A QUESTION OF NOMENCLATURE
- A QUESTION OF NOMENCLATURE
Monday/Tuesday, March 21-22, 2005
When I began to work at Radio Netherlands in its English section in
1981 as a broadcaster, interviewer and news writer, I received
training from a master, Hans Kramer. He quickly turned my American
delivery into a more international style.
His tips on interviewing have lasted with me for more than two
decades: never ask a question that can be answered by "yes,"
or "no:" never make a statement, only ask questions: except for your
first and last questions, never have any written down: and others.
When he discussed news writing, he stressed the virtues of brevity
and accuracy. Then he stated, "And never use the word `terrorist.'
One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter."
At the time, I rarely wrote news that would border on this issue,
but the statement remained with me. Today, however, the
word "terrorist" is bandied about with frequency: mostly in the
In Iraq, a resistance is in full swing and, despite what the U.S.
administration says, it is gaining momentum. The resistance is being
conducted against an occupying force, therefore, every time the
word "terrorist" is used by U.S. administration officials, or by
Iraqi stooges, the word is in error.
Some news agencies have softened the word by calling the resistance
an "insurgency." Again, this is false. An insurgency is an uprising
against a legal entity. The current Iraqi government is illegal and
the real government is in prison. Therefore, the resistance fighters
in Iraq are definitely not part of an insurgency.
Let's look at occupied France of World War II. The resistance was
trying to make things difficult for the German occupiers. After the
war, they were considered heroes by the U.S. who, to this day, have
not failed to consistently remind France that it was American troops
who helped liberate the country as well.
If we use the same logic, how can the U.S. be considered liberators
of Iraq? In reality, they are the same occupiers as were the Germans
of France in World War II. The only difference is that Germany did
not destroy as much of France as the U.S. has in Iraq.
Therefore, the Iraqi resistance fighters are the heroes. They are
trying to oust an occupying force.
The U.S. media have things backwards because they use the same
terminology as the administration. They mention the "bad guys" when
discussing the resistance and most U.S. citizens have fallen in
line. A simple method of portraying the truth is by merely reversing
the words of "bad guys" to "good guys." This 180-degree change would
then be indicative of a more truthful look at current Iraq.
Iraq has been resisting since 1991, but it was not until U.S. troops
were on its soil that the resistance took on its current form. The
first Gulf War killed about 250,000 Iraqis, but the killing did not
stop with the 1991 cease-fire. From March 1991 to March 1993, about
two million Iraqis were given a premature grave because of the
illegal embargo placed on it.
Most people do not remember the bogus "no-fly zones" set up by the
U.S. During the embargo years, about 850 Iraqis were killed by the
antics of U.S. pilots flying over Iraq, with a few thousand more
During the those years, a few proclamations were floated to the
Iraqi government. One, in particular, said that if Saddam Hussein
signed the document, the embargo would be lifted and he would be re-
packaged by the U.S. as a man of peace, similar to the recent
transition of Col. Ghadaffi from a terrorist to a "good Arab."
The document called for Iraq to hand over its oil production to the
U.S. and allow a few huge U.S. military bases to be constructed in
the country. Saddam and associates refused to sign. In mentioning
this approach to him, as well as other occurrences in Iraq at the
time, Saddam Hussein stated, "Iraq has been put in a situation in
which it has to choose between sacrifice and slavery."
Today's Iraq is in the same quandary. Some collaborators have chosen
slavery. They do not realize that by cooperating with the U.S.
occupier, the country's fate has been sealed for decades.
The resistance has taken the sacrifice route. The members have
sacrificed their own careers and family ties to ensure that Iraq
does not fall into total slavery.
When Saddam Hussein stated that "the mother of all battles has
begun" on January 17, 1991, he was ridiculed. He knew his military
would not be able to fare well against the U.S., but it was a stance
that someone had to take in fighting imperialism. He also knew that
this was only the beginning of a long struggle that could last for
years or decades.
From January 17, 1991, to April 9, 2003, Iraq resisted, but not in a
way that was greatly visible. It lost many people with little loss
of life for the opposition.
On April 8, 2003, the Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed al-Sahaf
was giving his daily report to the world. He was known as Baghdad
Bob and held a worldwide audience because of his colorful statements
in English and Arabic.
Al-Sahaf was telling the audience how the U.S. troops were going to
be bogged down in Iraq. One reporter shouted, "Look, the Americans
are already in Baghdad." Al-Sahaf turned around to see a U.S. tank
about 200 meters in the distance. He took the microphone and
said, "We've got them right where we want them," and he walked away,
never again to be seen in public.
For the next few months, websites sprung up laughing at al-Sahaf and
his last statement in particular. T-shirts and coffee mugs were made
mocking his statement.
Al-Sahaf went to the U.S. authorities and they laughed at him, not
taking him prisoner. This, in essence, was a statement
meaning, "You're not even worth capturing."
A few months later, while being interviewed in the U.A.E., where he
relocated, a reporter asked al-Sahaf about his last statement. At
the time, the resistance was in its formative stages, but not as
active as today. Al-Sahaf refused to take back the statement and
said, "Let history speak about this matter."
Today, the resistance is in full swing and every day we read or hear
about another plan to placate the Iraqis. Plans change, but the
effectiveness of the resistance does not. If anything, it only grows.
Today, when one looks back at al-Sahaf's statement, nobody seems to
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