The Washington Post

ISIS think tank upset by another group’s acronym


Terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of ISIS, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. (Militant video via AP)

The Institute for Science and International Security is having some acronym woes.

The highly regarded nonprofit, non-partisan outfit, which seeks to stop the spread of nukes to other countries and to terrorists, posted a plea Tuesday on its Web site under the heading “Needless Collateral Damage.” It asked that everyone please stop using its acronym, ISIS, “as a shortening for the name of the jihadist terrorist group named, in transliterated Arabic, the Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham.”

Sure, that would be really snappy: The “ADAIFAIWAS,” or maybe just DIFI. (But then the senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein (D), would be most upset.)

In its post, the good ISIS says that the bad ISIS “announced in June that it was changing its name to the ‘Islamic State” and suggests that the media use “IS.” (Seriously? Then we get back to what the meaning of “is” is.)

The good ISIS says “the widespread, persistent use of the acronym ISIS to refer to this terrorist organization” causes “considerable confusion” and “reputational harm.” Besides, the good ISIS says, they had it first, having used that acronym since 1993.

That’s of little matter, since dueling initialisms are a constant problem in this alphabet-soup-crazed town. There’s AFP, which is the French wire service and the Koch operation; ABA, which includes lawyers, bankers and a now-defunct basketball league; GMA, a morning TV show and the grocers association; and SEC, a financial watchdog and a college athletic conference.

Best bet would be if someone destroys the bad ISIS (your move, Obama). Then we eliminate this problem … and a host of other more deadly ones.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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