What to call the counter-revolution
April 8, 2011
Once the protesters in Libya had become rebels, or rebel forces (a motley crew of loveable ingénus, royals and rogues — plus the odd Jedi, Wookiee, and Ewok — fighting the dark forces of an evil Empire), or rebel fighters (X-wings), an “intervention” (qv) was rendered more rhetorically palatable. (And the accidental bombing of rebel tanks — as though the tanks themselves had realized that they were on the wrong side — all the more “tragic”.) But then Malcolm Rifkind came on the radio last weekend saying that the rebels were no longer “rebels”: because Gaddafi’s government had lost all legitimacy, or so he argued, the “rebels” ought now to be described as insurgents. (Compare Iraq.) Meanwhile Gaddafi himself, in his delectably strange letter to Obama (or rather “Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama”), makes no mention of rebels but rather “Terror conducted by AlQaueda gangs that have been armed in some cities”. So I ask you, dear readers of unspeak.net: are the rebels still “rebels” or not?