There have been irresponsible, unpatriotic rumors (started by journalists, of course) that the war in the Middle East is not going as well as the U.S. military brass would have us believe.

I do not believe these rumors for a minute, of course, because when it comes to truth, honesty and integrity, the U.S. military is in a class by itself.Our military commanders in Vietnam didn't lie so much as they exaggerated. This tendency was particularly apparent during discussions of enemy casualties. It seemed that an American G.I. couldn't clean his rifle without killing a minimum of 83 enemy soldiers, an accomplishment that was made all the more extraordinary by the fact that the enemy spent most of its time in underground tunnels. American troops, on the other hand, had a casualty rate comparable to what you might expect to find in the plumbing industry. Battles would rage for days, and generals would report 2,978,233 enemy dead and one American hangnail. I don't know how we lost.

Our current military leadership has learned the lessons of Vietnam, of course, and would never try to influence public opinion by distorting the truth in such a shameless, self-serving manner. Still, it might be in our best interests to learn the difference between what the military says and what it really means. Here are some examples:

What the military says: "We are meeting occasional enemy resistance."

What the military means: "There's a hell of a fight going on."

Military says: "We can't comment on that at this time."

Military means: "How'd you find out about that?"

Military says: "We are studying our options."

Military means: "We don't know what we're going to do next."

Military says: "The campaign is proceeding on schedule."

Military means: "This is going to take a lot longer than we thought."

Military says: "Let me get back to you on that question."

Military means: "I'd better let the general handle this one."

Military says: "We're preparing to counterattack."

Military means: "We're retreating."

Military says: "We're trying to minimize collateral damage."

Military means: "We're trying to find a way to keep our troops from shooting at one another."