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a war by any other name
ww anyone?
by robert a. melos
pop culture

I’m approaching what some would call middle-aged, not old enough to remember World War II, barely out of diapers when Vietnam was happening, and didn’t pay much attention to what was going on war-wise around the globe after that until I hit seventh and eighth grade history. It was at that point when I really started to learn about what went on in the world, and mostly about war, since it seemed most of what went on in the world, according to the history books, was war.

There were the big four, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I and World War II. Of course there were some other wars as well, all with names that pretty much defined the war by country or era; The War of 1812 for instance, or the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, Viet Nam. All are pretty self-explanatory. Sure they weren’t always completely accurate, like the 100 Year War, it lasted longer than 100 years, and what the hell was the War of the Roses about? My guess is still a Michael Douglass film where he gets his nuts snapped in a mousetrap.

So aside from that one bizarre name for a war it seemed logic dictated wars were either named for regions, length or year they were fought. With that simple lesson in mind my simple grasp of recorded history was slapped out of whack with Operation Desert Storm. It was 1989 and took place in Kuwait. Well, okay it was in a desert also, but naming the war something that sounds like the title of a romantic spy novel just doesn’t fit the logical war naming criteria.

Now we are in the middle of Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Get Saddam, or Operation Kick Bin-Laden’s Butt (I’m joking. The Bin-Laden aspect of any current war is purely fictional and used in references only when paying lip service to those who still remember Bin-Laden was the catalyst to the world’s current situation). The point is, we are bombarded with silly names for what history books will hopefully record as the Iraq War, although I would concede calling it a conflict even thought the word ‘war’ is more accurate.

I’m more curious why we shun the word that best describes our actions for words that cloud the more serious overtones of those actions. Desert Storm could’ve been a weather report, and calling anything ‘operation’ makes me think of the electronic children’s game where you got points for successfully removing the funny bone without touching the sensors and getting the guys red nose to blink and buzz.

Enduring Freedom as a chapter in a history book won’t hold a candle to a chapter on World War II, unless we finally admit this event has escalated into World War III. Now once we settle on calling it what it is that will make the marketing of the event so much easier and a much better way of raising money to support the war. Imagine the t-shirt revenue alone, along with those mass marketed ‘most wanted’ playing cards, should cover at least half the price of one operation something or other.

On the other hand, why do we have to call it anything? If everyone would simply stop fighting it would be called ‘peace’, but we know from human nature that ‘peace’ ain’t gonna happen. Just watching the news with interviews from people caught in Lebanon or fleeing Lebanon, hearing them tell reporters their children will one day grow up and come back and fight Israel proves human beings have a warrior nature and respect ownership of land more than they respect life itself.

Everyone universally agrees war is a terrible thing, yet if everyone agrees with this then why do so many people seem so willing to go to war? I’d be much more inclined to go if it were called something else, like ‘vacation’ or maybe ‘Star Wars’. Whatever it is called, it can be agreed upon, war by any other name is just as deadly. And that’s what this all comes down to. You can call it what you like, but the results will still be the same.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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tracey kelley
7.26.06 @ 11:57a

You've made an interesting point about conflict names. I've never liked "Operationg Enduring Freedom" simply for the reason that I hate to think of freedom as something I have to "endure" as in "Okay, fine, I'll 'endure' your 'freedom'. What-ever."


robert melos
7.26.06 @ 10:48p

I personally have stated many times I feel we are in the wrong war, and we should've gone on after Osama Bin-Laden and gone after all the Egyptians who are taking terrorist actions in other countries. Unfortunately the terrorist-types are hiding behind their religious beliefs as an excuse for violence. The mentality of "if you aren't like me, or don't think like me, then you are an infidel and must die" is screwing up the world.

I definitely think this should be called World War III.

As far as "supporting the troops", my version is to send ones I know there stuff like powdered drink mix, books, stuff they've told me they want. I definitely don't support the war.

alex b
7.28.06 @ 8:59p

Love your piece. How these ridiculous yet deliberate names become embraced is beyond me. My only explanation is that people have a strong liking for propaganda- or get carried away when listening to Ride of the Valkyries. Ugh.

Though I hope our troops are well taken care of and don't die (especially for the sake of their families), I hate the war. People don't seem to understand that it isn't this noble undertaking, but a dirty business- though the names would have you believe otherwise.

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