April 13, 2006

Argument By Redefinition - Again

Hatched by Dafydd

So now we have a new "civil war," according to the creative redefinition of the New York Times. This one is in India, of all places -- and the other side of the supposed "civil war" are the Maoist guerillas in the northern mountain regions in the Himalayas, hard up against war-torn Nepal, and the poor, indiginous, central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

The comparison with Nepal is instructive. This is from the introductory paragraph from the Nepal entry of the CIA's World Factbook:

A Maoist insurgency, launched in 1996, has gained traction and is threatening to bring down the regime, especially after a negotiated cease-fire between the Maoists and government forces broke down in August 2003....

In October 2002, the new king dismissed the prime minister and his cabinet for "incompetence" after they dissolved the parliament and were subsequently unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency....

Citing dissatisfaction with the government's lack of progress in addressing the Maoist insurgency and corruption, the king in February 2005 dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency, imprisoned party leaders, and assumed power. The King's government subsequently released party leaders and officially ended the state of emergency in May 2005.

Gentle readers, that is what a real civil war plus Communist insurgency looks like. So what does the fighting in India look like, according to the Times?

Mr. Markam's ragtag forces, who hew to Mao's script for a peasant revolution, fought a seemingly lost cause for so long, they were barely taken seriously beyond India's desperately wanting forest belt. But not anymore.

Today the fighting that Mr. Markam has quietly nurtured for 25 years looks increasingly like a civil war, one claiming more and more lives and slowing the industrial growth of a country hungry for the coal, iron and other riches buried in these isolated realms bypassed by India's economic boom.

While the far more powerful Maoist insurgency in neighboring Nepal has received greater attention, the conflict in India, though largely separate, has gained momentum, too. In the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives.

"Mr. Markam" is Gopanna Markam, "company commander" of some Maoist guerilla gang that even the Times admits is "ragtag." Yet Markam and his "company" are the subjects of this puff piece, which reads almost like the Times has become a PR firm for the Indian Communist insurgency. The "article" begins thus:

The gray light of dawn broke over the bamboo forest as the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army prepared for a new day.

With transistor radios tucked under their arms, the soldiers listened to the morning news and brushed their teeth. A few young recruits busied themselves making a remote-control detonator for explosives.

The company commander, Gopanna Markam, patiently shaved.

"We have made the people aware of how to change your life through armed struggle, not the ballot," said Mr. Markam, who is in his mid-40's, describing his troops' accomplishments. "This is a people's war, a protracted people's war."

The rest of the piece drips with respect, even awe at the sincerity and success of this band of brothers:

Mr. Markam and his Maoist forces appear undaunted. They drill in their forest redoubts. They haul villagers to propaganda meetings. They build their own weapons, including crude pistols and mortars.

To see them in their jungle camp, sleeping on tarpaulins, armed with antiquated rifles and pistols, with no real territory under their full control, it is difficult to fathom how they have maintained their movement for so long, let alone expanded it across such a wide swath of the country.

Throughout, the writer -- Somini Sengupta -- takes at face value every wild claim of the Communists, as well as the equally fanciful and agenda-driven claims of local cops hoping for national funding from New Delhi. Whenever he describes some atrocity committed by the Communists -- using "child soldiers," for example -- he partners it with some similar atrocity committed by local anti-Communist insurgents; he plays the "moral equivalency" card like the ace of trump.

Mr. Sengupta's argument is simply to assert that the low level of violence and mayhem caused by the Maoists "looks increasingly like a civil war"... which he can only maintain by redefining the meaning of the term "civil war," just as other liberals do for Iraq.

Here, from the CIA World Factbook's entry on India, is the only reference to "Maoist insurgents." It's found at the end under Transnational Issues:

India maintains a strict border regime to keep out Maoist insurgents and control illegal cross-border activities from Nepal.

Note there is nothing here about the Maoists "threatening the bring down the regime" or India being "unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency."

Is India in an actual "civil war" with the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army? What evidence does Mr. Sengupta muster? After all, if "attacks have become more brazen and better coordinated," as he claims, what kinds of attacks are we talking about?

  • The Maoists "robbed two banks and looted arms from a police station" last June;
  • In November, they "orchestrated a jailbreak," freeing 300 prisoners and murdering (Mr. Sengupta writes "executing") nine security guards;
  • In February, they stole 19 tons of explosives from a government warehouse, again murdering (Mr. Sengupta writes "killing") nine security guards.
  • Later that month, they set off a land mine under a truck convoy, murdering 28 people (at least this time, Mr. Sengupta uses the word "butchering;" but then, this time the victims weren't security guards).

