Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bush's Orwellian War of Words, Terror, and Lies

The Orwellian use of the term insurgent has done more than anything else to hide the nature of the Iraqi conflict from the American people, indeed, the world. There are, in fact, several conflicts in Iraq. One of them - a civil war between a government and a disenfranchised tribe - will never be accurately described as long as the media unfairly robs one side of all legitimacy with the mere use of one word: insurgent. It is less worrisome to kill an "insurgent" than a "resistance fighter", someone defending his homeland against an illegitimate invader or occupier. Of course, an illegitimate occupier would have the world believe that it is opposed only by terrorists and insurgents. That's nothing new.

Now that almost every myth and almost every lie has been exposed, it's time to expose another -the use of the term "insurgent" to describe those blamed for car and suicide bombings. The dictionary gives "insurgent" the following meanings:
1 : a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent 2 : one who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one's own political party
In both cases, the media use of the word "insurgent" is incorrect. The "civil authority" in Iraq is a US puppet. The "established government" most certainly does not enjoy the widespread support of the people of Iraq. It is, in fact, dominated by the Shi'ite faction and is not believed to represent the interests of a Sunni minority.

The people of Iraq now consider US forces to be arrogant occupiers. A series of detailed reports by NPR maintain that the US is now seen throughout the middle east as having lied about the stated motives for war against Iraq. Ninety percent of residents of various Middle Eastern countries now say that "Democracy" and "Freedom" had nothing to do with US motives. Ninety percent say that the US was more interested in seizing control of Middle Eastern oil than it was in combating terrorism or in bringing Democracy to Iraq - two of the more common cover stories.

It cannot be said that the "resistance fighters" are rebelling against their own party. Rather, they are most certainly in complete harmony with their own parties - hence "resistance" to the occupying force. As I recall, the term "resistance" was used in some of the early reporting. I am curious about what might have motivated a switch from "resistance" to "insurgent". Did it begin with a memo at the Washington Post or a more ominous memo from the White House?

The use of the word "insurgent" distorts the increasingly complex nature of the conflict in Iraq. The Bush administration has an interest in promoting a widespread belief that "terrorists" are responsible for "insurgent attacks" against US troops. For example, of 1600 bombs exploded in July of 2005, 90 percent targeted US forces. That's according to an assessment by the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The US military admits, however, that less than 6% of those attacks were by foreign fighters - terrorists, in other words. Ninety-four percent of attacks against US forces are, therefore, not terrorist in nature. They are, rather, attacks by an Iraqi guerilla resistance to the US occupation. The American media will not tell you this. I had to get my information from several independent sources and, in particular, Dahr Jamail who writes Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches.

Consider the following headline: "Iraqi tribes fight Insurgency." It appears to headline a story about how "Iraqi tribes" have organized to attack "insurgents". The first paragraph of the AP story continued:
Tribes in one of Iraq's most volatile provinces have joined together to fight the insurgency there, and they have called on the government and the US-led military coalition for weapons, a prominent tribal leader said Monday.
But was that, in fact, what the story was about?

Dahr Jamail picks picks up the rest of the story:
The story continues: "Tribal leaders and clerics in Ramadi, the capital of violent Anbar province, met last week and have set up a force of about 20,000 men 'ready to purge the city of these infidels,' Sheik Fassal al-Guood, a prominent tribal leader from Ramadi, told the Associated Press, referring to the insurgents. 'People are fed up with the acts of those criminals who take Islam as a cover for their crimes,' he said. 'The situation in the province is unbearable, the city is abandoned, most of the families have fled the city and all services are poor.' Al-Guood said 15 of the 18 tribes in Ramadi 'have sworn to fight those who are killing Sunnis and Shiites and they established an armed force of about 20,000 young men ready to purge the city from those infidels.'"

At this point, either the author of this AP story, or the editor, or both, rightly assume that the reader is not aware that Sheik Fassal al-Guood tried to lead the local resistance against the occupation in Ramadi, but turned against the same resistance group when its members rejected him as a leader because they considered him a corrupt thief. Nor is the reader aware that today, Sheikh Fassal al-Guood lives in the "Green Zone" and happily talks to reporters from behind the concrete blast walls, and that his power in Al-Anbar now equals exactly nothing.

- Dahr Jamail, AP Propaganda About Iraq

It is not only AP that is guilty. The American media and the BBC have fallen into the trap of using the term "insurgent" incorrectly.
We use the term 'insurgent' for the current situation in Iraq because the phrase describes people who are rising in active revolt. We believe it is the most appropriate term to use in situations of rebellion when there is no free-standing government.

-BBC Complaints, Use of term 'insurgent'

But it is because there is no "free-standing government" that "insurgent" is the wrong word. I would have thought the BBC, for so many years a guardian of the English language, would have known better. I am disillusioned and disappointed.

On the whole the BBC has been more dependable than the American media. But that says little. The BBC as well as US networks seem complicit with the Bush administration in what can only be a case of "legitimizing" coalition slaughter of civilians at Fallujah. They have done it with Orwellian weapons of language and words.
Again and again, the impression was given that Allawi was in charge, that he was giving the orders, that he was intent on bringing ‘law and order’, rather than US control, to Iraq. You could not guess from today's BBC lunchtime news that this is in fact a war between illegal foreign occupiers and local resistance fighters.

The impression given was that Iraqis were directing the war being waged on their own people, with Western control and goals whitewashed to invisibility. This has the effect of pacifying and disarming British public opinion, so reducing resistance, so making it easier for the West to continue killing for control and profit.

- Rapid Response Alert: The BBC – Legitimizing Mass Slaughter in Fallujah

It's been over three years since the US military did a Guernica on Fallujah. Residents still tell of continuing violence, ongoing suffering, and lack of jobs even as there has been very little progress toward reconstruction.
Over 27,000 buildings were destroyed by the US assault on Fallujah. Anyone, man, woman or child, caught on the streets of the city was a target for US troops. There is no official count of the death toll, the media were stopped from entering the city following its destruction, except that is, for the ‘embedded’ ones.

- William Bowles, Fallujah: Where is the outrage?

A grim reminder of the US legacy in Fallujah:
A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-coloured substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact – Mohamad Tareq, a Fallujah resident
I have watched lots of Fallujah video. I didn't see any insurgents. I saw lots of terrified civilians, children, simple people blown to bits, flattened, or incinerated. Each is one count in the capital crimes indictment that must be returned against the so-called "decider".

The Bush administration has consistently exploited language to distort the nature of its crimes, to reframe its opposition, and to disarm its critics. Even so, Donald Rumsfeld apparently didn't get the "memo" with regard to the words "insurgent" and "insurgency" but he is no less Orwellian. Rumsfeld prefers the word "terrorist" or "the enemies of the government." Official US military statements have often referred to "anti-Iraqi forces" when, in fact, Sunni opposition to a Shia regime is no less "Iraqi".

It is not only the US puppet government that is at issue. It is the US occupation. US troops were never greeted as "liberators" and, after five years of chaos and bloodshed, our perpetual presence must by now be wearing thin. Even a beloved cousin is expected to go home at some point. Who can blame the hard pressed Iraqis for wanting us out now? Only Bush and Chalabi wanted us there. At the end of five years of needless bloodshed, it is time to leave. It is also time to stop the practice of denigrating legitimate opposition to an illegitimate occupation with a single word: "insurgent".

The term "insurgent" has the smell of a GOP focus group about it.

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