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The Media's Latest Lie – A "Civil War" in Iraq

| 109 Comments | 5 TrackBacks

It is a wonder that the Blogosphere hasn’t picked up on the latest media “Frame” on the war in Iraq – that Iraq is in purportedly in the middle of a civil war - and taken it apart like the propaganda it is.

What is going on in Iraq today is a losing terrorist campaign hyped by media spin as a civil war because the public no longer believes their prior “frame” that we were losing to the terrorists . This is easily proven with a simple comparison with Bosnia Herzegovina’s real civil war in the early-to-mid 1990s. Today there are 26 million Iraqis, according to the CIA’s Fact Book. There are four million Bosnians of whom about half (two million) are Muslim.

Bosnia Herzegovina’s Muslim population lost 200,000 dead in four years from 1992-1995’s civil war with the Serbs. That averages about 50,000 dead a year of two million Muslims, about one killed per forty people per year.

If the civil strife in post-liberation Iraq matched that of real civil war in Bosnia ten years ago, there would be 650,000 Iraqi fatalities per year – say 1800 dead Iraqis a day from “sectarian strife” to match the average death rate of Bosnia Herzegovina’s civil war.

That is not happening and neither is Iraq’s “Civil War.” It isn’t even close. There have reputedly been only about 37,000 Iraqi civilian fatalities (not including terrorists - the MSM likes to count terrorist casualties – including foreign aka non-Iraqi terrorists - as Iraqi “civilian” casualties) from violence in the three years of American occupation. That would be less than a month’s losses if Iraq were suffering from a real civil war like the one in Bosnia.

The MSM is flat out lying about a civil war in Iraq just as they have lied about everything else in Iraq. They invent new lies when their old ones are disbelieved. Yet they wonder why their audience and circulation drop.

Ralph Peters complained recently that the MSM’s reporters were all “phoning in” reports from stringers while hiding in hotels in Baghdad’s green zone. It looks to me that the MSM editors and reporters have gotten even lazier than that. Rewording the press releases of war opponents is easier, cheaper and safer than the hard work of reporting real news…especially if that news doesn’t say the propaganda you want it too.

5 TrackBacks

Tracked: March 21, 2006 5:44 PM
Too busy to blog today, but... from Random Jottings
Excerpt: ...I liked this post, about a mysterious delivery of flowers on March 18th... (Thanks to Hugh Hewitt) And both Belmont Club and Trent Trelenko point out the obvious (once someone points it out) fact that all the (wishful) talk...
Tracked: March 21, 2006 6:13 PM
Excerpt: For what it's worth, I'm just not buying this "sectarian violence" bit. I know that it all comes down to definitions, but if you don't...
Tracked: March 21, 2006 9:22 PM
Excerpt: HT Dan Darling (Winds of Change) via The Weekly Standard Now that the Blogos has access to the Saddam Regime's docs and tapes, more info re this regime's barbarity is coming to light. Dan Darling has been pouring over these newly re...
Tracked: March 22, 2006 1:25 AM
Civil War? from Agricola
Excerpt: We like the guys at www.windsofchange.net. Here's a very easy description of what a civil war can be, using the former Yugoslavia as a gruesome example. Maybe the MSM could be directed to their site for a little education on
Tracked: March 22, 2006 7:02 PM
Eye on the Watcher’s Council from The Glittering Eye
Excerpt: As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here. BTW a position ha...

109 Comments

Not just the media, and not just "liberals" either. Several Republican members of congress are saying it as well. The former PM, is saying it. So?

Clearly your definiton is so narrow as not to be credible. Try starting your approach from the disentgration of Yugoslavia when Slovenia pulled away and fought with the Serbs. Disentegration does not have to be some spectacular event.

PC,

The most dangerous place to be in Wash DC is between a politican and a headline. Truth is just roadkill for these people if it means they get their names in the papers and pictures on TV.

Robert M,

The Wars of Yugoslav Succession are separate events.

The War of Slovenian secession saw the Slovenian militia defeat the Jugoslav Army in a stand up fight. This was what amounted to a foreign invasion of Slovenia.

The War of Croation Secession started with the "War of the Barracks" -- where the JA tried to seize the Croation militia's stock of weapons and pretty much ended after the Siege and Fall of Vukovar and the seizer of majority-Serb Croation territory.

The Bosnian Muslims, unlike the Croats, did not contest the theft of its militia stores, counting on the "International community" to protect it. This is why they had the sieges of Sarajevo and the Bihac pocket, ethnic cleansing of the Muslims in the countryside by their Serb neighbors and the mass murders at Srebnecia.

The War in Bosnia ended with the Dayton Accords after the Clinton Administration intervened and used the Croats, American mercenaries of Military Professional Resources Inc, and the United States Air Force in Operation Storm to militarily defeat Bosnian Serb forces.

The final war of Jugoslav succession was the Albanian Uprising and American/NATO air campaign of 1999 that eventually saw the fall of Milosevic's government.

Of the various wars, the one that was a real civil war, as opposed to the emergence of new nations, was the civil war in Bosnia Herzegovina. That is why I chose it as an apples to apples comparison to Iraq.

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Clearly, you're the one spewing propaganda.

You think your little semantic games will change the reality in Iraq that there is fighting among civil DOMESTIC FACTIONS for control of the government. It is violent, so it is a war.

Hence CIVIL WAR is a perfectly accurate way to describe it.

What you are trying to argue (comically) is that for a conflict to qualify as a "civil war", some minimum number of casualties must be tallied. Neither the word "civil" nor the word "war" requires such an artificial threshold.

To illustrate the utter foolishness of your argument, you just have to consider the number of casualties in Iraq. We've lost about 2300 of our people, far far fewer than WWI, WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. On the other hand, 30-60,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.

Then there's domestic terrorism. How many US civilians have lost their lives because of terrorist attacks in US soil? Maybe 4000.

By your definition, we cannot define our involvement in either one of these as a "war".

So, unless you want to continue to reveal yourself to be the propaganda-spouting hypocrite that you are, you need to stop calling the Iraq conflict and the fight against terrorism "wars".

And so as not to pass up another teaching moment, consider the definition of "propaganda", reproduced here to illustrate how closely your post hews to it by attacking the Corporate Media with the Bush administrations party linie:

"The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause."

So how long has the civil war lasted (greater than 100 deaths per day every day)?

About a week.

I think this shows how great our news media really is. Had they not trumpeted it we might have missed it.

BTW don't forget the Civil War in America between the Bloods, Crips, and the LAPD.

It is a shame the papers are just dealing with that as a criminal issue rather than a war due to territorial ambitions.

I didn't know the Gangs of LA were fighting for political control of the federal government.

Gee, I should really hang out with Neocons more often. You really can learn a lot.

"It is violent, so it is a war"

Last time I got a root canal, the dentist held me in the chair. There was screaming, thrashing, pain. It was war, I tell you! And I had to pay the bill. Even when I couldn't afford it.

Then there are the hundreds of thousands Americans killed each year by heart disease. Dead, I tell you. All because of fast food. When will we stop supporting the evil Burger King and his minions?

This is just silly. Come on, Iraq is not anything like a war, civil or otherwise. A few hundred killed a month? What kind of war is that, anyway? We killed something like four thousand French civilians during D-Day, for goodness sake. Hundreds of cab drivers die each year because of violence. Should we stop running cabs?

You can say people are playing semantic games all you want, but words have to have some kind of meaning. A dog is a dog, not a tree. And whatever we got in Iraq, it ain't a civil war. That much is obvious.

"Clearly, you're the one spewing propaganda.

