I’ve decided to apply for a civilian job at the Pentagon. I want to be the guy that comes up with each day’s description of the counterinsurgent Iraqi enemy for press releases. Whoever they have now is good, no question about it. I’ve been a fan of his work since the first week of May. Under his tutelage, the average length in print of the described Iraqi enemy has jumped from about four or five words in May ("pro-Saddam Baath Party holdouts"), to about 10 to 15 words in June ("Forces loyal to the regime of the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein"), to the current 20 to 25 words. Matt Taibbi, NY Press, July 2003
Thus began Taibbi's quest to find the perfect US government description of the Americans' terrorist foes in Iraq, a search that started simple with "Ba'athists" and "Loyalists", and quickly became...
"Ba'ath Party activists loyal to the deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein"; "Iraqis who remain loyal to Saddam Hussein and Islamic militants from other countries eager to kill Americans"; "Remnants of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party, anti-American Islamic fighters coming into Iraq and common criminals..." and "Former Ba'ath Party and security officials who will stop at nothing to regain their power and their privilege enjoyed under the deposed Hussein dictatorship".
Me, my favourite was the short-lived "Anti-Iraqi forces", one of the more ballsy efforts.
So, given recent events, what fresh terms are about to be minted for north Africa? "Gaddafi-ites" sounds too much like a Desmond Dekker record and is inflicted with a plethora of variant spellings and "Insurgents" carries far too many negative historical connotations. Maybe they'll let us down by going for plain old "Al Qaeda extremists", but there's a part of me that fully expects "Islamomaniacal xenophobic fascists hell-bent on causing mayhem and destruction".