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Good things don't always come in small packages

One of the lesser-commented-on fronts in the War On Terror is the battle over language. The very terms used to describe our enemies in Iraq are a constant source of strife, and it appears that the Bush administration are losing.

The Bush administration calls them "terrorists," but the most commonly used term is "insurgents." A close runner-up is "rebels."

Now, maybe I'm being ignorant (I can't find a dictionary to back me up), but I've always thought of "rebels" and "insurgents" as having a native component. It was the people who had to live under the rule of the force they were rebelling or insurging against that ruling body could properly claim the name. And they would be most interested in striking against that oppressive government or occupying force to achieve their ends.

But in Iraq, that doesn't seem to be the case. The "insurgents" have killed about 1700 Americans and Allied forces in the two years since the invasion of Iraq, but (according to figures released last week) have killed over 12,000 Iraqis in the last year alone. They can't all have been collaborators and such; in fact, lately the favorite target has been Shiite mosques.

Secondly, another report out last week said that less than 10% of all the suicide bombers in Iraq are actually Iraqi. Over 90% of them have come from other nations, half of them from Saudi Arabia. At least by this yardstick, there is a very small native element to the "insurgency."

But perhaps the New York Times (and the rest of the media) means the term "insurgent" to mean "any resister to an occupation, whether domestic or foreign." By that meaning, then, the Allies are not occupying Afghanistan. After all, at the time of the occupation, the United Nations did not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, but the Northern Alliance, and they invited the US and our allies to come in.

I think it's the notion of the "underdog" that helps the Times decide who is an insurgent or not. The idea of rooting for the little guy against the big guy is a long-standing tradition in the press, and it's easy to see which is the big guy and which is the little guy in the struggle.

But someone ought to remind the Times that smaller isn't always better, and sometimes the big guy is right. It's the little guy who goes around videotaping the beheading of innocents while screaming "God is Great!" It's the little guy that is blowing up mosques and markets. It's the little guy that's killed thousands of innocents. Would it kill the Times to admit that? To call these people "terrorists?"

Here's a pretty good definition of "terrorism:"

"the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimindation or coercion or instilling fear."

Yup, seems to fit them pretty much like a glove.

Update: Ed wanted my source for the numbers above. My apologies, Ed, I should have included this reference.


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Comments (16)

Bingo! You nailed it.... (Below threshold)

Bingo! You nailed it.

Insurgent: Rising in revolt against established authority, especially a government.
Rebelling against the leadership of a political party.
[dictionary.com]

O'course since the NYT has no bias *cough*, the definitions may have changed recently....

I wonder what would happen ... (Below threshold)

I wonder what would happen to the condescending tone of the New York Times and other like-minded publications that insist on using this word, if most Americans had seen the beheading videos. That is one reason they dare not direct the public to internet sites where these videos can be viewed. Interesting how they do not seem so shy about Abu Gharib photos.

Your analysis of the word insurgent is right on the money. This is yet another example of the traitorous behavior of those who occupy the loony section of the liberal party.

Excellent work.

They can't call them terror... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

They can't call them terrorist, because if they did, they would have to admit that Iraq is part of the war on terrorism.

I think the fact that 90% of the "insurgents" aren't even Iraqi pretty much puts the lie to the "insurgent" title.

" less than 10% of all the ... (Below threshold)
Ed:

" less than 10% of all the suicide bombers in Iraq are actually Iraqi. Over 90% of them have come from other nations, half of them from Saudi Arabia."

Please provide a citation. I've read exactly the opposite.

Am I missing something? I'm... (Below threshold)
Wendigo:

Am I missing something? I'm not seeing "the residents of a region rising up to overthrow its government" in the denotation here. The "native element" would appear to be purely connotative.

The thing about the "War on Terror"? Terrorists aren't in limited supply. You don't kill these ones or those ones and then there are no more. In fact, the more you kill the more rise up to take their place.

In the case of these guys? Their entire motivation is to discredit, embarrass and damage the local government and our occupation. They wouldn't be terrorizing anyone if we weren't over there, so calling it part of the "War on Terror" retroactively is just dishonest.

Jay -- You wrote: ... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Jay --

You wrote:

"another report out last week said that less than 10% of all the suicide bombers in Iraq are actually Iraqi. Over 90% of them have come from other nations, half of them from Saudi Arabia. At least by this yardstick, there is a very small native element to the "insurgency."

But the article you linked to says:

"U.S. military estimates cited by security analysts put the number of active jihadists at about 1,000, or less than 10 percent of the number of fighters in a mostly Iraqi-dominated insurgency."