You think your little semantic games will change the reality in Iraq that there is fighting among civil DOMESTIC FACTIONS for control of the government. It is violent, so it is a war.

Hence CIVIL WAR is a perfectly accurate way to describe it."

OK, fine. Let's for a second use your definition of 'civil war', that there is fighting between domestic factions for control of the government. Well, strictly speaking, under that definition the American Civil war doesn't qualify as a civil war, since at no time were the Southern states fighting to gain control of the Federal government. The Southern states wanted independence, and not domination over the Northern ones. Of course, what you said is probably not strictly what you actually meant. What you probably meant was that a civil war was defined as fighting between domestic factions for control one's own governance, whether in part or in whole.

But, even this broader definition fails. If we use that looser definition of what you said, then the nations of Thailand, India, Phillipines, and Russia all meet the terms of the definition and are in ongoing 'civil wars'. In fact, in the case of India in absolute terms of deaths, the number of people dying from internal conflict at its height exceeded the yearly deaths in Iraq, and yet at no time did you hear the press term the conflict - then or now - a 'civil war'. That is because the term 'civil war' carries with it certain expectations about the conflict. If I were to say, 'Indian Civil War' or 'Russian Civil War' the images conjured to mind would not be of those things that are actually happening.

Look, if you want to press for your overly broad definition of 'civil war' then lets apply the term equally. By your definition, even countries like Spain are in a state of civil war. But then, if we do that, it would become clear in a hurry that you are the one playing the symantic games. In particular, what you are trying to argue is that the phrase 'civil war' means something based on the meaning of its component parts. I think someone should have informed you of the meaning of the phrase 'compound word' at some point in your education.

In ought to be completely clear to anyone that in conflicts in general and civil conflicts in particular that there is a broad spectrum of intensity. In the case of civil conflicts, this spectrum shades through various grays from politically motivated crimes, to civil disobediance, to civil unrest, all the way up to civil war. When you describe something as a civil war, you are making a claim of degree, and in particular you are making a claim that the conflict's intensity has reached a level of 'highest degree'.

The problem of course with that, is that its easy to go back to the summer of 2005 and find that the intensity of the conflict then exceeded that of now. No one called it a 'civil war' then, and to the extent that they did, it didn't suddenly slide more to civil war any time recently.

What's really going on now is moving goal posts. Last summer (and the summer before that) the domestic opposition in this country were predicting a Sunni insurgency victory. Now that it is clear that is not going to happen, they are defining it as victory that the Sunni insurgency merely incite the other communities into a violent reprisal (one which the Sunni community would certainly lose). In other words, by moving the terms of the debate from 'insurgency' to 'civil war', they can change the terms of 'defeat' and hide the fact that the Sunni insurgency has failed, that it was militarily defeated, and that it has been forced to largely end military actions (because they were losing) and turn to a campaign of pure terrorism against the civilian population.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of insurgencies and terrorist campaigns will look at history and conclude that turning against the native population is a losing strategy.

"I didn't know the Gangs of LA were fighting for political control of the federal government.

Gee, I should really hang out with Neocons more often. You really can learn a lot."

Wizener: Really. One of the marks of a troll is that he directs his replies only against the weakest arguments made on the whole thread, and then claims triumphantly to have dismissed the arguments of everyone on the thread.

M. Simon's remark may have partly missed the mark, but so does your reply. The Confederate States of America weren't fighting for political control of the federal government either. Rather than focusing on how M. Simon's remark fails to catch all the nuances of a civil war, why don't you spend some time thinking about how your definition doesn't either.

M. Simon may have gotten caught up in the intensity question and made a less than perfect analogy, but that is somewhat understandable given that what is being argued is that the phrase 'civil war' contains a certain expectation of intensity and those calling such a statement 'propaganda' are arguing 'oh no it doesn't'.

The Iraq War could be called something other than a war if in fact it didn't at various times involve an invasion by armored columns, the movement of divisions, brigade and higher level combat operations, and massive arial bombardments. That relatively few people have died in it is a testimony to the competance of the US armed forces and the degree to which we try to avoid colateral damage. It is not a testimony to the degree of intensity with which the conflict was engaged, and there is nothing at all hypocritical about claiming that the Iraq War is a war without qualifier, but that the domestic conflict has not reached a stage that should be deemed without qualifier a 'civil war'. The tangible aspects of a war are there, those aforementioned armored columns and brigade level combat operations. The tangible aspects of a civil war are not there.

As it happened with "terrorism", now is the term "civil war" being stretched in its definition to fit any and all agendas.

I think that Lee Harris introduced the more accurate term of "tribal anarchy", though even that has not occurred to a full degree.

#9,

Their ambitions are not that high yet. Local control (warlodism) currently suits their current abilities. Still since it is for territorialk control it must be a civil war no?

Ralph Peters complained recently that the MSM’s reporters were all “phoning in” reports from stringers while hiding in hotels in Baghdad’s green zone.

As he hid embedded with US troops. And told flat out lies about the success of reconstruction.

But hey, at least he bothered to go over there before mindlessly cheering.

Having problems with a VISA? I hear we've got a swell embassy there now.

Surely you'd be more effective dispelling the lies of the eemmesssemmm in Basra right?

Anything would be more convincing than this tripe.

While I agree that there is no current "civil war" occurring within Iraq, your premise that Civilian Deaths = Civil War is seems fallacious. I would add further that by definition, the Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a civil war.

I would note to Wizener that he take a look at who is fighting in Iraq. This is not Somalia, where rival tribes/gangs took sides for control of a crumbling nation, nor is this Serbia, those were civil wars.

Iraq has outside agitators funding an insurgency that is attacking the power structure that is collaborating with MNF troops. This is clearly not Civil War by any definition; that is terrorism. The Bathists know they will never regain power again; it would be futile for them to attempt to do so by force, when so much of the populace is against them. I think there is ample evidence to support that most if not all of the violence occurring within Iraq is outside funded and organized. The al Qaeda groups moved in to the power vacuum and recruited from within the country former Bathists who fell out of power. Their goal is not to regain power, but to drive out MNF forces, this does not make the current conflict a civil war.

There is a true ignorance among outside viewers to the Iraq conflict when they base all aspects of the conflict on religious factions. Iraq has always had a strong national identity that transcends religious sects. The al Sadr’s may make small power plays for a local area, but their national sway is nearly non-existent. To couch this as a Sunni/Shia civil war is to expose an utter ignorance of Iraqi history.

The term "civil war" has almost always been used exclusively to describe largely internal organized challenges to the control of the State, either through a war of secession or autonomy or violent contest for control of the State apparatus. That these are organized struggles is reflected in the fact that the rebels will claim de facto control over some territory as a power base.

What is happening in Iraq has not risen to the level of an organized attempt to create a different State. There may be groups hoping for that to occur. There have been people in history like James Brown and Guy Fawkes that have hoped that acts of violence would instigate civil war, but they failed.

There are people in Iraq today that are seeking revenge, which instigates its own pattern of revenge killings. That sort of tribalism does not seek to create a new state, but satisfies a desire that the State is too weak to stop.

The day that someone like Sadr stands up and announces an uprising against the Iraqi government and its Western allies, will be the day that a civil war looms. Sadr would likely be dead in a weak, which explains why some of the parties that might desire a civil war will only operate at a low-level insurgency level until the Iraqi government is so discredited and the U.S. will so exhausted that a direct challenge can be contemplated.

Michael Barone had a wonderful story about Irish gangs in Boston and New York in his The New Americans. They fought significant stand-up battles with each other, with rifles and cannon. My wife's favorite was the Second Battle of Bunker Hill.

