Words Mean Things: Insurgency
Roger L. Simon is irritated:
I think the use of the term “insurgents” by the media inaccurate and propagandistic in its essence. As far as I know… and correct me if I’m wrong… there has not been one single of these people being anything but fascists, either of the Baathist or Islamist variety. Calling them “insurgents” then cloaks them in the romantic veneer of “freedom fighters.”
Will Collier agrees, noting
Reminds me of the 1970’s and ’80’s, when right-wing thugs were invariably described as “death squads” by the press, while left-wing or Islamic thugs were always “militants” or “rebels” or (in Iran) “students.”
Even Paul Wolfowitz cringes at the word:
By the way, it’s not insurgency. An insurgency implies something that rose up afterwards. This is the same enemy that butchered Iraqis for 35 years, that fought us up until the fall of Baghdad and continues to fight afterwards. It was led by Saddam Hussein up until his capture in December. It’s been led, in part, by his No. 2 or 3, Izzat Ibrahim al Douri, since then. It’s been led by Zarqawi, who was a terrorist working for bin Laden in Afghanistan, who fled to Iraq in 2002. It’s not an insurgency, in the sense of an uprising. It is a continuation of the war by people who never quit.
Phil Carter doesn’t really care what we call the uprising, so long as we defeat it.
National War College professor Bard O’Neill, in his book Insurgency & Terrorism, defines the term thusly:
A struggle between a nonruling group and the ruling authorities in which the nonruling group consciously uses political resources (e.g., organizational expertise, propaganda, and demonstrations) and violence to destroy, reformulate, or sustain the basis of legitimacy of one or more aspects of politics (p. 13).
Dictionary.com simply defines it as
The action or an instance of rebellion; an insurrection.
Rather clearly, we’re fighting an insurgency in Iraq.
Connotatively, “insurgency” is a rather value-neutral term, unlike, say “terrorist.” It doesn’t confer legitimacy on those seeking to overthrow a government to call them insurgents. One can be a facist or Ba’athist and still be an insurgent. And, even if it was comprised entirely of former regime loyalists (which it isn’t, by a long shot) it would still be an insurgency, since it’s out of power and fighting to achieve control of the instruments of state.
Further, terminology isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive. These particular insurgencts are using guerilla warfare and terrorism as part of their campaign. And whether they consider themselves “freedom fighters” is really irrelevant in the labels applied. Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the merits of one’s goals.