WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s long struggle over how to describe the war in Iraq moved to new ground Tuesday as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he wants to retire the term “insurgents” in favor of “enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government.”
Rumsfeld, who has previously described the foe as “dead-enders,” “former regime elements” and other terms, told a Pentagon news conference that the insurgent label lends the enemy “more legitimacy than they seem to merit.” That’s because Iraqis now have a constitutional government that offers them legitimate means of political expression, and the foe lacks broad popular support in Iraq, Rumsfeld said.
“These people don’t have a legitimate gripe,” he said. “These people aren’t trying to promote something other than disorder. … This is a group of people who don’t merit the word ‘insurgency.’ “
This isn’t the first time the Pentagon has tried to retire a such a term.
Immediately after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, U.S. military commanders referred to non-uniformed attackers as the “Saddam Fedayeen,” and then “regime death squads.”
After the military declared an end to initial major combat operations in spring 2003, Rumsfeld began calling them “dead-enders,” and “former regime loyalists.” When it was pointed out that the word “loyalists” might have too positive a connotation, the military began calling them “former regime elements.”