Obviously we had more than one Civil War.

PD:

I think you mean John Brown.

James Brown, while feeling pretty good, is really only known for beating up his wife and singing. Neither of which is enough to start a civil war.

I hate typos. I just thought I would point it out kindly before someone else did it in an unforgiving manner. BTW -- check out that picture of James Brown! He looks like Nick Nolte after a bad night. I can just see those two singing "Ebony and Ivory"

Davebo: you need to quit reading Christopher Allbritton, especially since he's sitting pretty in the green zone.

Yeeeeooooowch!!!

Thanks Daniel.

I think for a civil war to be significant there must be a level of violence as well as a political aim.

The Bloods and Crips are not involved in a civil war with the LAPD for one sure and one possible reason.

1. The level of violence is not very high.

2. Political ambitions are limited.

Now apply the same criteria to Iraq.

Geez, thanks so much for putting that picture in my head. Now I'll have James Brown and Nick Nolte doing that duet in my head for the rest of the day. Just freakin' lovely....

On the other hand, a recording of same might prove very effective for dispersing Iraqi crowds and hence containing any future sectarian violence.

I think I'm beginning to understand this punditry game: cherry-pick a historical example that's either above or below the casualty rate in Iraw, depending on what best fits your mental narrative, and whether or not it's in a "civil war" falls out immediately from that comparison. Presto, analysis is easy!

I think for a civil war to be significant there must be a level of violence as well as a political aim.

I would agree, but I think the political aim has to be of a certain nature. These days any yookel can strap a bomb to their back and attempt to make a political statement with mass casualties. I am not aware of any civil war in which the aim was not to use armed forces to overthrow the government or contest that government's teritoriality.

Wretchard of the Belmont club is on te same wave length as I am today. See here via Glenn Reynolds:

"http://fallbackbelmont.bl_gspot.com/2006/03/reason-to-believe.html"

So what's the truth? The principle in determining truth should be to apply the factual indicator test. A civil war is a visible event whose indicators include the insubordination of armed units, mass refugee flows, the rise of rival governments, etc. The test is whether those events are being observed. What famous individuals say about a situation is a shortcut for encapsulating a factual assessment; it describes reality as public figures see it but is not the reality itself. . . .

Politically what's interesting is how the narrative has changed. Nobody is talking about the Sunni insurgency succeeding any more. Even the press hardly makes the claim of an insurgency on the brink of success. As late as November 2005, the Daily Kos was boasting: "The occupation is exacerbating terrorism in the country. America is losing, the insurgency is winning. Maybe we should say, 'has won.'" But by the December 2005 elections this view could no longer be held by anyone with the slightest regard for the facts. . . .

Instead of insurgency the talking points have changed to how Sunnis might soon become victims of an ethnically hostile Iraqi army in a Civil War. Going from a boast of conquest to a portrayal of victim is usually an indicator of something. In my view, the shift of meme from the "insurgency" to a "civil war" is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq is an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a 'civil war'. With any luck, they'll lose that campaign too.

Dean Barnett (at Soxblog) makes a good point. Let's let the MSM have it's way -- let's call it a civil war. Then, identify the sides. On the one side, there's the Iraqis trying to form a national government, largely supported by the population, including most people from each of Iraq's largest ethnic groups, and on the other hand, there's a foreign funded and driven "insurgency," seeking Islamic totalitarianism. The choice to stay until the job is done just gets clearer.

I think Trent's analysis is logically self-consistent.

Following that line of reasoning, after the government is formed and decisions are made how to run the country, the language will shift to something like "why are we assisting in the oppression of the Sunnis?"

Later it will be every crooked Iraqi politician or ethnic violence incident -- the call will go out "why did we lose so many of our youth in order for this to happen?"

It's fascinating that local Iraqi politics have become USA internal politics. I heard that hysterical guy, Murtha Something?, on TV Sunday. His list of gripes sounded like an Iraqi running for office! No water, electricity doesn't run, etc.

The strategy has always been to "hang this war around George Bush's neck" and make him wear it. What seems obvious to me is that the things they're blaming him for are getting more and more trivial. If the Sopranos end poorly this year, you can bet Bushie had something to do with it. He probably had something to do with Ralphie getting whacked.

Since September 10, 2001, about seven Americans a day have (on average) been killed by terrorists, Baathists, and insurgents. I have never seen Winds of Change, nor Mr Telenko, have the slightest problem in describing ourselves as engaged in a war on Terror, Islamism, Islamofascism, etc., nor in supporting the Bush Administration when they speak in this way. Only when the much bloodier conflict going on in Iraq today is called a Civil War do they find a problem with this terminology. Anything, I suppose, to disguise the collapse of Iraq into sectarian strife and our complete inability to make the outcome of the Iraq invasion match anything even slightly resembling the stable, pro-USA, pro-Israel Baghdad regime that Ahmad Chalabi promised to deliver.

Deal with it and stop quibbling.

Perhaps there was a GWOT, of which there was a war to conquer Iraq and now an occupation to institute a civilian government?

I don't mean to quibble, but this whole GWOT/Iraq thing really gets some people confused. If you add the phrase "9-11" they get positively spastic. When I think "Civil War" -- it ain't Iraq. Iraq isn't even close. I mean, it's not in the ballpark. If you call Iraq a civil war, as one poster pointed out, you've destroyed the meaning of the term itself. Gad -- look at some real civil wars and tell me Iraq is one.

When this slander and wave of depression started, I told my wife that it wasn't a civil war. I then changed my mind. I still don't feel that it is a civil war, but I'm now convinced that we will have to redefine the words "civil war" in order to make the anti-Iraqi folks happy. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory will take a little bit of fudging now and then, I guess.

I also think the word "war" itself is overused, hence a lot of the argument. War on poverty, war on hunger -- we've killed the word war, really. The phrase "Civil War" seemed to have survived as having some kind of cohesive meaning, but let's drive the stake through that one as well, I guess. Anything for the party.

Don't foget the War On Drugs.

No one has yet figured out how to get Drugs to sign a surrender agreement so the war goes on.

By the logic that you are using, the US certainly cant be considered at war in iraq, since only 2-3/ US soldiers are KIA/day in Iraq, whereas over in WWII the KIA was 250 US soldiers/day.

Basically if only a slight amount of the civilian violence, that is occurring in Iraq, happened in the US, americans would freak out.
If a proportional amount of Iraqi civilian deaths were occuring in the US, along religious or regional lines, we would probably consider it to be a civil war.

cb

"Since September 10, 2001, about seven Americans a day have (on average) been killed by terrorists, Baathists, and insurgents."

I dont think that is correct.
2967 - 9/11
1823- Iraq, hostile fire
165- Afghanistan, hostie fire

Thats 4955 (60% of which occured on 9-11). Now certainly some Americans have died around the world in other attacks, but its been ~1640 days since 911 which puts us at 3 per day in the main flash points. Im fairly certain another 5000 American deaths do not remain unaccounted for.

For reference 13,283 American's died in the Mexican War between 1846-1848. If you take only the military fatalities, we have suffered less soldiers combat deaths (1988) since 911 than the Union suffered in a single day at Antietam (2100).

If there is one thing we are all lacking in this day and age, it is perspective.

I'll give it to the righties on part of this one, I don't beleive this is a civil war, though I think it teetered on the brink for a few moments.

As I've said before: the Baghdad situation is still very, very bad. If you assume all of this is from insurgency groups, it's difficult to say that the insurgency is in it's last throes, because the violence appears to be rising, not falling.

