Steven Vincent, "an art critic inspired to write about war after watching from the roof of his New York apartment as the World Trade Center towers fell," was found murdered in Basra, Iraq, yesterday, Reuters reports from New York. Vincent published an article in Sunday's New York Times criticizing British troops in Basra for being insufficiently aggressive in promoting democratic values:
Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, they avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society. Nor did I see anyone question the alarming number of religious posters on the walls of Basran police stations. When I asked British troops if the security sector reform strategy included measures to encourage cadets to identify with the national government rather than their neighborhood mosque, I received polite shrugs: not our job, mate.
Vincent was also a frequent contributor to National Review Online, which has collected links to his articles. Blogger Larry O'Connor picks up a pertinent Vincent quotation:
Words matter. Words convey moral clarity. Without moral clarity, we will not succeed in Iraq. That is why the terms the press uses to cover this conflict are so vital. For example, take the word "guerillas." As you noted, mainstream media sources like the New York Times often use the terms "insurgents" or "guerillas" to describe the Sunni Triangle gunmen, as if these murderous thugs represented a traditional national liberation movement. But when the Times reports on similar groups of masked reactionary killers operating in Latin American countries, they utilize the phrase "paramilitary death squads." Same murderers, different designations. Yet of the two, "insurgents" and especially "guerillas" has a claim on our sympathies that "paramilitaries" lacks. This is not semantics: imagine if the media routinely called the Sunni Triangle gunmen "right wing paramilitary death squads." Not only would the description be more accurate, but it would offer the American public a clear idea of the enemy in Iraq. And that, in turn, would bolster public attitudes toward the war.
Supporters of the conflict in Iraq bear much blame for allowing the terminology---and, by extension, the narrative--of events to slip from our grasp and into the hands of the anti-war camp. Words and ideas matter. Instead of saying that the Coalition "invaded" Iraq and "occupies" it today, we could more precisely claim that the allies liberated the country and are currently reconstructing it. More than cosmetic changes, these definitions reflect the nobility of our effort in Iraq, and steal rhetorical ammunition from the left.
The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists "the resistance" What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour--they are the "resistance." They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism, or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought--should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language.
May he rest in peace.