Pardon my local pride, but Southern California street gangs, from the Crips to the Bloods to MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), have done worse than that (albeit with guns, not land mines) in the last eight months... and California has a total population of 36 million, only 3% that of India.

Mr. Sengupta somberly informs us that "in the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives." Later, he refines that calculation: "so far this year, the conflict has killed nearly two Indians a day" (which would be something less than 730). I'm not sure how "nearly" 730 becomes "nearly" 1,000 -- perhaps he has created a new version of addition to compliment his new definition of "civil war." In any event, 730 people killed in India -- even in the sparsely populated regions of the countrh -- is considerably below any threshold of "war" that I would accept, civil or otherwise.

This is the state of debate in what is allegedly the premier news source of the entire class of antique media: there is a "civil war" in India because the Times says so; there is a "civil war" in Iraq because the Old Gray Lady thinks it fit to print that there is. When words are redefined to mean anything you want, they instead wind up meaning nothing at all.

Yes of course; deliberately evocative of the famous "G.K. Chesterton" quotation (which he actually never said, appropriately enough, though he more or less implied it):

When a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t then believe in nothing... he believes anything.

-- Anonymous

Nobody would deny that Communist terrorists in India are a serious problem; nobody would deny that it's a crime when an innocent person is murderd, whether by militant Islamists, by Communists, or even by counter-insurgency forces overreacting.

But if we lose the ability to discriminate between the low-level, low-intensity terrorist campaign in India, the bloodier but even less coherent string of terrorist attacks in Iraq -- and the full scale civil wars found in Nepal, Bosnia, and Rwanda, then we lose the ability to respond appropriately to each challenge. Imagine a person who could not discriminate between being verbally insulted, being pushed, and being shot.

Arguing with a liberal is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. They move the goal posts; they lower the bar; they simply cannot help themselves... it's in their natures. See Æsop's fable "the Scorpion and the Frog" -- which, true to the rest of this post, is not actually one of Æsop's fables.

But at least on this side of the aisle, we're honest about our lies!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 13, 2006, at the time of 5:22 PM

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The following hissed in response by: MarkD

Did you catch the Times' financial statement? I guess the public has figured out that there is no point in paying for their lies.

Their good news is that their "Internet business" is way up. The bad news is that doubling a pittance still doesn't make them much money. Their stock is cratering because they lost millions last quarter. Sooner or later some genius will figure out how much I'd pay to keep them out of my local paper. Until then, down's the word.

The above hissed in response by: MarkD [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 13, 2006 6:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Newspaper companies should be interred with their founders, preferably in a sort of modernized version of an Egyptian burial ceremony.

We could televise it, so that all the world could see how we grieve for the end of great newsmen in our society. The founder's remains would go in first, followed by a printing press or two so that he would be able to publish in the afterlife, some paper stock, ink and then--in the most solumn moment-- all of his progeny would be tossed into the tomb. A quick, somber end to the whole genetic line would be a beautiful thing, to be treasured and appreciated by all of society, and the burial would have the double benefit of saving us the agony of watching sanctimonious nimrods wreck a once proud institution.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 14, 2006 7:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: Jabba the Tutt

Michael Totten has written a great 4 part article on driving across Turkey to Iraq. Tell me this is not a civil war:

"Turkish Kurdistan is a disaster. It is not where you want to spend your next holiday.

One village after another has been blown completely to rubble.

The Turkish equivalent of roadside Kurdish strip malls have also been blown to pieces, by tank shells, air strikes, or what I could not say.

Military bunkers, loaded with sand bags and bristling with mounted machine guns, were set up all over the place. Helicopters flew overheard. An army foot patrol marched alongside the highway. Twenty four soldiers brandished rifles across their chests. I slowed the car down as we approached so I would not make them nervous. I could see the whites of their eyes as they stared, deadly serious, at me and Sean. It's too bad neither one of us could take pictures. But we didn't dare. Those soldiers were not just hanging out and they were not messing around."

This excerpt is from Part III and there's more and there are pictures of destroyed villages. Arrival in Iraq Kurdistan was entering Disneyland in comparison. Punch here http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001121.html to read the rest. Well worth it!!

I don't recall the Drive-by Media publishing one word about Turkish Kurdistan.

The above hissed in response by: Jabba the Tutt [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 14, 2006 2:21 PM

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