I keep hearing Iraqi interviews were people say they are afraid to speak out against violence, against pollitical organizations, against strict muslim orthodoxy (for fear of reprisal). This is not a sign of success.

Salon, told a story a few months ago about the famous 'book cafes' in Baghdad that managed to survive Saddam (just barely) but are now closing because they keep getting destroyed by suicide bombers. One of the owners told an 'old wives tale' of an ice cream vendor who was shot by a bearded man yelling 'Mohammed didn't have ice cream in his day!'. It's what passes for a joke these days I guess. The owner didn't know if the story was true, but he said it's accepted as general truth.

Or so I hear. I don't think anybody here has actually been there, and I'm sure there are a lot of success stories as well. Still, until the violence is significantly reduced, and major rebuilding takes place, I will be unconvinced that Iraq is headed in a good direction.

This is not my forum to ask a question, so avoid it if you wish... how long do we stay if the violence continues at this level? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? We can't afford to rebuild forever, where is the cost drawing point?

32)"If a proportional amount of Iraqi civilian deaths were occuring in the US, along religious or regional lines, we would probably consider it to be a civil war."

This is a good point, if 50 people were found killed execution style in NYC, people would really flip out. Imagine Columbine happening on a weekly (or daily basis) and people would really go bats#!t.

Andrew: Either I'm having a hard time understanding what point you are trying to make, or else I'm having a hard time understanding why you'd think such an argument would be compelling.

One can believe that a war is occuring in Iraq without believing that it is a 'civil war'. This is because 'civil war' is a phrase which conveys a meaning above and beyond its component parts. A collapse into sectarian strife, doesn't necessarily imply civil war except in the most general way. Not all strife reaches the level to which 'civil war' refers. Not all violence qualifies as civil war, in the same fashion that not all violence qualifies as war.

The medias own claims here are in my opinion internally inconsistant. Suppose you mean by that there is a civil war going in Iraq only a civil war in the most general terms, that is to say some level of violent political strife within the political boundaries of community. But if this is what you mean, how can you possibly ask questions like, "Is Iraq sliding toward civil war." In this most general sense, Iraq has been in a civil war for years - since before the invasion. Clearly, when people say, "Is Iraq sliding twoard civil war?" or "I believe that what is going on now in Iraq should be characterized as a civil war" they mean quite obviously that there is now a difference in degree in what is going on now that what has gone on before.

And why the rush to describe this conflict as a 'civil war', and yet avoid putting the term into stories coming out today regarding what is going on in Nepal?

But if indeed what they mean is 'things have gotten worse', then they cannot complain when someone points out that far from 'slipping' into a period of greater violence, the violence of this most recent period is measurably LESS than that of Summer 2005 in terms of not only the number of coalition troops killed, but also of the number of Iraqi security forces (both army and police) killed, and even of the number of Iraqi civilians killed. Granted, there has been an uptick in murders of civilians by terrorists compared to recent months, but not compared to the height last summer.

Let's face it, in bringing up the term 'civil war' the people who are using it are not in the least bit unaware that the term properly used, implies a certain degree of violence. In fact, implying that things have gotten worse is the whole point in bringing the term into the conversation.

What has changed is not the circumstances on the ground, but the way those circumstances are covered. Last summer, the fact that thousands of Iraqi civilians were being murdered each month by terrorists was less of a story than the continuing death of US soldiers to IED's and the increasing rates of death among Iraqi police. But now, the fact that US fatalies are on a nearly 2 year downward trendline, and that Iraqi security forces are on a six month downward trend in fatalities the focus - both of the insurgency and the press - has turned to the murdering of Iraqi civilians.

If you wanted to make a real argument that civil war was underway, you'd focus not on the tribal retaliatory murders but on tangible signs of civil war such as the fielding of relatively large bodies of armed troops, or the holding of territory, or the formation of alternative provisional governments providing governmental services and with nominal heads of state and so forth. So, if you wanted to make a case for civil war, you might start by pointing out the recent attack on a police station by a company sized force of insurgents as evidence of a developing civil war.

The problem with that is that the real news here is that this was one of the first such large scale attacks in several months (at least among what got reported). Go back a year or so ago, and such company sized engagements were relatively common, occuring up to several times a week. One of the main things that is different about this story compared to such stories from a year or more ago is, a) the police didn't cooperate with the insurgents, and b) the police fought back. In this case, they lost - and that in itself has become an unusual event as the last half-dozen or so times I can remember something like this happening the insurgents got slaughtered. Likewise, the ability of the insurgency to control or hold territory has been decreasing since November 2003.

Andrew is changing the topic from "civil war" to "war." Its one thing to say that the U.S. is at war with foreign governments (including their last vestiges and loyalists) or organizations like al Qaeda and other jihadists. Its quite another to say that the Iraqis are at civil war with each other.

And its not a quibbling issue of semantics -- a civil war would have a different set of policy responses to evaluate than a sectarian conflict.

"If a proportional amount of Iraqi civilian deaths were occuring in the US, along religious or regional lines, we would probably consider it to be a civil war."

Oh good grief. I know nothing about you, but speaking from experience I'd assume here speaks a Yankee. In the South, you actually get an education regarding the civil war (if sometimes a rather skewed one), and so you'd never make such a statement.

In the US, we've had a real civil war and we'd never claim a second American civil war just because of some domestic unrest. And anyone that did would be an idiot.

If 50 people died a day died in political violence in the US, yeah, people would understably 'freak out'. But something worth 'freaking out' about and a civil war are not the same thing. If 50 people died a day, everyone in the US grabbed a gun and started shooting at thier neighbors, the US military disentigrated into factions, and a someone set up a provisional capital in Peoria and people actually took it seriously, then yes, we'd be in a civil war.

For that matter, if 50 people died in political violence every day for days on end, the most unsettling sign of a civil war in the United States would not be the violence but rather something that we already have. Namely, the most worrying sign of a developing civil war in the United States is that thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans do not believe in the legitimacy of the current government. So lets spend more time worrying about whether the current Iraqi government continues to increase its percieved legitimacy than whether the terrorists succeed in killing school girls. I'm not trivializing the latter, but if the former happens, then the latter will eventually be taken care of.

Granted, it will probably be a long road to peace, but the road is no longer for thier having been an invasion and arguably is a good deal shorter than it was back when Saddam was in charge. Saddam being in charge doesn't qualify as peace and freedom, or even for that matter even as stability, except perhaps for his cronies.

I'll answer you Alch.

First, I don't think it's any kind of war anymore. Not only does the scale not qualify, there will not be any kind of surrender and ceasation of hostilities. So if for those of you who are waiting on some big parade to end this, you haven't been paying attention.

So the real question is: at what level do we support an ally in the region that is experiencing major civil unrest? Whatever the answer to that question, when we get there, the transition period is over.

I think it's reasonable to have 10-20 thousand troops in the region as a rapid reaction force, no matter where they are staged. I also think it is reasonable to have another 10-20 thousand as a strategic force to put pressure on Iran, and I think those guys need to be as forward as possible. That means Iraq. Probably the H1 site.

Now I'm just pulling numbers out of the air, but the point is a major one -- there will be no total withdrawal of forces from Iraq. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the way I see it. I don't know of any politician that is saying we should withdraw every soldier back to North America to hide somewhere on an air base. Reposition, make them safer, redeploy -- pick your favorite euphanism. But there's no big bang. It just kind of fizzles out.

That's really going to suck for the politicians of both sides who want to make political hay.

Isn't there a glaringly obvious reason why Iraq hasn't plunged into civil war? (Imagine what would happen in Nigeria if a major mosque were bombed.) Because our people are all over the place with guns, and if that doesn't deter some people it certainly deters most.

