Lexicon of Iraq War Lingo: Fightin’ Words

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

GROUNDHOG DAY: another day on duty in Iraq

DEAD CHECK: to put bullets in a lifeless body to ensure it’s dead

BAGHDAD CLOCK: Iraq’s own timeline for progress, usually set several months behind the Washington clock

ALL-AMERICAN DECOY: guard posted out in the open; a sitting target.

HOLLOW ARMY: to fill out the ranks with untrained or unqualified soldiers

20 PERCENT SOLUTION: General David Petraeus’ plan to arm the Sunnis to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq

80 PERCENT SOLUTION: plan to break the Sunni insurgency by siding with the Shiites and Kurds

CRUNCHIES: tank-driver slang for infantry. (Think of the sound of a tank rolling over a body.)

RED ON RED: enemy-on-enemy fire, such as when Shiite factions battle each other

FOBBIT: American soldier who never leaves a forward operating base (FOB)

DBIED: Donkey-Borne Improvised Explosive Device. Also known as “shock and hee-haw.”

CROCKET: insurgent vehicle carrying rockets or artillery rounds. Also known as “cartillery.”

HILLBILLY ARMOR: improvised vehicle armor made from scrap metal and scrounged parts. Also known as “Frankenstein” in the Marine Corps.

RHINO: 37-ton armored bus that shuttles VIPS from the Baghdad airport to the Green Zone

THUNDER RUN: high-speed military convoy in the midst of battle

ROAD APPLES: wake of defecation left by a convoy as soldiers relieve themselves from the backs of their trucks

AIRHEAD: base for supply and evacuation by air

FREEDOM BIRD: airplane flying American soldiers out of Iraq. Originated in Vietnam.

NEO: noncombatant evacuation operation

ASS AND TRASH: hauling people and things, usually by air. Originated in Vietnam.

ROLL UP: orderly dismantling of military facilities

CHU: Containerized Housing Unit (pronounced “choo”). A movable living space made from a shipping container. Often clustered in “CHUvilles.”

RE-HAT: to give a local militia new uniforms, often without adequate training

LILY PAD: military base used as a jumping-off point to get to another part of the world

COMMO BLACKOUT: communication blackout for a dead soldier’s unit until family is informed

TRUNK MONKEYS: derogatory term for Iraqi troops in a pickup truck mounted with a machine gun

ROUTE TAMPA: main military supply line into Iraq from Kuwait. Also the main route out of the country.

OVER-THE-HORIZON FORCE: post-withdrawal contingent of American forces that would remain in the Middle East

TINY HEART SYNDROME: affliction common among Iraqi units that shy away from combat

CHEWERS: insurgents who record the license plates and movements of Iraqi civilians working with the Americans to target them for assassination

RAT FUCK: to ransack

“SHUT UP AND COLOR”: admonition to a soldier who is expected to do his duty despite less-than-ideal circumstances

SIMPLIFICATION: Iraqi slang for ethnic cleansing

FORT LIVING ROOM: civilian life

BUG OUT: to beat a hasty retreat

KMAG YO-YO: Kiss My Ass, Guys, You’re On Your Own. Translation: Adios, Iraq!


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend