By Stefan Dragunov – The old adage goes “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. How one
uses their semantics when naming a group can very well show whether they are against or in
favour of the group being described. Nomenclature can often be a very touchy subject when
describing any group that operates in a clandestine, often illegal manner, and can have foreign
policy repercussions if not practiced with tact.
Recently however, former US and European officials as well as foreign policy wonks and
media analysts threw all that caution to the wind, defenestrated diplomacy out the window and
have been using a very colourful lexicon to navigate the Syrian War in a way cohesive with the
political ideologies and assumptions of the West. Seeing how confusing this language can be
even for those in the media, let us review some of this key terminology and see look deeper into
what it means.
What ones can you add? Let’s expand our little dictionary in the comments section below.
Yes, the heart-eating, warmongering, “moderate” terrorists currently in a religious feud
with ISIS and a war against the government of Bashar Assad are as of last week United States
“assets”, according to none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Carter Administration
National Security Advisor and well-known Cold War dinosaur. It is telling of US policy and media
culture not only that he is kept around for his opinion the way a pupil seeks out an erudite sage,
but that the aggressive stance of US foreign policy has changed so little that such a relic of a
by-gone era everyone else wishes to leave behind can even remain relevant in such an
While not as direct as Brzezinski in showing the connection between Washington and
Brussels with prolonging the Syrian War, Europe itself has been avoidant in calling a spade a
spade and labeling all of the non-ISIS groups as ‘terrorists’, instead opting to go with the phrase
“moderates”, “opposition” or variants thereof (One immediately wonders how Europe would
respond to the IRA or Basque armed separatists being labeled as ‘moderates’), dividing Syria
into categories based on their support for Western government operations, with virtually every
group no matter their stripe that shows support for the West as “moderate”. This has a
double-edged effect, not only to give support to the groups on the ground being supported by
these Western governments, but to portray Russia as a human rights violator, bombing
‘innocent’ opposition groups.
“ Syrian Democratic Forces, Syrian Arab Coalition, et. al”
The “Free Syrian Army” all over again. Packaged under a shiny new umbrella
organisation and label, Washington has been extremely hush about who they are exactly, what
they stand for, what they believe in: all we know is that have been “properly vetted by the United
States” , rest assured– and that they are literally getting tonnes of ammunition and weapons to
continue their war against the legitimate Syrian government.
They also seem to inspire about as much confidence as the Free Syrian Army did: Even US
propaganda outlet Voice of America is admitting that both Syrian and Western analysts are
suspicious of these new Western-backed terrorists as “unreliable” and “opportunists”.
All of This language will only create an endless war scenario. So long as Europe and the
United States believe there are other legitimate powers that be aside from the government of
Syria, then those warlords and warmongers will only continue to seek their stake in government,
and will not cease fighting. In fact, far from an end to the war, Obama’s announcement to
continue to pour weapons and cash into the battlefield will do nothing to build confidence in
reaching a future peace agreement.
Whether or not this is the intention of the US and EU, extending recognition to any group
other than the government of Bashar Assad will only extend the bloodshed and a conflict that
may well become one of the bloodiest of the 21st century.