Operation names leave nothing to get lost in translation
ARLINGTON, Va. — The war against Iraqi insurgents is being waged increasingly in the Iraqis’ own language.
Iraqis are taking the lead in naming military operations, and have named several operations since the summer, said a Defense Department official.
On Monday, the 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Division planned and named “Operation Alkamra Almaner,” or “Moonlight,” to disrupt insurgents in Anbar province in Western Iraq, wrote Marines spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Pool via e-mail on Monday.
When U.S. or coalition forces plan operations, they translate the operational names into Arabic for their Iraqi counterparts, Pool wrote.
In military operations over the past year and a half, U.S. planners have picked names for military operations with the Arabic translation in mind, said Army Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, a plans officer.
“You want to have something that is equally as resonant with Iraqi and U.S. forces since both are participating,” said Ryan, who served as a planner with the 3rd Infantry Division and as a commander in the 1st Cavalry Division.
For example, planners named the assault against Fallujah in late 2004 “Al Fajar,” or “New Dawn,” for its symbolic meaning, Ryan said.
This is not new to military planning, Ryan said. The 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama was renamed from “Blue Spoon” to “Just Cause,” he said.
And planners renamed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 because its original name had negative connotations.
The operation was renamed “Enduring Freedom” after its original name, “Infinite Justice,” outraged Muslims, who believe only God can dispense justice.
Ryan said he did not know if the military has a list of suggested operational names that translate well into Arabic, but some words such as “hunter,” “thunder” and “lightning” are universally accepted as good names for operations.
Naming military operations in a language other than English is not new to the U.S. military, said David Keough, a historian with the U.S. Army Military Institute in Carlisle, Pa.
During the 1960s, U.S. psychological operations forces launched a leaflet-dropping campaign in Korea known as “Jilli,” or “truth,” he said.
And during the Vietnam War, joint U.S.-South Vietnamese operations frequently had Vietnamese operational names, especially toward the end of the war, he said.
But in the current conflict in Iraq, U.S. commanders ask Iraqi military leaders for suggestions on operational names and then translate them into English, wrote Maj. Angela L. Hildebrant, a spokeswoman for Multi-National Corps-Iraq.
In September, U.S. and Iraqi forces routed insurgents in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
An Iraqi commander picked the operation’s name — Restoring Rights — from a list of proposed names, wrote the commander of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment via e-mail Monday.
“The Iraqi Division Commander captured the nature of the operation with the name he selected,” wrote Col. H.R. McMaster. “The purpose of the operation was to protect the people — restore rights to the people — and save them from the terrorists and murderers who had choked the life out of the city.”