Thursday, April 29, 2004

What's in a word 

Helen Thomas was trying to get at this the other day with the questions posed to Scotty-boy. When is an Iraqi a insurgent, a rebel, a militiaman, a terrorist, a thug, or a simple man fighting against an occupation force? I think I've read all those terms in news sources except the latter to describe the people there. Last nigh John Stewart posed this question to Fareed Zakaria: we have this wonderful story of developing a democracy by fighting a tyrant and drawing up a constitution etc., and the Iraqis have, what, a foreign power who invades, puts in a government, writes a constitution, and gives them a flag -- what kind of story is that? Don't they need a story, a narrative to instill pride and cater to their nationalism? The answer should have been we screwed things up and they might be in the process of writing their story right now. Instead it was an "of course this is a nationalist people and we need to get them involved much more substantially right now". Never underestimate the power of semiotics. If the Iraqis start making this struggle their narrative, we are done.

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