Scanning googlenews, I clicked on CNN.com – Bremer to bring new strategies to Iraqi Governing Council – Nov. 12, 2003. For those not in the know, Bremer was called back quickly for a meeting with the White House. I think the word “quagmire” had been mentioned one too many times for the administration’s taste.

Now, I’ve tended to stay out of the debate. Not that I don’t have my opinions, of course, but it’s not something I’ve wanted to spend my time writing about.

But the following reinforces a problem – a rhetorical one – that I’ve had for some time now. The use of the term “terrorist.” Walking out of his meeting, Bremer said the following (according to CNN):

“We’re going to have difficult days ahead because the terrorists are determined to deny the Iraqis the right to run their own country. We’re not going to let them get away with that,” Bremer told reporters Wednesday.”

Now, without delving too deeply into why the US is there, and without (*sigh*) getting too political, let’s take a careful look at that sentence.

I read that as: “We invaded Iraq and ‘freed’ the Iraqi people. So anyone who fights against that ‘freedom’ is a ‘terrorist.'” Odd, though, because in the past, they were detailed at worst as “guerilla fighters,” and at best as “patriots” (Howdy, King George).

Now, before anyone gets their shorts bundled, I’ll make it clear – I’m pretty much against death (generally speaking), and killing (specifically), in most cases. So I’m not a fan of anyone taking a bullet or a piece of shrapnel. If fact, I think it would be much better for everyone if Nerf were the primary contractor for every Defense Department out there. And while I’m not thrilled with our recent decisions, I’m also not terribly pleased with the decisions of a lot of other folks either. My point? I’m not trying to demonize anyone here… quite frankly, everyone tends to do that well enough on their own.

The problem is, for some time now, the word ‘terrorist’ has been used rather loosely by the current administration. “The War on Terror” targets an abstract idea, so if you own the definition of “terrorist,” you can target whoever you wish. So what is the real problem?

No one owns the definition of terrorist. The US certainly doesn’t, which is why almost any attack since the “War on Terror” started can be phrased in those terms. And since the “War on Terror” is Game On, that means other countries can use the same policy however they wish. Which means that instead of being a leader willing to admit that things aren’t so good in a specific war – such as calling the Iraqi attacks “guerilla warfare” – we are being a poor leader, by paving a highway through a rhetorical loophole that allows all sorts of potential injustices to be done by anyone who claims to be fighting “terrorism.”

 

6 Responses to The Error in Terrorist

  1. Marc says:

    IT seems to me like we claimed ownership of the word as soon as we entered into a doctrine of “pre-emption”. By pre-empting supposed diasters, we are also pre-empting our right to dictate the categorization of anything as “other”. Another thingification of the world.

    I guess Orwell put it best:

    “Any war on terrorism is, in fact, a terrorist war”.

    Logic is dead. Long live logic!

  2. Maybe it’s a problem in transcription: the White House gang uses the word with a capital “T”?

    Rory, I am reminded of your wonderful entry that triggered an interesting discussion on the application of apocalyptic frameworks to world perception and interaction:
    http://misc.wordherders.net/archives/000900.html

    Word Pirates has some lively exchanges under the entries for T-ism and T-ist.
    http://www.wordpirates.com/index.cgi/T/index.abc/
    where one writer by the name of Putti Putin reminds readers of the term “freedom fighter”.

    I suspect there is a verb form coming on … terror, terrorist, terroring… (“terrorize” is just too Latinate for the Prez speeches) Imagine the conjugation “I terror, you terror, she/he terror”. It has a counting game rhythm to it that hints at a possible link between being and doing and reminds one of the expression “X is a holy terror” to describe some two year old. Unfortunately in some games the participants don’t get to dance in a ring and then collapse in a heap of giggles.

    Thanks for tearing the roar, Rory.

  3. Jason says:

    > Logic is dead. Long live logic!

    Ha!

    Francois – interesting that you tie it back to my earlier review of the Sept. 12th ‘game’; simply another rhetorical framework?

    One question – who the heck is Rory? 😉

  4. Rory
    http://www.speedysnail.com/
    is someone who should be reading Rhody

    A comment at Planned Obsolesence
    http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/po/archive/000199.php#000199

    indicates that Rory, has used the term “highjacking” in conjunction with “the Man”.

    We will see if the interpellation reaches …

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