Wednesday, November 30, 2005

We will fight them on the lexicon, we will fight them on the soundbites, we will ...

How very Churchillian and very St. Paul of the honourable Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He has had "an epiphany" and will no longer refer to those insurgents fighting the occupation of Iraq as, well, insurgents.

Says he,
"This is a group of people who don't merit the word `insurgency,' I think," Rumsfeld said Tuesday at a Pentagon news conference. He said the thought had come to him suddenly over the Thanksgiving weekend.

"It was an epiphany. I think that you can have a legitimate insurgency in a country that has popular support and has a cohesiveness and has a legitimate gripe," he said. "These people don't have a legitimate gripe." Still, he acknowledged that his point may not be supported by the standard definition of `insurgent.' He promised to look it up.

Webster's New World College Dictionary defines the term "insurgent" as "rising up against established authority." Even Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who stood beside Rumsfeld at the news conference, found it impossible to describe the fighting in Iraq without twice using the term `insurgent.'

After the word slipped out the first time, Pace looked sheepishly at Rumsfeld and quipped apologetically, "I have to use the word `insurgent' because I can't think of a better word right now." Without missing a beat, Rumsfeld replied with a wide grin: "Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government. How's that?"

At another point in their news conference, Rumsfeld and Pace had an unusual exchange in which Rumsfeld corrected his senior military adviser, only to have Pace gently insist that it was the defense secretary who was wrong.

A reporter asked Pace what U.S. commanders in Iraq are supposed to do if they find Iraqi forces abusing prisoners. Pace replied that if inhumane treatment is observed it is a service member's duty to stop it.

"I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it - it's to report it," Rumsfeld said, turning to Pace.

Replied the general: "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1152AP_Iraq_War_Semantics.html

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