Monthly Archives: December 2009

A Snake by Any Other Name

The following transcript was discovered by a United Air Lines flight attendant in the VIP lounge of the 747 where she was assigned during a recent flight to Seoul, Korea. The document is the actual transcription of a high-level meeting of  five officials from the Department of Defense’s Customer Service Office assigned the urgent task of naming President Obama’s Afghanistan War surge.* [*Operation Cobra Anger a/k/a Operation Angry Cobra]

I have read the transcript, but in the interest of national security, I’m unable to disclose its most critical contents, which you will find below:

Time: 2:45 a.m. EST

Voice 1:   For chrissake, you guys can’t agree on anything! We’ve been here since 6:00 o’clock and all I’m hearing is the same old, same old. ‘Operation Desert Freedom,’ ‘Operation Desert Wolf,’ ‘Operation Desert Liberation.’ Have you considered we’re not fighting  in a desert? 

Voice 2:   Oh.  

Voice 3:   Right, right. [Sound of liquid pouring.] I just need a little more java. 

Voice 5:   We’re just tired, I guess. Hell, I was part of this War Names Committee—pardon me!—I mean ‘War Branding Committee’— even when you birds were still in college protesting ‘Nam. 

Voice 4:   Yeah, yeah, we know. Now let’s generate some really new ideas. Think of American wars that got the public on board.  

Voice 3:   You mean like the 18th century ‘War of Jenkins Ear’? 

Voice 5:    Now that’s different. What other body part could we use?  

Voice 2:   [Sound of flipping pages] The Pashtun dictionary says there’s a word for lamb testicle. The Afghans actually eat that over there. 

Voice 4:   Hey, yeah! We could do a metaphorical slogan. Combine the U.S. and our allies storming the mountains where no-balls Bin Laden hides and never comes down. Look up a synonym for ‘never comes down.’

Voice 3:   [Sound of flipping pages] Got it! So for the public we call the action ‘Operation Mountain Fortress Assault,’ but in Pashtun the reference to Bin Laden’s refusal to come down would translate as “War of the Undescending Testicle.’ 


Voice 1:  Let’s get back to the task. 

Voice 3:  Why not use an animal in the name? Like remember the ‘Desert Fox’ campaign and ‘Operation Eagle Claw’? 

Voice 1:  That’s good. What tough animals do they have there?  

Voice 2:  It says here they have brown bears, snow leopards, Siberian tigers, cheetahs, and wild pigs. 

Voice 1:  Sounds like college mascots. Give me something fiercer. 

Voice 5:  I got pretty good at field dressing wild pigs in ‘Nam. Seemed like I’d always be the one they’d ask to throw the rope over the solid tree branch and haul that sucker up so it was hanging off the ground before we slit its belly open. Real tasty.  

Voice 1:  Can we just— 

Voice 4:  How about using the word “cobra”? 

[Approximately one minute of silence]

 Voice 3:   Sounds too much like a sports car. 

Voice 4:  Well, there was that movie a long time ago—‘Operation Cobra.’ 

Voice 2:   Was that the one with Jean-Claude Van Damme 

 Voice 3: The one about a guy who morphs into a cobra and eats people? 

Voice 4:  No, that was ‘Night of the Cobra Woman’ starring Joy Bang. 

Voice 3:  You’re kidding.  

Voice 5: I used to ride in a Cobra gunship helicopter in ‘Nam. One time I  rode with a guy who claimed he ate someone. Said it wasn’t too bad except for the reflux after. Kept tasting the same arm over and over again.

Voice 4:  There was also ‘Operation Cobra’ starred Fred Olen, Ray Don “The Dragon” Wilson and– 

Voice 1:  [Sound of something slamming on hard surface] O.K!  ‘Cobra’ works. Just write that down for McCrystal.  

Voice 3:  Well, we should do something to differentiate it from the movie.

[Murmurs of agreement] 

Voice 4: How about ‘Operation Hissing Cobra’? 

Voice 1:  No onomatopoeia.  

Voice 2:  Huh? 

Voice 3:  He means it’s too wussy.  

Voice 5:  Cobra meat tasted good. We got ourselves some after Khe Sanh.  

Voice 2:  Kay Who? 

Voice 4:  Try ‘Operation Crazed Cobra’? 

Voice 1:  No alliteration. When we’re there still there after two or three years, who wants to read or hear in the media ‘Crazed Cobra combative McCrystal clamoring continuation’? 

Voice 4:  But we agree we need a threatening symbol like a snake, right? 

Voice 2:   What about an Asian Saw-Scaled Viper? It’s one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. I heard that once on Mr. Rogers.  

Voice 3:   That’s good! ‘Saw-Scaled.’ And double letter S’s.  So maybe our guys could have double snake patches sewed on their shirts for ‘S.S.’

[Half minute of silence]

Voice 4:  Might be confusing for the German troops there. 

Voice 5:  There was a German gal in Saigon who worked at ‘Der Wienerschnitzel’ bar.  

Voice 1:  That’s another thing. Length matters. We need a symbol with staying power. How long is this S.S. viper? 

Voice 2: A little over a foot. 

Voice 3:  That won’t work. We want a snake to symbolize at least a three year war. A one foot snake’ll give you—what?—a two week war?  

Voice 2:  Are there conversion charts for this? Ones that show how many inches of snake equals how many months?  

Voice 4:  Cobras can get up to 18 feet. 

Voices 2, 3, 5:  Yes!!!!  

Voice 3:  Lemme see. [Sound of pen scratching.] Using a little algebra here, an 18 foot snake should easily give us a three year war.  

Voice 1:  O.k. but there are countless species and numbers of cobras, including other 18 footers. How do we show this snake is the most shocking, horrifying, demented and repulsive of all?

Voice 2:  How about ‘Operation Angry Cobra’? 

Voice 3:  It’s redundant. 

Voice 2:  Re- what? 

Voice 4:  Sounds like something my six year old would say. For that matter, why not ‘BAD Cobra!’? 

[Sounds of annoyed facial expressions]

Voice 1:  Gentlemen, that’s enough!  I’m good with it. I’ll let McCrystal know we were unanimous for  [Unintelligible] 

[Sound of scraping chairs] 

Transcriber’s note: General McCrystal, I ran into trouble toward the end of the tape because of mechanical problems. Unable to hear clearly the final decision on the name for the Afghanistan operation. Although I’ve listed the name below, I’m not quite certain of its relevancy to the war. 

I believe the committee decided on “Operation Angry Oprah.”