So “the insurgency” really is in its “last throes”.
No, not the effort to drive U.S. forces America out of Iraq -- that continues unabated. I’m talking about the Bush administration’s decision to stop using the words "insurgency” and “insurgent” to describe the rebel forces.
Yesterday, Donald Rumsfeld said that “over the weekend” he’d had “an epiphany” that “this is a group of people who don’t merit the word ‘insurgency’”.
President Bush apparently had the same epiphany because in today’s big speech on Iraq he went to great pains to rebrand the enemy as “a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists”. Indeed, he only uttered “insurgents” one time in the entire speech -- and even then it was when quoting a U.S. Lt. Colonel (who apparently has been too busy training Iraqi troops in Tikrit to have time for weekend vocabulary epiphanies).
So in the middle of a whole lot of the same tired rhetoric we’ve heard before (“September 11”, “as Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down”, “we will never back down, we will never give in”), here came the president’s latest “Plan for Victory in Iraq”: win the war on words.
Who says Bush’s only strategy is to “stay the course”? Not true. In previous big speeches, the administration set out to dazzle us with impressive-sounding numbers about the rapid growth of Iraqi forces. Now they’ve switched the focus to improved terminology. It’s Victory Through Vocabulary!
So “insurgents” are out and “rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists” are in. Here’s how the president broke down the new lexicon:
Rejectionists are “ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs” who “reject an Iraq in which they’re no longer the dominant group.” According to Bush, rejectionists make up “by far the largest” portion of “the enemy”.
Saddamists are former Saddam loyalists who “still harbor dreams of returning to power”. This group is “smaller” than the rejectionists “but more determined”. (Is it just me, or does “Saddamist” sound an awful lot like “Sodomite”? Hey, might as well shore up your evangelical base while charting your new victory vocabulary, right? Bush really brought this connection home when he referred to the “hard-core Saddamists… trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community”. While buggering each other and pushing for gay marriage, no doubt).
And the terrorists? Well, they’re the ones who “share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September 11”… the ones “responsible for most of the suicide bombings and the beheadings and the other atrocities we’ve seen on our television”. While calling them “the smallest” of the enemy groups, they are still clearly Bush’s favorite: he mentioned “terrorists” 42 times in his speech, compared to the five times he mentioned the “rejectionists” and the four times he brought up the “Saddamists”.
Following the president’s speech, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett appeared on MSNBC and addressed the administration’s counter-“insurgency” strategy, saying the word had been replaced because ‘insurgents’ implies that they are on the side of the people.
Fine. But, at the end of the day, we are losing the war not because of what we call our enemies in Iraq but because of how the people of Iraq see our enemies -- and the U.S. military.
And as long as American troops are seen as, what a report by an Iraqi National Assembly committee called, “occupation forces”; and as long as Shiite, Kurdish, and Sunni leaders agree, as they did at a U.S.-backed conference last week, that the insurgency is “legitimate”; and as long as Iraqi leaders like former Prime Minister Allawi and Shiite leader Abdul Aziz Hakim continue to paint a dark picture of what’s going on in George Bush’s Iraq, the president’s new victory vocabulary is just another pathetic diversion. A diversion ginned up to fight the enemy he is most concerned with: the rejectionists here at home who are finally rejecting his lies.