So what gives? It looks like, in your zeal to question the legitimacy of the term "insurgency," you got a little confused yourself. In the context of the article "jihadist" is synonmous with "sucide bomber" but not with "insurgent." Most of the jihadists/suicide bombers are foreign born but they only make up "less than 10 percent of the Iraqi-dominated insurgency."

The article states:

"Hundreds of similar accounts of suicide bombers are featured on the rapidly proliferating array of Web sites run by radical Islamists, online celebrations of death that offer a wealth of information about an otherwise shadowy foe at a time when U.S. military officials say that foreign fighters constitute a growing and particularly deadly percentage of the Iraqi insurgency."

So there's a growing percentage of foreign jihadists/suicide bombers joining the Iraqi insurgency but in your confusion you yourself grew their numbers just a tad, by a little more than 80 percent. Am I wrong here? Is there another source for the figures you cite? Does close to a 90 percent Iraqi-dominated insurgency seem like a significant "native component" to you?

Frame, learn to read the wh... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Frame, learn to read the whole article before you continue to prove yourself and idiot. On page two:

"In a paper published in March, Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on terrorism, analyzed the lists of jihadi dead. He found 154 Arabs killed over the previous six months in Iraq, 61 percent of them from Saudi Arabia, with Syrians, Iraqis and Kuwaitis together accounting for another 25 percent. He also found that 70 percent of the suicide bombers named by the Web sites were Saudi."

"Evan F. Kohlmann, a researcher who monitors Islamic extremist Web sites, has compiled a list of more than 235 names of Iraqi dead gleaned from the Internet since last summer, with more than 50 percent on his tally from Saudi Arabia as well. In some cases, he found photos or videos of dead foreign fighters posted online. One Kuwaiti policeman who died was featured in a Zarqawi propaganda video called "Winds of Change," while the bloodied corpse of a Turkish al Qaeda disciple, Habib Aktas, was shown on another video celebrating his "martyrdom.""

Also, Frame, look up the term "yardstick." I wasn't confusing the two. Suicide bombers, by necessity, among the most extreme and dedicated terrorists there. And the fact that so many of them are not Iraqi says volumes to me about the native support for the terrorists.

But if you'd rather speak on behalf of those who cheerfully videotape the beheadings of innocents, be my guest. It's a free country.

Not that you seem to be in favor of keeping it that way.

J.

I'm a member of the MSM and... (Below threshold)

I'm a member of the MSM and addressed this issue on my blog here awhile back.

In a nutshell: I think "insurgent" is a neutral word that can be fairly and accurately used to describe anyone (native or foreign) engaged in a widespread armed struggle against an established government or authority.

The Bush administration has also repeatedly used the term "insurgents." E.g.

Some of the insurgents are indeed terrorists, by anyone's definition. (E.g.) But not all of the insurgents are terrorists. For example, Muqtada al-Sadr's loyalists fought with U.S. troops last August after Bremer shut down his newspaper. But now his forces have put down their guns and are engaging in nonviolent "political resistance."

Keep in mind that the insurgency consists of multiple groups (Ba’athist; ex-regime loyalists; Islamists; etc.). Not all are engaged in car bombings etc. against civilians.

As I noted in my blog-entry, in the past the Times has used the word "insurgency" to describe everything from the right-wing Contras to communist rebels in the Phillipines. It's a very neutral word.

Frame, please don't be any ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Frame, please don't be any dumber than absolutely necessary. If you looked on to the second page of the article, you'd read this:

"In a paper published in March, Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on terrorism, analyzed the lists of jihadi dead. He found 154 Arabs killed over the previous six months in Iraq, 61 percent of them from Saudi Arabia, with Syrians, Iraqis and Kuwaitis together accounting for another 25 percent. He also found that 70 percent of the suicide bombers named by the Web sites were Saudi. In three cases, Paz found two brothers who carried out suicide attacks. Many of the bombers were married, well educated and in their late twenties, according to postings."

"Evan F. Kohlmann, a researcher who monitors Islamic extremist Web sites, has compiled a list of more than 235 names of Iraqi dead gleaned from the Internet since last summer, with more than 50 percent on his tally from Saudi Arabia as well. In some cases, he found photos or videos of dead foreign fighters posted online. One Kuwaiti policeman who died was featured in a Zarqawi propaganda video called "Winds of Change," while the bloodied corpse of a Turkish al Qaeda disciple, Habib Aktas, was shown on another video celebrating his "martyrdom."

Also, look up the word "yardstick." Suicide bombers are, by necessity, the most dedicated of the terrorists. I was using the high percentage of non-Iraqis in that role as a way of measuring the terrorists' demographics and organization. When the vast majority of the most fanatic are from outside Iraq, it colors the nature of the movement. It's not a war FOR Iraq, it's a war IN Iraq. They don't see Iraq as anything but a convenient place to fight, and Iraqis as relatively easy victims to make their points (such as they are).

