Fighting Words: An Iraq War Glossary

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Collateral damage:
A military euphemism for civilian deaths.
Decapitation strike:
To remove a regime’s leadership and thereby curtail warfare. The U.S. military attempted a decapitation strike against Saddam Hussein at the war's outset. Also called a target of opportunity.
Embedded reporter:
A journalist traveling with troops and reporting from the battlefield. The 2003 Iraq war was the first time “embeds” were used. Pros: unprecedented media access to the front. Cons: lack of distance and independence between reporters and their protectors. A unilateral was a reporter unattached to a military unit.
Fedayeen (“soldier of sacrifice”):
A paramilitary group founded by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday in 1995 and used against the regime’s domestic enemies. They showed unexpected resistance against U.S. and British troops in the 2003 Iraq war.
The largest non-nuclear bomb in existence made its debut in the Iraq war. The acronym stands for Massive Ordnance Air Burst, but it has been nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs.
Patriot missiles:
Rockets that intercept other missiles before they reach their targets.
Peshmerga (“those who face death”):
Kurdish fighters who have battled the Iraqi regime for generations. They fought with coalition troops on the northern front in the 2003 Iraqi war.
Regime change:
A polite term for the overthrow of a government.
Republican Guard:
Saddam Hussein’s most elite troops, led by his son Qusay.
Shock and awe:
American equivalent to the blitzkrieg, in which the enemy is treated to an overwhelming strike that leads to a swift surrender.
Smart bombs:
Accurate bombs that are guided to their targets by Global Positioning Satellites, as opposed to dumb bombs, those without guidance systems.
Surgical strike:
Military jargon that makes a precision bombing sound like a beneficial medical procedure.
Weapons of mass destruction (WMD):
chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. The Washington Post quoted historian Paul Fussell on the subject: “A machine gun, properly fired, is a weapon of mass destruction. We're pretending that only awful and sinister people own weapons of mass destruction. We own them, too. We just call them something else.”

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