I don't expect the anti-warriors to admit that occupation is anything but an unmitigated evil for Iraq, but much of their rhetoric assumes that Iraqis want to be left alone. So they can have a civil war? All the talk about letting Iraqis "settle their own affairs" takes on a sinister tone if that's the case.

So which is it? The left has been saying that we're the major cause of violence in Iraq, now they're saying that Iraq wants more.

What really happened was that there was widespread concern that the temporary strife after the Samarra mosque bombing might be the start of widespread Shia vs. Sunni Arab conflict, as opposed to one-sided Sunni Baathist and Al Qaeda massacres of Shia.

That did not happen but MSM editors seized upon the civil war possibility as a replacement Big Lie (a la Joseph Goebbels) for their no-longer credible to anybody lies about the terrorists winning in Iraq, and have been promoting it ever since, though events in Iraq do not in the least support their civil war allegations.

Trent is entirely correct in labeling this as the usual MSM lies.

If what is going on in Iraq is a civil war, there were lots and lots of civil wars in the U.S., most of those involving the Irish gangs of New York and Boston. Barone's delightful book mentioned how one such war was waged by uniformed forces - Boston then had two different police forces, wearing different uniforms, dominated by rival Irish immigrant gangs, who had significant public battles, one of which was called the Second Battle of Bunker Hill because both sides used cannon. And the Irish gang wars here involved far more casualties, and fatalities, than what is going on in Iraq.

A quick mention of an obvious but often-forgotten point: The enemy gets a vote.

Yes, of course circumstances in Iraq stem from chaos, age-old grudges, inter-tribe competition, and a host of other cultural, economic, and historical factors. But this is also one case where a root-cause analysis must include a Conspiracy Theory.

This time, there are indeed powerful men who are meeting secretly. They are asking and answering the question, "How can we use the tools at hand to cause the maximum carnage and destruction in Iraqi society?"

Even though the Western media is ignorant of General Giap's legacy, Al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies are not. Widespread murder, bombings, kidnapping, and property destruction isn't just happening as the "natural" consequence of social/historical forces. These events are planned. They are staged. They are the politics of bloodshed.

AQIZ's agenda is known (if ignored in most media accounts).

  • What should we do to make Iraqis lose faith in the infidels' democracy?
  • What actions will prompt US polls to show that "most Americans want to bring the troops home now"?

These are the Insurgents' and AQIZ's OODA Loops. Murder some Shia; bomb a mosque; ambush some IP. Watch CNN carefully to see the effect. Recalibrate. Then initiate the next cycle.

This analysis doesn't lead to an automatic "stay the course" or "get out now." It's just a reminder that AQIZ and its media allies have correctly defined the battlespace, while most of the US and European media lack the insight to do so.

Just read the Arms and Influence post A civil war by any other name.

AMac (#43)
> AQIZ's agenda is known (if ignored in most media accounts).

- you are spot on in this. Al Qaeda has been intent on fomenting sectarian civil war in Iraq since at least that leaked letter in early 2004
(http://csmonitor.com/2004/0210/dailyUpdate.html) (this was posted in a former thread, but seems more apt here).

In this context, it appears that the ability of AlQ to manipulate the MSM to serve it's own propagandistic purposes is formidable.

AMac - You've hit on why the insurgency is going to lose:
AQIZ's agenda is known (if ignored in most media accounts).

What should we do to make Iraqis lose faith in the infidels' democracy?
What actions will prompt US polls to show that "most Americans want to bring the troops home now"?
These are the Insurgents' and AQIZ's OODA Loops. Murder some Shia; bomb a mosque; ambush some IP. Watch CNN carefully to see the effect. Recalibrate. Then initiate the next cycle.

This analysis doesn't lead to an automatic "stay the course" or "get out now." It's just a reminder that AQIZ and its media allies have correctly defined the battlespace, while most of the US and European media lack the insight to do so.
The number of people who watch CNN has cratered to the point where there is serious question of their relevance in convincing the american people of anything. We haven't quite gotten to that point but every time CNN et al get taken for suckers another fraction of a % of the general public twigs on to the fact and simply stops paying them any attention whatsoever.

There is a steady one way flow of news consumers away from the MSM and to alternative media and the jihad brigade aren't nearly as successful peddling their tales there. The MSM of today has given away most of its credibility and this has led inaccurate assumptions all around including amongst our enemies

In this context, it appears that the ability of AlQ to manipulate the MSM to serve it's own propagandistic purposes is formidable.

It is less a matter of manipulation than many on the MSM are on the other side while the rest are lazy herd followers with little connection to outside reality.

I repeat, rewriting press releases is easier than the hard work of real reporting.

I repeat, rewriting press releases is easier than the hard work of real reporting.

And they say irony is dead.

AJL,

Who are you going to believe, the MSM's "Green Zone Commandos" or troops who fight there?

This is on the Real Clear Politics site today:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/03/about_that_civil_war.html

March 21, 2006
About That Civil War
By John M. Kanaley

As we pass the third anniversary of the invasion of Saddam Hussein's regime, there is much talk about sectarian violence in Iraq. However, a strange thing happened on the way to that predicted civil war--it failed to materialize. The repetitious headlines about internecine warfare go back to the summer of 2003 when the Ali Mosque was bombed in Najaf, resulting in the death of SCIRI leader Sayed Al Hakim, one of the most revered Shiite clerics. The importance of that particular religious site is similar to that of the Golden Mosque recently destroyed in Samarra. The bombing of the Ali Mosque was preceded ten days earlier by an explosion resulting in the death of UN representative Sergio de Mello, and the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy, all in the month of August, 2003.

The terrorists failed in their attempts to place responsibility for each of the bombings on the coalition, and they failed to ignite a civil war at that time. Although Iraqi public trust was still somewhat tenuous during that period, the people were able to see through the terrorist information campaign and realize who the culprits were. Since then, their trust in the coalition and a new government has grown, while support for the terrorists has waned.

There are two primary reasons why the civil war has not occurred and why it is unlikely to become a reality. The first is that the terrorist strategy and tactics have failed. As General Camillus defended Rome against the Gauls during their invasion nearly 2500 years ago, he made the following observation, "Always they bring more smoke than fire-much terror but little strength." And so it describes the terrorist attacks in Iraq that continue without any popular mandate. Along with this lack of support is an absence of a clear strategy, aside from seeking complete power.

and

The second reason why the civil war has not broken out is because the political process has been generally successful. Despite some difficulties in producing not only a new government, but an entirely different state, the progress within this democratic system has been remarkable. Terrorist attempts to force a postponement of the initial elections in January, 2005 failed as approximately 60% of eligible voters risked encountering violence on their way to the polls. The turnout increased for the constitutional referendum later in the year, and the momentum continued as Sunnis joined the political process when the country elected a permanent government this past December.

I'll bite JC.

Who is the Iraqi equivalents of the Sandinistas? What's the name of the organization and the leaders? What are the political objectives and what is their strategy? How would their conception of the State or its territory differ from that of the Iraqi government? From where do they draw their popular support?

JC, I read that post but didn't come away at all thinking that the author has it straight. He really didn't make a case in spite of his droning.
Several excellent discussions going on here and I see the most intelligent posts agreeing with the original author. So do I. But I also think that civil wars involve far more area and people than what is happening in Bahgdad. The rest of the country seems eerily silent - in terms of a "civil war". In Bahgdad, where the mix is all over town, there is some sectarian violence - and likening it to civil war is easy for MSM (Antique Media). If they only dug a fraction deeper than rewritten dispatches (Lazarus is right), they would approach something more intelligent. As the phrase goes, repeat a lie enough and it becomes the truth or something like that.