But please continue to keep empathizing with those who sing praises to God while beheading innocents. It's still a free country.

Not that you're doing much to preserve that.

J.

Jay -- "f you'd ra... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Jay --

"f you'd rather speak on behalf of those who cheerfully videotape the beheadings of innocents, be my guest."

I'm not sure how correcting your facts constitutes speaking on behalf of the jihadists but whatever. Might I suggest that you read the article more closely.

Please note that even in the two paragraph you cite in rebuttal both Paz and Kohlmann are analyzing "the lists of jihadi dead" as found on "Islamic extremist websites." If you re-read the article you will notice that again and again the author makes a distinction between jihadists and the insurgency. I really don;t know how else you can read this paragraph which comes almost immediately before the ones you cite:

"U.S. military estimates cited by security analysts put the number of active jihadists at about 1,000, or less than 10 percent of the number of fighters in a mostly Iraqi-dominated insurgency. But military officials now say the foreigners are responsible for a higher percentage of the suicide bombings, and the online postings include few names of dead Iraqis affiliated with Zarqawi's group."

Yes, the main tactic of the foreign fighters is suicide bombing and targeting civilians but that doesn't change the fact that they make up LESS THAN 10 PERCENT of the insurgency.

The findings by Paz and Kohlmann relate specifically to the make-up of the suicide bombers, not the insurgents, the majority of whom, the article clearly states are Iraqis.

As to this assertion:

"the fact that so many of them are not Iraqi says volumes to me about the native support for the terrorists."

You've neatly changed the terms of your original assertion while, again, ignoring the numbers clearly stated in the article.

Your original argument was not about "native support" for the insurgency but the "native component" of the insurgency. It goes without saying that since the majority of Iraqis are Shiites, there probably isn't a lot of "native support" for the Sunni insurgents. But that doesn't mean their isn't a significant "native component" or even, in your other fomulation of the phrase, a "native element" to the insurgency.

And yes, I am unclear on how you were using the term yardstick because you seem to keep changing what you're measuring. Are you measuring intensity of commitment or the national make-up of the various groups and sub-groups fighitng in Iraq?

Just because suicide bombers "are among the most extreme and dedicated terrorists there" that doesn't change the fact that almost 90 percent of the fighters attacking our troops and others are native Iraqis. The article you cite clearly states that. So what are you measuring with your yardstick? Or are you saying now that "native element to the insurgency" also means "active support for the terrorists"? Because they seem like different things to me.

At any rate, by the yardstick presented in the articel you cite there is a significant native component to the insurgency, close to 90 percent, in fact. But then, again, the native component or native support argument is moot anyway if you want to talk definitions. Indeed, you were "being ignorant" here as well. (I can only think willfully so as the internet features a number of free relaibel searchable dictionaries. Although if you wanted "a dictionary that backs you up" I can see why you would have a problem there). Here is the OED definition of "insurgent":

A. adj.

1. Rising in active revolt. Also fig.
2. Of the sea or a flood: Surging up or rushing in.
B. n. One who rises in revolt against constituted authority; a rebel who is not recognized as a belligerent.

No mention of native status or support at all. Everything else fits.

Here's "insurgency":

The quality or state of being insurgent; the tendency to rise in revolt; = prec.

Here's OED on "insurgence"

The action of rising against authority; a rising, revolt.

For bonus confirmation here's the definition from the free online Meriam-Websters cite:

Main Entry: 1in·sur·gent
Pronunciation: -j&nt
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin insurgent-, insurgens, present participle of insurgere to rise up, from in- + surgere to rise -- more at SURGE
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

You can call them terrorists if you want, no question that the insurgents use terror as a tactic. If you think "insurgent" puts too much of a positive spin on their activities that's fine but playing semantic games doesn't change the fact that the majority of the terrorists are still Iraqis, as clearly stated in the article you cite.

Of course, I'm surprised you even cited the WaPo to begin with since they use the term "suicide bomber." I thought that phrase was verbotten in favor of "homicide bomber."

Now I'm sure you'll get all... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Now I'm sure you'll get all hopped up about how the "insurgents" are really "terrorists" because they are attacking citizens not civil authorities.

Seems to me that between the insurgents and the jihadists they're pretty much covering both. Why? I'm sure I don't know except to suggest that they're main goal is to drive out the American occupation force by sowing the seeds of civil war. Teh insurgents plant roadside bomsba dn carry out attacks on troops, police and politicians. The jihadists hit the civilians. It's all disgusting. It's all horrific. But let's face it, your semantic games are not designed to address this problem or understand it. Your word games are designed to, once again, attack your own fellow Americans for some reason or another.

Phew. What Derek said. ... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Phew. What Derek said.

