PS - If you see reporters who are behind the times and still using "surge," take action! Send them this blog post. Blog about them. Every time the media repeat "surge," they are using an inaccurate, misleading, and thoroughly debunked term - there's no excuse for using it anymore.