Sunday, 3 December 2006

What's in a name?

No matter how you spin it, Iraq is in some kind of civil war. Sectarian violence at this level, cultural fissures at the magnitude they are registering now are the backup of this claim.

If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then it probably isn't a moose. A name is a name, a label a label, Iraq is in civil war.

With all this talk about how the media and others are describing the Iraqi infighting by using or not using "civil war", I wonder...

Lingual semantics is possibly the last thing we — or, more relevantly, the news media — should be worrying about in the present situation in Iraq, but the words "civil war", lack of, or other policy on, have become major in technical and political roles in describing the disastrous venture. Just look at the volume of news articles not on Iraqi civil war, but on the description of Iraq as "civil war". There is a plus to all this: maybe the American news media is starting to spit out some of the rhetoric the White House shoves down their throats. If only they had done that — and their jobs — before the US got involved in the Iraq war.

Maybe we should focus less on the words; more on the actual things the words describe/represent.

For more...

  • Oxford English Dictionary definition: "civil war" ("a war between citizens of the same country").
  • Princeton WordNet definition: "civil war" ("a war between factions in the same country").
  • Council on Foreign Relations report: Iraqi civil war (see also related links on page).
  • New York Times article: "Scholars agree Iraq...'civil war'".
  • Wikipedia entry: "Civil war in Iraq.

    "Terror", "terrorism", "terrorist" are also interesting phrases used commonly [esp. in US politics]. The general definition of "terrorism" can include a variety of areas of terror, whereas the commonly used FBI version states "terrorism" as usually physical attacks not aggressed by the government (heaven forbid the US govt. would commit acts of 'terror'), and so on. Terrorism is the scare — physical or emotional — of people for political, religious, cultural (ideological, etc.) reasons, not just some extremist Islamists killing innocent people in their fight against "freedom". See here for more on the different definitions of "terrorism".

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    Anonymous said...

    1. the "insurgents" are the "in" Surge (from the outside)... most of the terrorists are NOT Iraqi. So it can not be a "civil war". Vietnam was a "civil war" because the Russians only instigated the war, they did not fight.
    Iraq is a hot bed of any terrorist who can support the cause of islamo-fascism.

    2. terrorists are against freedom by your own definition. Liberals ( socialists) refer to them as "freedom fighters"! How fitting... fighting against freedom and "peace protestors" - protesting against restoring peace. Please join the Minitrue so we know what you stand for.


    clearthought said...

    First of all, thanks for joining the fray on this important issue.

    Second, I have never called a terrorist 'freedom fighter'; peace protesters are protesting for peace, FYI; and Iraq is in a civil war because there are Iraqis fighting Iraqis in sectarian violence at a massive scale. You have the Sunnis — including the Baathists — the Shias — including al-Sadr's militia — and other groups and factions all squaring off against each other. I would like to know what "terrorists" you are talking about, because that is not what I am talking about. The deplorable Al Qaeda, et al, are all encouraging violence, yes, and they are horrible for doing so, but even without terrorist organizations in Iraq there would probably be this civil war. One major thing that made things like this was the poor planing after the United States invasion, especially the de-Baathification policy. There are many sources where you can read more about that.

    There is quite a difference between some of the terrorist insurgents and the fact that there is sectarian violence easily classified as a civil war in Iraq. The terrorist (and non-terrorist) insurgency against the foreign troops and government in Iraq is one thing; the sectarian violence is quite another — civil war.

    Not everything needs to be generalized and stereotyped, which goes for ideology too.

    One more thing: "Islamofacisim" does not have anything to do with the sectarian violence, and, thus, is irrelevant to the civil war state of Iraq.