Infinite justice?

Recall the Pentagon's new code name for the war against terror -- before it's too late.

Topics:

When President Bush dropped the word “crusade” last weekend, in talking about how the U.S. will fight terrorism, I wrote it off as a slip — he probably didn’t realize the term was fraught with historical pain for the world’s billion-plus Muslims. In fact, spokesman Ari Fleischer quickly apologized.

When Bush said that our goal was to “rid the world of evil,” I said to myself, “Well, he’s angry, and he’s never been very good at impromptu verbiage, and he can’t possibly imagine actually meaning what he said, so it’s not worth getting too upset about.”

But the words of war keep getting wackier. Today, as U.S. planes began to be deployed to the Persian Gulf in the now-inevitable buildup of forces in the region, we learned the Pentagon’s code name for the operation: “Operation Infinite Justice.”

I’m sure our leaders want to inspire us for the challenges ahead. Justice, that’s something worth fighting for. But we’re also, I think, looking for some reassurance that the conflict we face is not infinite — that Bush’s team can define a reasonable set of achievable objectives so we can declare victory some time in our lifetimes, preferably sometime soon. Wasn’t that Colin Powell’s pragmatic doctrine?

You Might Also Like

At first the operation’s moniker rang in my ears of comic-book superheroes (Justice League of America, anyone?), but if you plug the phrase “infinite justice” into Google you find a spate of references from the disputations of Christian theologians (or at least you did, until references to the new military operation displaced them at the top of the search results). The crusade, it seems, is on again.

Quibbling over a label may seem petty, but in the media age, these code names aren’t clandestine at all, they’re P.R., and they carry psychic weight. “Infinite Justice” had barely escaped the military’s code-word hatcheries before it turned up on the cable networks’ logos and news-site home pages, and before we know it, it will be inescapable.

We can do better. “Operation Desert Storm,” for example, may have been pumped up with its own grandiosity, but at least it offered an out — once a storm is over, the sun shines again. “Operation Infinite Justice” sounds like a thriller you don’t want to see, or a video game you can never win. It’s all worked up with nowhere to go. It’s scary to us, not to our enemies.

CNN reported that the label was “tentative,” so maybe there’s still time for the military to change course and come up with a more sensible name before President Bush addresses the nation Thursday night. Please! Something traditional and martial would be fine: “Operation Blue Eagle,” or “Operation Mountain Hawk,” whatever — anything that doesn’t make us feel like the war we’re embarking on has an impossible goal and an unreachable end.

Update 9:30 a.m. Pacific time Thursday: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a press conference that the Pentagon was considering finding a new name for Operation Infinite Justice after hearing from Muslim clerics that the term was offensive.

Salon co-founder Scott Rosenberg is director of MediaBugs.org. He is the author of "Say Everything" and Dreaming in Code and blogs at Wordyard.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>