While sectarian violence is at a high point in Iraq, fueled by many elements that have caused the death of about 120 people a day, everyone seems to be engulfed in the terminology. Is it a civil war? Should it be called a civil war? Does admitting it’s a civil war frame it as a failure for the US? Et cetera.
Matt Lauer on NBC officially declared on the network’s behalf that it is, by network news definition, indeed a civil war. The LA Times seems to call it the same. This was Lauer’s definition yesterday morning:
“As you know, for months now the White House has rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into civil war. And for the most part, news organizations, like NBC, have hesitated to characterize it as such. But, after careful consideration, NBC News has decided the change in terminology is warranted — that the situation in Iraq, with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas, can now be characterized as civil war.”
Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria characterized the conflict as this:
We’re in the middle of a civil war and are being shot at by both sides. There can be no more doubt that Iraq is in a civil war, in which leaders of both its main communities, Sunnis and Shiites, are fomenting violence.
Ah. Leadership. Newsweek’s chilling bloody red cover with the dark capped villain walking under the headline of “The Most Dangerous Man in Iraq” is telling of such leadership.
At a White House press briefing Tony Snow said last month had this to say when asked if it could be called a civil war:
MR. SNOW: At this point, you do have a lot of different forces that are trying to put pressure on the government and trying to undermine it. But it’s not clear that they are operating as a unified force. You don’t have a clearly identifiable leader. And so in this particular case, no.
What you do have is a number of different groups — you know, they’ve been described in some cases as rejectionists, in others as terrorists. In many cases, they are not groups that would naturally get along, either, but they severally and together pose a threat to the government.
Kofi is still on the fence with this one. I believe the word he used was “teetering”.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll taken a month ago found 40% saying Iraqis are fighting each other in a civil war, while 31% said Iraqis and foreign terrorists are fighting US troops, and 26% said it’s some of both.
Meanwhile the U.S. has now been fighting in Iraq longer than its WW2 effort and before the vultures began to circle the Bush administration has been drawing pretty strong analogies to that war. It goes something like that: we didn’t leave until there was a democratic Germany set up.
I wonder though if anyone will draw a comparison between East/West Germany and Sunni/Shiite Iraq. If history repeats itself then we’ll see a Baghdad with a big wall running down its middle, deep in prosperous Shiite territory (where the oil is) while the Sunnis will try their best to win a few medals at the 2020 Summer Olympics.