Let me ask you a question, Trent. Whose press releases to you think the "Green Zone Commandoes"—a rather curious slur from a member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders considering that more journalists have died in Iraq than in Vietnam—are copying? The insurgents and the sectarian death squads don't generally issue press releases. The journalists who have been led astray were those who swallowed the WMD hype, the cakewalk fantasy, and all the other drivel. The ones risking their lives in Baghdad seem to have some authority to me.

To tell you the truth, Trent, the credibility of the US military in Iraq isn't especially high right now. Google yields the following from a similar article in 2004.
As I write this, the supply lines are open, there's plenty of ammunition and food [for the Marines], the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo, and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.
Well, it's true that ammo and food are plentiful, but I wouldn't describe the Sunni Triangle as normal, and I certainly wouldn't descibe Sadr as marginalized in Najaf. Time and again, the statements of the military leadership, most especially starting at the top, bear no reality to the future as it unfolds. I would long ago have fired a car mechanic so obtuse, and you would too.

"The insurgents and the sectarian death squads don't generally issue press releases."

Oh they do, they do. Maybe in the form of a beheading video or carefully timed (if not staged for the occasion) car bomb attack.

Sadr was marginalized, but he should have been terminated instead. That was a serious mistake.

All of which leads me to believe that what we are witnessing is not a civil war, not sectarian violence, and not the end of Iraq.

Rather it is the beginning of Iraq. This, folks, is what politics looks like when you were raised in a cave and play hardball. Kind of makes our presidential debates look like a church picnic.

We have a "get out the vote drive" and they have a "drive over the voters" initiative. We poll people on the phone, they nail people to poles. We might canvas a neighborhood, they fire-bomb a mosque.

Aside from AQ, this is the beginning of a political system full of people who believe that violence is the only way they can make a difference. As each little bit of the government is put together, this political maneuvering decreases. Soon it will just be AQ running around trying to stir up trouble, and maybe a few assassinations here and there. Soon even that will get old -- especially after the Americans lower their visibility.

That's just my guess, for what it's worth.

How many people died in the Lebanese civil war ? Over 16 years, it was around 100,000, or 6-7k a year. Not all civil wars are accompanied by Gerrysburgs or huge troop movements.

Some of them take place block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, basement by basement. If Northern Ireland (whcih has half the population of Baghdad) had half the sectarian violence of Baghdad, we'd call it civil war.

So is iraq in Civil war ? I would say that large segments are peaceful since they are inhabited by only one ethnic group. The mixed areas are a in low grade civil war.

Iyad Allawi, pro American former PM of Iraq said so too.

Andrew J.,

It is not wise for you to mention the term, "credibility".

Fabio,

Sadr was kept around lest Iranian intelligence replace him with someone competent.

erg,

You have to look at refugee flows and emigration as well as fatalities in such situations. Those who contend Iraq is in a civil war have not examined the key indicator of Sunni Arabs fleeing Shiite areas and vice versa. That has dramatically increased recently, and it means much more than any other factor.

This is because those who flog the civil war line take their propaganda cues from the MSM and lefty blogs - truth has nothing to do with this. It's partisan advantage all the way, so they ignore the best evidence in support of their contention.

Their allegations are based on faith, not reason. They don't need evidence.

AJL,

Wars against unorganized militias generally take 10 to 20 years to resolve.

Your problem re: news reports is that your time horizion is too close.

In such a circumstance the way to tell who is winning is to look at who controls the most territory and what the trends are. One might also ask in places where the insurgents once held sway (Fallujah fer example) would they be welcomed back? Reports are that they are not welcome. This is very significant.

Tom H -

"You have to look at refugee flows and emigration as well as fatalities in such situations. Those who contend Iraq is in a civil war have not examined the key indicator of Sunni Arabs fleeing Shiite areas and vice versa. That has dramatically increased recently, and it means much more than any other factor."

...can you explain why that data point (increased refugee flows) doesn't support the civil war contention?

A.L.

A.L.,

It does support that contention. My point was that those who flog the civil war line ignore their best evidence. 'Cuz they know their hearts is pure.

But IMO I am aware of enough of the evidence pro and con to say there is no civil war or anything remotely like one. No reasonable definition of civil war stretches that far. Unreasonable ones do, but those result in lotsa silly things fitting the definitions.


Those who contend Iraq is in a civil war have not examined the key indicator of Sunni Arabs fleeing Shiite areas and vice versa. That has dramatically increased recently, and it means much more than any other factor.

You're saying that there is strong evidence of a low grade civil war (and ethnic cleansing) in these types of refugee outflows? So you do support that contention ?

Incidentally, the media most definitely mentioned this. There was an article in, I think the Washington post mentioning how "minority" families were moving out of mixed neighorboods.

erg,

Let us know when you come up with a definition of "low grade civil war" which does not include "white flight" in Jersey in the 1960's.
"No reasonable definition of civil war stretches that far. Unreasonable ones do, but those result in lotsa silly things fitting the definitions."

Far to narrow a definition for my choice so lets try something else: The American civil war. The situation in Iraq is comparable to the situation between Kansas and Missouri when each was added as slave non slave state. For a period of almost 10 years armed bands raided the neighboring state killing its others citizens based on their believe non-belive in slavery. slaves did not do well out of this at all as they were not armed. Sucession begun in the US in 1861. the military chose sides.
Currently the Iraqi police are choosing sides like the US military at the time because most of the police military in Iraq is Shia just as most of the officiers in the US military were southerners.
Civil War exists and is ongoing in Iraq. No amount of splitting hairs is going to make it not so.

I'm not even sure a conflict the scale of a "Civil War" could even erupt in Iraq, given the presence of our troops. In order for any conflict to exist larger than what we already see in Iraq, a greater degree of organization is required by its participants. It is said that the difficulties that the US military has had in Iraq stem from the fact that modern militaries have yet to learn how to cope with asymetrical warfare of the nature that we are witnessing. We have seen time and time again attempts by various factions to organize into fighting forces of the scale necessary to create such greater conflicts, only to see them decimated by US forces. In other words, US forces are capable of dealing with any other military force approaching the 'conventional' standard, but anything less than that falls under the 'asymetrical' standard and therefore beyond US military capability to destroy (thoroughly). What this means (according to my theory) is that the conflict in Iraq cannot get any larger than it already is, yet it will continue within the presently observed range of intensity until either

1) US Military forces improve their capabilities in asymetrical warfare (this has been happening)

or

2) The political situation changes such that participating parties disengage from their military objectives (insurgency fades out or US withdraws)

A civil war requires participants who are not only willing, but capable. US military presence equates to denying that capability.

#52 AJL:

"more journalists have died in Iraq than in Vietnam"

Some journalists "died," e.g. in accidents, friendly fire incidents.
Some journalists were killed by Coalition or Iraqi Gov't. troops.
Most of these people were murdered by AQIZ and their allies. It's a deliberate policy: a way to control what gets reported through intimidation.
Effective, too: since it's fruitless to blame invisible, nameless monsters, culpability must lie elsewhere. Probably it's really the fault of people we despise already.

