GADFLY: Uncivil War in Iraq 

Civil war? What civil war?

            In a page taken from the Clinton "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is," the powers that be in the Bush Administration are bending over backwards to deny that the sectarian violence which has been racking Iraq for months, suddenly ratcheting up in recent weeks with the bombing of a mosque in Samarra, and hundreds of Iraqis turning up dead in execution-style killings, constitutes a civil war. Dick Cheney Donald Rumsfeld and his military minions have all denied the existence of a civil war. Remember what they say about not believing something until it's officially denied?

            However, most of the people either "on the ground," or with their ears to it, seem to disagree. Ayad Allawi, the U.S.'s hand-picked interim prime minister of Iraq, has been quoted as saying the country is in the midst of a civil war. The New York Times' bureau chief in Baghdad, John Burns, has said the country has been in a civil war for some time,. The prominent (and militarily well-connected) Democrat, John Murtha, has said the same thing as has at least one outspoken Republican war veteran, Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, who said the following:

The former prime minister [Allawi] is correct. I think we have had a low-grade civil war going on in Iraq, certainly the last six months, maybe the last year. Our own generals have told me that privately. So that's a fact.

            I agree that there is not a civil war in Iraq, since there is nothing civil about the conflict between the Shi'ite and Sunnis that is killing, according to Allawi, 50 to 60 people every day, and well over 1,000 so far. All this denial and avoidance by the administration made me think the only thing Rummy and Co. would recognize as a civil war in Iraq was if the factions came out one day dressed in the costumes so popular with re-enactors of the American civil war, the Sunnis in Blue and the Shiites in Grey.

            But then Rumsfeld appeared to debunk that notion when he said (about a civil war in Iraq), "I don't think it'll look like the United States' civil war.". His statement, hedging as it did about his uncertainty that the combatants in an Iraqi civil war might look like the ones at Gettysburg or Shiloh, reinforces my belief that's exactly what it will take for the likes of Rummy to admit the existence of a civil war in Iraq.

            No one questions that the conflicts involving the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia, the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, the Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, or for that matter, the war between the North and South Vietnamese, were all civil wars. They all had common elements, whether conflicting political ideologies, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or claims to territory or governance, which are also present in the Iraqi civil war, and they all involved the killings of and by fellow countrymen. The other common element? To one degree or another, most foreign civil wars have been either the cause or effect of American meddling.

            So what's the problem with admitting Iraq has fallen into a state of civil war? Well, it's the same reason the administration has difficulty admitting that the presence of American troops not only has failed to stem the tide of terror, but has actually increased and served as a spawning ground for it. If our war president and his stooges can successfully deny the existence of a civil war, he can avoid taking any responsibility for it (an evasion he has raised to a high art). But more importantly, once it is generally accepted that Iraq has degenerated into a state of civil war, any remaining rationale for a continued American presence evaporates, as does what little public support remains for that intervention. It's one thing to build a nation; it's quite another to have to dodge IED's, RPG's and bullets just to preside over its self destruction.

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