Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Terrorism, Insurgency and Militancy

One of the most indicative elements as to any commentator's true opinion of the Iraq war is the method by which they refer to the ongoing military situation. George Galloway likes to refer to them as "These poor Iraqis - ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons - [who] are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable." Michael Moore refers to them as "Minutemen." But even less obviously one-eyed commentators like Reuters prefer the word "militants" to anything more pejorative. The BBC tends to go for "insurgents" in Iraq, while using "militants" or even "dissidents" in Palestine.

So what, what does it matter? Well, language is obviously one of the most important elements in any discussion, framing the terms of that discussion. Tony Blair attempted to change the terms of the debate on public spending by rebranding spending as "schools and hospitals", Gordon Brown does the same, relabelling spending as "investment." With Iraq, I've been know to get very steamed up when some half-witted wooly-thinking tit refers to the 'resistance' in Iraq, but the one that really gets me is 'militant.'

Militant, like the 'Cornerstone Group'? Like the Church militant? Like militant feminists? Like Labour Militant? What these organisations/movements have in common is that they have firmly held ideological beliefs that they vigorously and aggressively proselytise. By non-violent means. To equate these with Hamas or Hezbollah is both ridiculous and offensive. It's the same as when the BBC refer to the Tory Party, the leadership of the CCCP, the mullahs in Iran and the political philosophy of Sheik Qaradawi all as being 'conservative' when what they mean is "we don't like it, it's nasty." Lazy language infuriates me, mainly because its a dead giveaway that lazy thinking lies beneath.

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