May 08, 2008

Thug Life: Verbal Gymnastics, Part Deux

Yesterday, Dr. iRack gave you his thoughts on the on the ever-changing labels used to describe the Shia militants U.S. forces are fighting in Sadr City. But Dr. iRack just noticed a terrific blog posting by Tina Susman over at "Babylon and Beyond" that discusses this in even greater detail (with some original reporting). Where once the adversary used to be just "JAM," then "rogue JAM," then "special groups" and "secret cells" . . . it is now "outlaws" and "criminals" and "thugs." As Susman writes:

The reasons for the change are clear. Sadr is dangling threats to lift a truce, in effect since last August, over the United States' head. That is something the U.S. military is loath to see happen, given how sharply troop deaths fell after he called his truce. The troop deaths have been rising since the March offensive, and it is clear they could soar if Sadr called for a return to all-out war with the Americans as he has threatened to do.

A high-ranking American military official said the language used to refer to the Mahdi Army was simply a reflection of the Iraqi government's decision to enforce the law against non-governmental groups carrying heavy weapons. He insisted it had nothing to do with politics, though he acknowledged that the military was eager to see Sadr's truce -- such as it is -- maintained.

Confusion sets in when the topic of Al Qaeda in Iraq comes up. When asked why the U.S. military refers to the Sunni Muslim insurgent group as AQI, rather than a gang of murderous thugs, it explains that AQI is a formal terrorist organization without the political roots of Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Go read the rest of the post here.

It is worth noting that both MNF-I and the Iraqi government are using the same language now to describe the groups under assault in Basra and Sadr City. And even the Iranian ambassador has said it is acceptable for Iraqi forces to go after "criminals" and "outlaws" in Basra. In other words, these terms are sufficiently, um, flexible to be used by anybody to describe anybody. Dr. iRack would not be surprised if we soon saw the return of "bad guys" and "dead enders" to our Iraq lexicon.