Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Words & Meanings

Expand Messages
  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Apr. 4, 2003. Words and meanings by GWYNNE DYER Toronto Star The first casualty of war is
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2003
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Apr. 4, 2003.
      Words and meanings
      by GWYNNE DYER
      Toronto Star

      The first casualty of war is not truth, which generally dies
      well before hostilities begin. It is language. Consider how
      Iraqi resistance fighters belonging to the Fedayeen
      organization and the Baath Party militia have been renamed
      in only a week.

      At first American spokespersons referred to them using
      neutral words like "irregulars" and "guerrillas," for even
      if they are not wearing uniforms their actions are legal so
      long as they are clearly armed and not pretending to be
      civilians. But after the first suicide bomb attack the
      Pentagon started calling Iraqi militiamen "terrorists" even
      if they are fighting in the open against American and
      British soldiers — and U.S. Defence Secretary Donald
      Rumsfeld began to talk about "death squads."

      This change of terms helps to buttress the fiction, now
      believed by 55 per cent of Americans, that Saddam has links
      with the Islamist terrorists of Al Qaeda. Indeed, 42 per
      cent of Americans have been tricked into believing that
      Saddam Hussein was responsible for the terrorist attacks on
      the United States on September 11 thanks to the relentless
      juxtaposition of the two in President George W. Bush's
      speeches (though he never lies outright by actually saying
      so). But this cynical manipulation of language pales by
      comparison with Saddam's latest change of skin.

      Saddam Hussein joined the Arab Socialist Baath (Rebirth)
      Party as a teenager, and has shared its secular and even
      anti-religious views all of his life. But last Monday, he
      wrote this in an appeal to the Iraqis and the broader Arab
      and Muslim worlds: "The aggression ... against the
      stronghold of faith is an aggression on religion ... and on
      the land of Islam. Jihad is a duty. Whoever dies will be
      rewarded by heaven...."

      Iraq the stronghold of faith? Jihad as a duty? Give us a
      break. Iraq's Baath Party is modelled on the Eastern
      European Communist parties of the 1950s (including party
      militias, torture chambers, and hostility to religion).
      Saddam's hero is Joseph Stalin, not Osama bin Laden. But
      just as Stalin enlisted the Russian Orthodox Church in his
      struggle against the German invasion in 1941, Saddam is
      willing to ally himself with popular Islamic sentiment in
      his moment of supreme crisis.

      He's actually done it before, praying in the great Shia
      mosque in Karbala (though he himself is of Sunni stock) at
      the height of the war against Iran in 1985. As a highly
      politicised and radical interpretation of Islam gained
      ground across the Arab world during the 1990s, Saddam tried
      to pre-empt it with public displays of devotion and a lavish
      programme of mosque-building. But Islamist enthusiasm
      continued to be a career-killer in Baathist circles, and
      Iraq remained the most secular of Arab states.

      Now the Iraqi regime faces its gravest crisis, and suddenly
      it's all about jihad and the "land of Islam." And the
      Islamists of the Arab world, every bit as cynical as Saddam,
      are willing to let bygones be bygones.

      Iraqi military spokesman Hazim al-Rawi declared on Sunday
      that "martyrdom (suicide) operations will continue not only
      by Iraqis but by thousands of Arabs who are coming to Iraq,"
      and sure enough the Palestinian rejectionist group Islamic
      Jihad promptly announced "the arrival of its first martyrdom
      attackers in Baghdad ... to fulfil the holy duty of
      defending Arab and Muslim land." They still privately
      despise Saddam, but as anger builds across the Arab world,
      Palestinian extremists are not going to miss out in a chance
      to associate their cause with Iraq's.

      Everybody in this conflict is sailing under false colours —
      and that certainly includes the "coalition forces." The
      United States and Britain always use this phrase because it
      links their enterprise, at least verbally, to the
      legitimate, U.N.-backed coalition that drove Iraqi troops
      out of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. That was a genuine
      coalition of 28 countries, 13 of them Arab, most of them
      with significant numbers of troops on the ground.

      Mr Bush's "coalition" has no U.N. authority because the
      overwhelming majority of U.N. members, including a large
      majority of Security Council members, saw an invasion of
      Iraq before the arms inspectors had time to finish their
      work as a wanton act of aggression. It includes no Arab or
      Muslim countries except Kuwait. Indeed, not one of the
      non-Western countries that did enlist in this coalition of
      the bullied and the bribed has actually sent combat troops.

      Several of the European countries that the White House
      claimed as members of the "coalition" turned out not to be.
      Slovenia strenuously protested against its inclusion (the
      State Department confused it with Slovakia), Croatia denied
      that opening its airspace to U.S. planes made it a member,
      and the Czech Republic still denies that it supports the war
      even though former president Vaclav Havel sent some Czech
      chemical warfare specialists to Kuwait. The right-wing
      governments of Italy and Spain publicly back the United
      States, but faced with 90 per cent-plus popular disapproval
      for the war can make no concrete gesture of support.

      Poland, Romania and Bulgaria sent a couple of hundred troops
      each, but dare not commit them to combat because their own
      voters so strongly opposed. The Antiguas, Angolas and the
      Marshall Islands in the "coalition" stay bought, but do
      nothing. The reality of the "coalition" this time is two and
      a bit English-speaking armies — American, British, and
      around 2,000 Australians — attacking an Arab country all on
      their own.

      The independent Arabic-language television network
      al-Jazeera started out calling the U.S. and British troops
      by their own preferred title, "coalition forces," but now it
      just refers to them as the "invaders" or "occupiers." Its
      viewers got fed up with the hypocrisy.

      Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent Canadian
      journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.

      Lord Weÿrdgliffe and Necronomicon Page:
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Said Smygo, the iconoclast of Zothique: "Bear a hammer with
      thee always, and break down any terminus on which is
      written: 'So far shalt thou pass, but no further go.'"
      --Clark Ashton Smith
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.