A drum roll, please: It's time to announce the results of the Name That War Contest.
In a column 10 days ago about Iraq, I expressed frustration at the absence of a good name for our war there. So I offered prizes (Iraqi 250-dinar notes with Saddam's picture) and invited readers to send in entries.
Then I fled to Guatemala and El Salvador, and when I returned to the office this week, there were 4,000 entries from all over the world.
Hundreds of people offered "Bush's Folly," "Burning Bush," "Bush League War," "Bubba's War," "Shrub's War," "Operation Quicksand" or "The Crawford Conflict." Then there were zillions of "Iraqmire," "Iraqgate" and "Iraqnam."
Lois from New Zealand suggested "Operation Bushwhack Iraq." Avie Hern of California offered "Bushkrieg."
Some people suggested that instead of Operation Iraqi Freedom, this is "Operation Iraqi Liberation." I thought they were hawks until I recognized the acronym: OIL. Also on the petroleum front, Peter Wilson of Pennsylvania offered "Mother of Oil Wars."
Some names were interesting but a bit long. For example, Charles Hayes of New York offered these options: "Bremer Takes a Baath," "I Waged Two Wars Against Saddam and All I Got Was His Headache" and "Visit Scenic Saddam and Gomorrah."
Imaginative, but try to fit those into a headline. Or this from Pat Malach of Oregon: "Operation Gee Whiz, This Liberation Thing Seemed a Lot Easier When We Were Drawing It Up Back at the Think Tank."
But some entries were so concise they sounded as if they could have graced a Robert Ludlum thriller: "The Iraq Pre-emption," "The Bush Incursion," "Bush's Botch" and "The Big Uneasy."
The last is, of course, a play on the movie "The Big Easy." There were lots of other pop culture references (my assistant, Christina Lem, had to translate some for me; I speak foreign languages but have never been fluent in pop). A Minnesota astronomer who evidently likes Britney Spears offered: "Operation Oops, We Did It Again." And movie buffs urged "Operation Kick the Dog," "The Empire Strikes Out," "Apocalypse Right Now," "Mission Implausible: A Job Well Spun" and "Trek 2: Wrath of Neo-Khan."
Scholarly readers argued that the distinctive quality of this war was America's claim that it has the right to invade other countries if they are developing weapons of mass destruction and may threaten us. John Parry of North Carolina suggested "Pre-emptive War I," leaving room for us to continue the series if we move on to Tehran and Pyongyang.
On the model of the War of Jenkins' Ear, one reader suggested "The War of Bush's Flight Suit." Harold Kramer of Massachusetts singlehandedly came up with "Rummy's Retreat," "Cheney's Chaos," "Perle's Predicament," "Powell's Problem" and "Rice's Regret."
Others came up with "King George's New Colony," "The War of the Roves" and "The War That Cried Wolfowitz."
Donn Blodgett of Vermont urged "Coup d'États Unis," and Linda Kolker of Georgia recommended "The Charge of the Right Brigade."
Honorable mention in this contest goes to "Operation Unscramble Eggs," by Russell Schindler of New York; "Desert Storm und Drang," by Robert Proctor of Connecticut; "The 'Raq," by Jeff Schramm of Missouri; "A'bombin'nation," by Kent Moore of North Carolina; "Tigris by the Tail," by Paul Reeves of New Mexico; "War of Mass Deception," by Scott Dacko of New York; and "Iraq: A Hard Place," by Chris Walters of Texas.
The five winners, each of whom gets a 250-dinar note left over from my last Iraq trip, are: Brad Corsello of New York for "Dubya Dubya III"; Richard Sanders for "Rolling Blunder"; John Fell of California for "Desert Slog," Will Hutchinson of Vermont for "Mess in Potamia"; and Willard Oriol of New York for "Blood, Baath and Beyond."
More seriously, during this holiday weekend, I hope we'll think often and appreciatively of those Americans who are in Iraq right now. Humor cannot erase their fear and loneliness in the face of Washington's policy failures, or the heartbreak here in so many homes where bereaved parents, spouses and orphans are struggling in this season to remember why they should be giving thanks.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company