Can We Call It Civil War Now?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Newsweek's Rod Nordland gave a very illuminating interview in Foreign Policy last week. In it he describes the way the press is being "managed" in Iraq and discloses that conditions there are far worse than Americans know. It makes for very worthwhile reading and lends some insight into the way our "free press" is curtailed. But this statement gave me pause.

Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war.

Note to Mr. Nordland: You're still spinning for the White House. Iraq is not on the verge of civil war. It is in a civil war. John Murtha had it right when he wrote this in The Huffington Post.

According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, the definition of a civil war is a "war between political factions or regions within the same country." That is exactly what is going on in Iraq, not a global war on terrorism, as the President continues to portray it.

The spin that the country is constantly "on the verge" of a civil war is becoming increasingly dissonant against the backdrop of events like this.

Gunmen roaming a Baghdad neighborhood on Sunday killed at least 42 unarmed Iraqis as soon as they identified them as Sunnis, emergency police said.

Ala'a Makki, a spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party -- Iraq's main Sunni political movement -- said the victims included women and children.

He called the killings in Hay al Jihad "one of the biggest massacres of Sunnis."

Later Sunday, two car bombs detonated simultaneously at a market in Baghdad's Karsa neighborhood, killing at least 19 and wounding 59, police said.

The market is close to the Tammimi Hussainiye, a Shiite prayer site.

In the Hay al Jihad rampage, gunmen -- mostly "young reckless teenagers" -- started to pick up Sunni youth and execute them in public, while others went door-to-door looking for Sunni families who stayed behind, Makki said.

After warning one Iraqi woman she had 10 seconds to leave, the gunmen killed her and her children, Makki said.

A member of the Iraqi Islamic Party was dragged out of his house at 7 a.m. and executed, he said.

A witness in the Hay al Jihad neighborhood said he walked outside his home and saw the main street lined with bodies, and the attackers setting fire to homes.

He said residents tried to call the Ministries of Interior and Defense, without success.

Makki blamed the Mehdi militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The violence continued for eight hours, Makki said, blaming the Ministries of Interior and Defense for not responding, and saying U.S. forces responded too late to stop most of the killings.

Yes, this is the kind of thing our troops are called upon to do now. As Murtha says:

We’re spending all this money and diverting our resources away from the war on terrorism because we’re involved in a civil war in Iraq.

But true to form, The New York Times reports:

In the culture of revenge that has seized Iraq, residents all over the city braced for an escalation in the cycle of retributive mayhem between the Shiites and Sunnis that has threatened to expand into civil war.

How much more does it have to expand -- and I have little doubt that it will get much worse -- before we can call this what it is?


Anonymous said...

I'm sure you are already familiar with Riverbend's blog, but if you are not:

It is written by a young Iraqi woman who is chronicling life in American-occupied Baghdad.