Editorial Roundup for Saturday — December 03, 2005

• Semantics: Name that enemy

Semantics: Name that enemy

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 2, 200

In the beginning, U.S. troops in Iraq had to contend with the “fedayeen,” fanatical loyalists of Saddam Hussein. Then, after Mr. Hussein’s government (and statue) were toppled, American troops briefly confronted “guerrilla fighters.” The White House objected to that term, with its evocation of Vietnam, and said U.S. troops were confronting “dead-enders,” desperate folks who just wouldn’t give up.

Since then the term of choice has been “insurgents,” as in Vice President Dick Cheney’s famous comment last summer that “the insurgency is in its last throes.” But over the Thanksgiving holiday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld decided that “insurgency” didn’t fit, either.

“This is a group of people who don’t merit the word ‘insurgency,'” he said Tuesday. “I think that you can have a legitimate insurgency in a country that has popular support and has a cohesiveness and has a legitimate gripe. These people don’t have a legitimate gripe.”

President George W. Bush may have signed on to the war on “insurgents.” In his speech at Annapolis Wednesday, the president said, “The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists.”

It is not clear whether “rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists” will catch on, or suffer the same fate as “fedayeen,” “guerrilla” and “insurgents”. But given the way the war is going, the enemy might as well be the Iraqi Cong.

The Republic, Columbus, Ind., Nov. 24

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., started a firestorm with his call for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

While it is proper to challenge the premise of Murtha’s proposal, it does a greater disservice to the troops who have stood in harm’s way to label him and others as cowards.

Vice President Dick Cheney has come close to the edge in his criticism of those who are calling for a pullout, suggesting that they are betraying the troops.

The important point all Americans need to recognize is that we must have this debate. We should have had this debate before we plunged so far into this war, instead of rubber-stamping a popular president’s action out of a fear that to raise questions would cost votes.

It is a debate that should have taken place during Vietnam, during the Korean conflict and, yes, even after Pearl Harbor.

To raise questions about going to war is not a betrayal of those we send to fight that war. It actually makes their sacrifices meaningful because it is the highest form of a free government.


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