NPR logo Quiz: The Known Knowns About The Iraq War


Quiz: The Known Knowns About The Iraq War

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, left, listens to Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Commander of the coalition forces in Iraq, on a flight from Kuwait City to Baghdad in 2004. David Hume Kennerly/AP hide caption

toggle caption
David Hume Kennerly/AP

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, left, listens to Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Commander of the coalition forces in Iraq, on a flight from Kuwait City to Baghdad in 2004.

David Hume Kennerly/AP

Every war creates its own vocabulary. Politicians step up their rhetoric, while grunts on the ground come up with new slang and acronyms to both save time and better describe what they're encountering.

America's war in Iraq was particularly rich in this regard. See how many of the words, terms and phrases you can remember by taking our quiz.

1. When a certain European country refused to support the invasion, restaurants at the U.S. Capitol changed the names of which items?

A. Belgian waffles

B. French toast

C. French fries

D. Yellowcake

2. Which term was not used by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to describe U.S. intelligence about claims Iraq was supplying terrorists with weapons of mass destruction at a 2002 news briefing?

A. Known knowns

B. Unknown unknowns

C. Unknown knowns

D. Known unknowns

3. Which country was not part of the "axis of evil," as outlined in President Bush's 2002 State of the Union address?

A. Syria

B. Iran

C. Iraq

D. North Korea

4. The following year, Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." What was that type of uranium known as?

5. Which of the following was not a member of the "coalition of the willing," made up of countries that supported the invasion of Iraq?

A. Marshall Islands

B. Eritrea

C. Namibia

D. El Salvador

6. True or false: Bush declared "mission accomplished" in a speech delivered in May 2003 aboard an aircraft carrier, after U.S. forces had entered Baghdad.

7. Where is the Green Zone?

8. True or false: During the invasion, an NBC foreign correspondent named Arthur Kent became known as the "Scud Stud"?

9. What is an FOB?

10. In December 2003, Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a:

A. Spider hole

B. Rat's nest

C. Palace

D. Compound near a Pakistani military academy

11. Bush administration officials referred to armed opponents of coalition forces and the Iraqi government as:

A. Insurgents

B. Dead-enders

C. Iranian-backed militia

D. All of the above

12. What does IED stand for?

13. What does COIN stand for?

14. In 2007, President Bush increased the number of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. What term was used to describe that strategy?

A. Flood the zone

B. Shock and awe

C. Total onslaught

D. Surge

15. Which current U.S. presidential candidate voted against the 2002 congressional measure to support the war in Iraq?

A. Barack Obama

B. Rick Santorum

C. Ron Paul

D. Michele Bachmann

16. The private security contractor Blackwater came under heavy criticism for its involvement in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians. The company has since changed its name to what?


1. B and D: French fries and French toast. Robert W. Ney, R-Ohio, who then chaired the House Administration Committee, ordered that House restaurants remove all references to French fries, which were renamed freedom fries. (The same went for French toast.) The French Embassy in Washington pointed out that French fries actually hail from Belgium.

2. C: Unknown knowns

3. A: Syria

4. Yellowcake

5. C: Namibia

6. False. Bush stood under a large banner with those words, but he did not say them himself.

7. The Green Zone was a 7-square-mile enclave in central Baghdad from which American and Iraqi officials commanded the country.

8. False. Kent garnered that nickname during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. However, the nickname was revived during the 2003 war to describe BBC journalist Rageh Omaar.

9. Forward operating base, where troops were likely to encounter the enemy. During the 1990s, this stood for "Friend of Bill" Clinton.

10. A: Spider hole

11. D: All of the above

12. Improvised explosive device. It was the "improvised" nature of homemade bombs placed beside or buried in roads that made this initialism one of the most resonant of the war, says University of California, Berkeley, linguist Geoff Nunberg. "It kind of stood for the whole mission, in a way," he says. "You would drive around and you didn't know when the ground was going to blow up under you."

13. Counterinsurgency. "The aim of a counterinsurgency campaign is to destroy the enemy — but often by isolating him and making him irrelevant rather than killing him," Thomas Ricks writes in The Gamble, his book about Gen. David Petraeus' command in Iraq.

14. D: Surge

15. C: Ron Paul. Santorum voted for the resolution. Obama and Bachmann were not in Congress at the time.

16. The former Blackwater has changed its name twice — to Xe Services in 2009 and more recently on Dec. 12, 2011, to Academi.