AMac, the question is not which side is to blame for the death of journalists, although in the case of some Al Jazeera employees the "accident" story seems a little thin. [compare Paper Says Bush Talked of Bombing Arab TV Network]

The question is why the MSM are allegedly getting the story all wrong, and it wouold seem to me that any story that's resulting in so many journalists' deaths can't be all that promising, in terms of the situation, to begin with. Nor, by the way, have journalists been reticent about reporting the hardshis they face in collecting such news as they can. It's hardly surprising that the natural, obvious conclusion about the chaotic mess in Iraq doesn't sit well with so many posters at WoC, but the idea that these journalists who risk death are (a) too cowardly to find the facts and (b) too lacking in sources and proximity to find the facts is ludicrous and, when typed in the safety of an American living room, despicable.

Bleeding Kansas was a symptom of the US Civil War, not its cause. The US Civil War started when formal secession was announced and General Beauregard, CSA, opened fire on Sumter.

Not when some bandit burned down his neighbor's house in Kansas.

Several commenters above have noted the lack of insurgent coherency on their political goals. The Confederacy or Cromwell's English Puritans should be regarded as a better precedent when declaring a Civil War has commenced.

It is wonderful to see A.J. in full cry again. It was boring without his name-calling.

A.J., so when will you volunteer as an Al Jazeera stringer in Iraq? We'd love to see you on TV with your new friends demonstrating their latest toys on you.

The Bush administration would be unwise to label the violence in Iraq as a civil war. The MSM and "peaceniks" are desperate for a tag to the ongoing violence in Iraq so it makes it simpler for them to tout American failures.


Let us know when you come up with a definition of "low grade civil war" which does not include "white flight" in Jersey in the 1960's.

Tom -- Be sure to let me know when Jersey (which int he sixties had a population well below that of Baghdad) saw virtually daily bombings, car bombings, discovery of a dozen bodies every day, mortar attacks, executions, kidnappings, police owing affiliation to political parties, beheadings etc. Maybe I missed it in the news when I lived there.

Then we can talk about the differences between Iraq and Jersey.

AJL #65

> The question is not which side is to blame for the death of journalists

Seems like a pretty important point, and I guess you agree at some level. Otherwise why bring it up in the minority of cases when it's the Americans who are culpable?

> The question is why the MSM are allegedly getting the story all wrong.

Well, I don't hold that the MSM is "all wrong." I contended that that most reporters are operating out of a frame of reference that is agreeable to AQIZ and its allies. Why? A mix of ignorance of history, seeing other issues as primary (e.g. discrediting Bush's cronies), and the primacy of personal experience. If I felt the heat of a bomb blast, it sure wouldn't predispose me to post all-is-well stories from the Green Zone. The West doesn't need happy news, it deserves balanced news.

The hundreds of thousands of Iraqis liquidated by Saddam are of no importance to The Story. They're dead. Their sandy bones and shreds of clothing all look the same.

The Iraqis that Saddam and his sons would have raped, tortured, and killed aren't news; these events are part of a sci-fi alternate history timeline. The future that AQIZ intends for Iraq hasn't happened, so that's of no interest either.

So we are left with an implicit comparison between a bloody present, and the bucolic kite-flying Iraq of Farenheit 911 that would exist, except for Bush.

Ernie Pyle wrote about a lot of bad stuff in WW2. He backed one of the dogs in that fight. Today's reporters operate from a very different place, with the exception of those on the other side. Their view is quite clear.

AJL,

You might want to go to the WoC main page and read this:

Iraqi cameraman for CBS to go on trial
by Robin Burk at March 22, 2006 05:52 PM

Last April I posted about the arrest of a CBS cameraman in Iraq who was suspected of aiding insurgent attacks.

Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein will go on trial in Iraq on April 5th. Expect intense media focus on this.

The more of these kind of "reporters" that are killed and captured by Coalition forces in Iraq, the better off the world is because they are killing terrorists.

But that is your real problem isn't it?

The American military is doing good by killing evil root and branch and the side you are rooting for is losing.

The American military is doing good by killing evil root and branch and the side you are rooting for is losing.

Congratulations Trent!

You've managed to turn a once great blog into all the other echo chambers.

Winds of the Inane

Did I mention that you are objectively pro idiocy?

Erg,

The body counts, pitched battles, etc., you initially relied on happened to a much greater extent in New York and Boston about 1840-1870 but weren't reported as a "civil war".

The endemic low-level violence and refugee flows you then relied on happened to a much greater extent in 1960's "white flight" in America but weren't reported as a civil war.

The car bombs and higher degree of violence you now rely on happened to a much greater degree 2004-2005 without being called a "civil war". And did not result in reports of refugee flows such as those reported last month.

What is it about the current lower degree of violence in early 2006 which caused the refugee flows reported last month?

Might it be that those flows have been taking place continously since 2004 but only recently have been noticed by the MSM?

Might it be that these flows are being called "new", "exciting" and "improved" due to the same PR flackery used in advertising detergent?

MIght this be due to the MSM asserting that nothing happened unless they reported it?

Might it be because the MSM, Democrats and other lefties "seized upon the civil war possibility as a replacement Big Lie (a la Joseph Goebbels) for their no-longer credible to anybody lies about the terrorists winning in Iraq, and have been promoting it ever since, though events in Iraq do not in the least support their civil war allegations"?

Note also how the MSM's promotion of the Iraqi "civil war" concept seems to have stopped today, immediately after near simultaneous blog posts challenging it yesterday by Wretchard on Belmont Club, Trent here at WOC, Lt. Colonel Kanaley at Real Clear Politics and Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

Davebo,

There is a difference between saying that our effort in the war on terror is misdirected and ineffective in Iraq, and cheering the other side. You represent the former, and AJL the latter. You rarely get personal, but AJL does.

Note that I have always been respectful in responding to you, while I respond to AJL with Hamas Rules when he gets out of line. Trent seems to be the same way.

So maybe it's really AJL.

But if you want the treatment he gets, just say so. Or keep on going on the way you just did.

Davebo,

The American military has strong survival based grounds to view any media correspondent and/or video news gathering team and an enemy or enemy co-belligerent on the battle field to include embeded Western journalists.

1) Al-Qaeda uses new teams as covers for assasination teams. Massoude, the Lion of the Panshir, was killed by a Al-Qaeda suicide team pretending to be reporters.

2) Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia news teams have been caught multiple times at the scenes of terrorist attacks to film the attacks as they take place. I have seen unconfirmed reports where they have actually paid for such attacks as well.

3) Many of the stringers for CBS and other network news teams are either Palestinian or ex-Ba'athists "helpers" who are terrorists themselves.

4) The professional media values of the Western media strongly influence it to set up American troops for ambushes or other problems to get "if it bleeds it leads" video for the sake of getting eyes for news stories.

Sadly, this has been a media value for going on two generations to hide with America's enemies in order to get a story.

Even if it involved not informing an American patrol of an impending ambush...all for the sake of "getting the story."

This is a partial 1987 transcript from the Fred Friendly PBS Ethics in Government series, the episode titled Ethics in America- Under Orders, Under Fire [Ethics in the Military, Part I]

Moderator: You are safely traveling with an enemy unit as a foreign war correspondent. As fate would have it the enemy unit you are traveling with is about to ambush an American unit.

Jennings: As a reporter you have to make the decision going in that there is a possibility that you may come upon an American unit. My feeling is that, as a reporter, you have to make that decision before you went. And that if you are in, you are in. I would live in fear of coming across an American unit.

Moderator: So if you made that decision you would then film the enemy unit shooting the American unit?

Jennings: (Long pause thinking) No? I guess I wouldn't. I'll tell you now what I?m feeling rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with the enemy I would do what I could to warn the Americans.

Moderator: Even if it means not getting the live coverage?

Jennings: I don?t have much doubt it would mean my life. I?m glad this is hypothetical. I don?t think I could bring myself to participate in that fashion, by not warning the Americans. Some other reporters may feel otherwise.

