Thursday, January 17, 2013

Operation Hush Hush

A military operation is not a military operation till you dignify it with a code name. The German Army was the first to hit upon this brainwave when they cryptically labelled their World War I invasion of the Baltic Islands as ‘Operation Albion’. If they had called it Operation Bloodyhell or Operation Takethatyoulosers, then history may have judged the act of taking 20,000 Russian prisoners, rather offensively.

The German innovation of dressing up of crimson war wounds with high sounding monikers inspired Winston Churchill to issue the now famous guideline, that nomenclature to designate war ops, ‘ought not to be of a frivolous character’ as no mom or widow would like to say ‘that her son was killed in an operation called Bunnyhug or Ballyhoo’.

That’s probably why America opted for ‘Enduring Freedom’ in Afghanistan, ‘Restore Hope’ in Somalia and ‘Uphold Democracy’ in Haiti. If you ask me, all these names sound like words you’ll associate with peaceniks like Yoko Ono or Bob Geldof!

Sometimes even Pentagon is not so politically correct. Operation Geronimo, the covert raid to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden was roundly criticised by Native Americans for running down not just their chieftain but also their race.

Indian cryptonyms - in my humble view - have shown a lot more intelligence. The Hyderabad Police Action in 1948 was billed as ‘Operation Polo’ as Hyderabad had the highest number of polo grounds in India during that era.

India’s first nuclear test in Pokhran was evocatively designated as ‘Operation Smiling Buddha’ cueing the peaceful nature of the program. . The Indian Army’s desire to be a thorn in the flesh of the coup plotters in Maldives resulted in ‘Cactus’. While the IPKF endgame against LTTE in 1998 was dubbed as ‘Checkmate’.

One name that must have given great angst to the brand manager of Blue Star air conditioners is: Operation Bluestar. I’ve always wondered why they called it so. Could it be that Bluestar refers to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the star of the Khalistan movement who was always seen in a blue turban? Or did Indira Gandhi have a frivolous reason that fails the Churchill test? We’ll never know as this is a national secret.