Sunday, January 28, 2007

"Occupation" or "war"

A debate over terms came up when we spoke with several participants at the DC rally and march. Forty-five people voiced their belief that the term to describe what is going on in Iraq as "occupation" not "war."

You can all it whatever you want. That's free speech. Ourselves, we'll call Iraq "war."

There are a number of reasons for that including the fact that "war" is the popular usage. If others want to fight the battle of transforming the venacular, more power to you. We're not going to. What it reminded us of was when C.I. noted (as The Common Ills) the push to begin calling former CIA agent Valerie Plame "Valerie Plame Wilson" or "Valerie Wilson." Valerie Plame was the name the public accepted. It was the name being used. "Plamegate" had become the popular term for the outing of Valerie Plame.

"War" is the popular usage.

"Occupation" may help draw comparisons to what is happening to the Palestinian people. But just for those already aware. Last Monday, on KPFA's The Morning Show, Philip Maldari spoke with Flashpoints' Nora Barrows-Friedman. A male caller (Mike? Michael?) phoned in to denounce her, to denounce KPFA for airing her 'lies.' He couldn't name one, even when asked, but he was outraged. This wasn't NPR, this was KPFA. Barrows-Friedman explained that she was offering another perspective. That is the reason that KPFA came into existance. But when Nora Barrows-Friedman has to explain herself, you better believe that even the KPFA listening area (and all over the world online), not everyone grasps the abuses suffered by the Palestinians.

"Occupation" also has another popular meaning -- your job. "Occupation" is not in strong enough usage for us to join the rally cry insisting that "war" be replaced with "occupation." For those who feel strongly about the term, we encourage to use it, to fight for its use. Ourselves, we refuse to call those held at Guantanamo "detainees." As C.I. noted, it makes it sound like they've been stopped briefly at customs while re-entering the country. They are "prisoners." We use "prisoners." They haven't had a trial, they haven't been convicted but we feel that five years and counting isn't a "detention," it is "imprisonment." We think "detainees" is a sugar coated word that is used to lull the American public and mitigate outrage over the imprisonment. We feel very strongly about that and we use "prisoners" at all the community websites.

We don't believe that's going to result in a massive outcry of "Change the term to 'prisoners'!" But we can't call the prisoners "detainees" and live with ourselves. If you're someone who feels that way about the term "occupation" replacing "war," we encourage you strongly to use it and advocate that others use it.

"Occupation"? "Colonization" is also valid. "Imperialsim" is also valid. We use those terms and "occupation" (prefaced with "illegal") when we discuss Iraq. But we call, and we will continue to call, what's going on in Iraq a "war."

In this country, "war" conjures an immediate image. "Occupation" less so for too many. We think an argument can be made that "occupation" would help end the war. For instance, one could argue that using "occupation" would allow for the next question to be, "Why are US troops in Iraq for an occupation?"

But that's not our battle. If it's your battle, we wish you luck, we respect your bravery, your passion and your committment. We're not going to slam you for using it.

But we discussed and debated it and, for us, that's a battle that we're not interested in. We're trying to end the war and we're not going to get caught up in a battle over the two terms. We think Bully Boy would love to sell the American people on that term -- it would provide him cover. "I declared war and we were successful," he might say. "Where we had problems was in the occupation following the war."

We do not believe the war ended with a battle in May of 2003. We think a war is going on against the Iraqi people and their system of life (as evidenced by privatization, among other things). We believe the war continues.

We use the term "Ms." when prefacing a female name (if we use a title, most just use a last name or a first name when repeating someone's name after the first time). We know a battle was fought for that term to be used. We know, for instance, The New York Times had to be dragged (kicking and screaming) into finally using that term. (And we know that they continue to call Laura Bush "Mrs. Bush" and that they do so with trophy wives and other women.) There were people who thought that day would never be reached but it was.

A speaker at the DC rally (Carlos Arredondo, Gold Star Families for Peace) gave a poweful speech in DC which utilized the phrase "Gringos out of Iraq!" repeatedly. We enjoyed the speech, we enjoyed his passion. We won't be using that phrase. As Arredondo knows (his son Alex died in Iraq on August 25, 2004 at the age of twenty), the US troops aren't all "gringos." Latinos and Latinas, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and many other races are serving. We loved the speech, we appreciated the passion, we'd applaud it again and consider it a pleasure to hear it again. But, ourselves, we wouldn't use the term/phrase.

Our decision on "occupation" used instead of "war" is not meant to discourage anyone who cares passionately about that battle to give up. There certainly may come a time when "occupation" is the popular term to describe Iraq and no one uses the term "war" (or the majority don't use it). If it matters to you, by all means, use it, fight for it to be used, work to popularize it. We're not saying "unworthy battle," we're saying that it's not one we're going to engage in because we firmly believe "war" is the term.

Should "occupation" become the venacular, would Bully Boy need an authorization act? We're not sure. But that is another concern. Most of all, we're not interested in attempting to educate the public on the term when we're fine with "war." If it's your battle, more power to you and good luck. People need to speak out, with a variety of voices, from a variety of points of view. Democracy demands more voices.
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