BOB GARFIELD: John Pilger isn't the only one to question the loaded language of war. This week, none other than outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered some second thoughts on word choice. Asked if there was anything different he'd have done in Iraq, Rumsfeld offered, "I don't think I would have called it a war on terror." Oh, really?
With fatal mistakes in troop levels, equally fatal underestimation of a few dead-enders, hundreds of thousands dead, a society in ruins, a breeding ground for terrorism where before there was none, and the defense Secretary regrets his phrasing?
It's not the war he'd wish to change, it's the Pentagon's spin on it. Because the word "war," he says, makes people think it will come to a neat conclusion, and because terror isn't the enemy – just the tactic of the enemy.
Of course, over the past six years, Rumsfeld had many opportunities to change the spin, but he clung to "war on terror" like a magic talisman. And no wonder; It was a linguistic trump card, justifying anything the administration did on grounds of national security.
In fact, last year, faced with criticism about the whole nomenclature surrounding Iraq, Rumsfeld said, "Let there be no mistake – we are a nation at war against terrorist enemies who are seeking our surrender or our retreat. It is a war." But, I guess, not a "war" war.
Unfortunately, endless struggle against ruthless fanatics, criminals and opportunists doesn't fit well in a cable news headline. And Vietnam is already taken.