Surge of rhetoric

The new buzzword associated with the US war in Iraq, "surge," clearly allows for more puns than passe phrases such as "cut and run," "stay...

The new buzzword associated with the US war in Iraq, "surge," clearly allows for more puns than passe phrases such as "cut and run," "stay the course," or the rather short-lived "the way forward."

For example, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank writes in an article on the linguistic contortions exhibited by Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) -- up for re-election in '08 in an increasingly Democratic and anti-war state -- that the senator found himself trapped by a surge of reporters on Capitol Hill asking his views on the merits of President Bush's plan to add more than 20,000 troops to the current contingent in Iraq.

Anti-war activists, meanwhile, appear to enjoy using the word surge as a rallying cry. A group called Win Without War, for example, wants to organize an "anti-war surge" that includes participants posting personal "No!" messages on YouTube, a protest march in Washington on January 27, and a lobbying day on Capitol Hill on January 29.

Some critics of the planned surge of forces say another word could just as easily be used to describe the military action: "escalation," though probably the Bush administration prefers to avoid that term for various reasons. It might, for instance, remind people of the Vietnam War, which itself precipitated plenty of pet phrases, including one applied pretty often to the war in Iraq: "winning hearts and minds."

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