"I was using the high perce... (Below threshold)
frameone:

"I was using the high percentage of non-Iraqis in that role as a way of measuring the terrorists' demographics and organization. When the vast majority of the most fanatic are from outside Iraq, it colors the nature of the movement. It's not a war FOR Iraq, it's a war IN Iraq. They don't see Iraq as anything but a convenient place to fight, and Iraqis as relatively easy victims to make their points (such as they are)."

Nice add. Doesn't change a thing. The "vast majority" of the most fanatic still only make up "less than 10 percent" of the whole. Most of the rest come from Iraq. Now those close to 90 percent native fighters I bet it's still a war FOR Iraq. If less ten percent of the insurgency, the jihadists, gets the headlines because they're more viscious, yeah well, that's going to color the PERCEPTION of the insurgency but it doesn't change one iota the demographics or the organization of the insurgency. It sill stands that the vast majority of the fighters are Iraqi, numbers which suggests that the vast majority of the insurgency would believe there's is a war FOR Iraq.

Let's recap, giving you the benefit of the terms (ie that you didn't confuse insurgent and jihadist):

You began by arguing (mistakenly) that the definition of "insurgency" had some "native" qualification to it. Then you argued that since "the vast majority of the most fantical" members of the insurgency aren't Iraqis, then the fighters in Iraq aren't entitled to be called insurgents. Am I following you so far?

Because if I got this much right then you're totally wrong because the most fanatical foreign fighters still only make up less than ten percent of the conbatants. The VAST MAJORITY of the fighters in Iraq are still Iraqis. The article you cited clearly states that.

Wendigo"They wouldn'... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Wendigo
"They wouldn't be terrorizing anyone if we weren't over there,..."

Really? How many tens of thousands of his own countrymen did Saddam butcher? The everyday Iraqi citizen may disagree with the notion that there wasn't terrorism in Iraq until the U.S. arrived.

Are you saying Islamic militants wouldn't be hijacking airliners or cruise ships if we weren't over there? They wouldn't be terrorizing their own women and executing gays if we weren't over there? They wouldn't be planting bombs and sending suicide bombers to kill children if we weren't over there?

Frame,I’m happy to... (Below threshold)
Michael L.:

Frame,

I’m happy to see you on this blog. Someone has to keep an eye on these pseudo-fascist lunatics.

Fortunately, please remember, these remarkably hostile and irrational people represent only the crazy fringes of American culture. The people on this blog who are screaming for Islamic blood do not represent the mainstream. They represent only the lunatic fringe.

What I find interesting about their view, though, is the idea that the Muslim world is on the verge of rising up against the West, en masse. They seem thrilled by fantasies of a counter-crusade against the “civilized” world.

These ideas are hardly new. In the early-middle part of the twentieth century millions of Americans believed that Asians were on the verge of world domination. The scholars call it “yellow peril” ideology.

In the nineteenth century there was a prominent idea within American culture that the Catholic church was poised for domination.

The problem, of course, is that by invading and occupying a sovereign nation, killing many thousands of innocent people, and torturing their citizenry, they are supporting the very circumstances which make reprisal more likely. (They are also showing themselves to be highly immoral and hate-filled.)

Because they believe that the US is in some sort of vast apocalyptic battle against “Islamo-fascism,” the nut-jobs on this blog are prepared to justify anything the US does around the globe. We can set up brutal detention centers / gulags and that’s just dandy. We can bomb the hell out of poverty-stricken cities in Iraq and that’s just fine. We can even accept being lied to by our government over reasons for this war because of the magnificence of the cause.

The irony is that because the Bush administration is so violent and malicious the recruiting of jihadis is easier for terrorist groups throughout the middle-east, and elsewhere. Their apocalyptic neo-con vision of ALL OUT WAR against the Muslim world thereby becomes more likely due to the hostile posture of the US.

Fortunately, however, the American people are getting tired of all this crap. We’ll ride it out.

Cheers,

Jay wrote:"..the f... (Below threshold)
Ed:

Jay wrote:

"..the fact that so many of them are not Iraqi says volumes to me about the native support for the terrorists."

First of all, your data are flawed by your own argument and citations. A survey was taken of the nationalities of the dead doesn't utter a word about the majority who remain alive and kicking.

Second, and most importantly, you offer only your interpretation of the data. What credentials do you possess that render you an expert in the statistical extrapolation you seek to enforce your conjecture?

"But if you'd rather speak on behalf of those who cheerfully videotape the beheadings of innocents, be my guest."

Nothing I've read in Frame's posts indicate he sympathizes with those you mention above. He, as I did, take issue with the unfounded statistics presented. You have the audacity to call someone else an idiot? All your statement proves is that you're only one more nut that's come loose.




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