Check your dictionary, Mr. President

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Navy veteran and educator Joe Krulder is a regular contributor to the CN&R.

I keep hearing a certain word from the White House that makes me cringe. It creates an upwelling of negative energy. It causes my stomach to knot and react with a surge of base bile.

Yes, “surge.” Perhaps you’ve heard it in the news lately in reference to raising troop levels in Iraq.


It has a particular etymology: Latin, “surgere,” meaning an upwelling—rising from below.

Example: After getting hit in the groin by a rock, I felt a surge of pain.

Another example: After hearing too many of his lies, I felt a surge of disgust.

There are two realms with which the word surge is most closely associated: nautical and electrical.

The tide surged ahead of the high-seas winds.

A surge of current caused the circuitry to blow.

There is a reason the president, his minions, and those on the conservative fringe love this word. “Surge” masks the reality of what this administration is ordering: an “escalation” of troops into a chaotic and seemingly uncontrollable Iraq.

“Escalation"—borrowing from the Middle French word “escalade.” (It’s nice to know Cadillac’s SUV stands for “an assault with ladders on a fortification.")

Now I ask you, which word—surge or escalation—is closer to the truth?

If I take the prevailing choice, suddenly what the president keeps asking us to believe seems more digestible.

Nautical: Our surge will sweep out the insurgency like a great flood (think Noah) leaving behind peace and tranquility (in Noah’s case, no people left behind, thus peace and tranquility).

Electrical: Think of our surge as a form of electroshock therapy, sending the patient (Iraq) into a quiet stupor. Voltage required? 21,500.

The problem with a troop escalation (er, I mean surge) is that it does not address the root of the evil we face.

The problems in the Middle East—indeed, the problems we’re up against around the globe—are obvious. Al-Qaida, terrorism, “Islamofascists,” they all have their roots in the reality of abject poverty.

When I toured the world as a member of the United States Navy, I was utterly horrified by the condition of man on this planet. The depths of filth, the levels of hopelessness, the cries for even the smallest inkling of human dignity cannot be described, only experienced.

A surge of 21,500 troops in Iraq does nothing. It’s merely a Band-Aid, and a poor one at that, to be placed over the mess caused by the president’s hubris and clueless policies. It puts my brothers- and sisters-in-arms in needless peril.


How about a surge in economic and educational investments in parts of the world mired in poverty?

Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, did just that. Through a principle known as micro-financing, Yunus started Grameen Bank. In the poorest of countries, Bangladesh, a Muslim nation to boot, Yunus lent money to the poorest of the poor, and mostly to Muslim women. Yunus overcame steep Islamic tradition opposed to usury and bent on keeping a woman in her place.

The results? A staggering 2,283 branches of Grameen Bank, in nearly 85 percent of the villages of Bangladesh. Wealth has been generated, women elevated, loans repaid, capital invested.

The Nobel Foundation congratulated Yunus on his “efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

That’s the “surge” we need.