Wallace: Some other reporters would feel otherwise. I would regard it simply as another story I was there to tell.

Moderator: Enemy soldiers shooting and killing American soldiers? Could you imagine how you would report that to the American people?

Wallace: Yes, I can. (Talking down to Jennings) Frankly, I?m astonished to hear Peter say that. You are a reporter. Granted you are an American. But you are a reporter covering combat. And I?m at a loss to understand why, because you are an American; you would not cover that story.

Moderator: Don?t you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of American soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting the fact?

Wallace: No. You don?t have the higher duty. You are a reporter. Your job is to cover what is going on in that war. I would be calling Peter to say, ?What do you mean you?re not going to cover the story.?

Jennings: I think he?s right. I chickened out. I agree with Mike intellectually. I really do. And I wish at the time, I?d made another decision. I would like to have made his decision.

Returning to the dialog from the ethics panel discussion at the opening of this paper - following the exchange between Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace the moderator turns to Colonel George M. Connell, United States Marine Corps, and asks his response to the dialog he had just heard.

Moderator: Colonel Connell, I can see the venomous reaction you are having in hearing all this.

Colonel Connell: (Angrily) I feel utter contempt. Two days later they (the reporters ? Jennings and Wallace) are both walking off my hilltop and they get ambushed and they?re lying there wounded. And they?re going to expect I?m going to send Marines up there to get them. They?re just journalists. They?re not Americans. Is that a fair reaction? You can?t have it both ways. But I?ll do it. And that?s what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get?(grippingly) a couple of journalists.

The reason why the American military views the main stream media as either in league with the enemy, or as the enemy, is that they are.

Tom H.

You said initially


Let us know when you come up with a definition of "low grade civil war" which does not include "white flight" in Jersey in the 1960's.

I responded with a whole list of differences


Tom -- Be sure to let me know when Jersey (which int he sixties had a population well below that of Baghdad) saw virtually daily bombings, car bombings, discovery of a dozen bodies every day, mortar attacks, executions, kidnappings, police owing affiliation to political parties, beheadings etc. Maybe I missed it in the news when I lived there.

Instead of responding to that, you come in with a list of different places and different times (boston and New York in the 1840s, the US in the 1960s, Iraq last year) and combine them to come up with the sum total of events I described. At no point do you back up your original claim that there is virtually no difference between Jersey in the 1960s and Iraq today. So one must presume that your original claim was full of hot air.


The car bombs and higher degree of violence you now rely on happened to a much greater degree 2004-2005 without being called a "civil war". And did not result in reports of refugee flows such as those reported last month.

There were many reports begining as early as 2003 of ethnic cleansing happening in some neighborhoods. Mosul and Kirkuk were 2 of the main examples cited, but there were others as well. Besides it wasn't until mid 2005 or so that the Interior ministry started being dominated by the Badr militia (after an SCIRI guy became Interior Minister).

And a lot of commentators did bring up the prospect of civil war or problems between the different ethnic groups once American troops left. Similarly, there were lots of warnings of the police being dominated by Shia militias last year. Similarly, there were reports of some of the execution style shootings of Sunnia and Shia in some towns.


What is it about the current lower degree of violence in early 2006 which caused the refugee flows reported last month?

1) Its not at all clear that there has been a lower degree of violence in 2006. There may have been slightly lower violence against American troops (which have taken a lower profile), but that seems to have been replaced by violence between different groups

2) While there were a number of Shia group bombings earlier, this is most definitely the first time that Shia militias retaliated openly and in force against Sunni areas. There were always reports of Sunnis being picked up and executed -- George Bush acknowledged this yesterday as horrific, but this was the first time we saw the militias and some police units dominated by militias take such direct action.

3) In a similar vein, this may be the first time the general Sunni community took arms in their communities.


Might it be that those flows have been taking place continously since 2004 but only recently have been noticed by the MSM? Might it be that these flows are being called "new", "exciting" and "improved" due to the same PR flackery used in advertising detergent?

The flows have been commented on before, but of course, there may have been more of this recently. ANd of course, you are right for once, some of this is just media sensationlism.

The US Ambassador to Iraq said that the violence could turn to civil war. Allawi, past pro-US Iraq PM, said so too. You may disagree with them, but I doubt even you would call them treasonous. Even pro-US Iraqi bloggers thought it was a real danger.

Could it be that there was a real serious danger of civil war breaking out, at least in the mixed provinces of Iraq after the bombing ? That if there were no US troops there, it would very likely have happened ? That the immediate danger seems to have passed for now, but its still a possibility.

Nah, couldn't me. Much easier just to make bizarre comments about how Jersey is like Iraq.

Transcript of 3/21/06 (PDF):

Hugh Hewitt: Do you think that [Iraq] is on the brink of civil war?

Michael Yon: Well, I've been saying all 2005 that it really is in civil war already. It's just not boiling. It's simmering. But you know, it's been in civil war for decades. Saddam Hussein killed untold thousands of his people. They're out there in mass graves. I would venture to guess... that it was worse back then than it is now. He gassed his own people, he went to war with Iran, he went to war with Kuwait, and destroyed Kuwait, destroyed the oil fields. Certainly, there's a lot of violence going on there now, and it might be getting worse, but it's been at civil war for decades.

Good point(s) AMac. The sanctions and no-fly zones, which constituted the "humane" alternative to invasion, were certainly contributors to sectarian strife as well.

The politeness of the pro-war crowd diminishes along with their dreams of—well, what was the dream, again? I mean, other than discombobulating the leadership of the Democratic Party? You didn't seriously think Ahmad Chalabi was going to set up a pro-US pro-Israel outpost, did you? Christopher Hitchens, April 2003, might be quoted in this regard:
So it turns out that all the slogans of the anti-war movement were right after all. And their demands were just. "No War on Iraq," they said—and there wasn't a war on Iraq. Indeed, there was barely a "war" at all.…So I'm glad to extend the hand of friendship to my former antagonists and to begin the long healing process.
The tone rings a little false now, in 2006, doesn't it? Why wouldn't Telenko be upset, with all that time he spent counting his unhatched chickens.

Leaving aside the question of which side I am rooting for, the American military is rooting out evil in quite curious ways. Now, I don't really blame the military for the bankruptcy of the overall strategy, which was hatched by civilians in Washington, and seems, now, as delusional as sending teams of soldiers to fly by flapping their arms. I do blame the military for acquiescing in the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld torture experiments, which did not get nearly the play at this blog they deserved, but this too appears to have been instigated at the civilian level. Having said this, the idea that our army is rooting out "evil" is so 2003. Right now, we are trying to identify the perhaps less evil (e.g., Iranian-backed Shiite theocrats) to help them squelch the perhaps more evil (especially Sunni secular forces whom in some other history we would probably have preferred).

By the way, Telenko has done much worse to accuse me of treason. After all, I took great umbrage at his original article (before I even joined the thread, so I don't see how I am to blame) with its imputation of cowardice to journalists who are dying in this war at a historically unprecedented rate. (Why, if journalists are biased towards the terrorists, do the terrorists continue to kidnap and kill them?) Telenko is welcome to accuse journalists of being wrong from the comfort of his living room, but to suggest that they are chicken, under these circumstances, is despicable. What sort of courage his own argument shows, I can't imagine.

AJL,

You went out of your way to use the "Chicken Hawk" slander on me and now you bleat when I call you out for your leftie derangement.

Like most lefties you can dish it out but you can't take it.

You are one of those pack of lefties who would rather see America lose in Iraq so it would hurt Bush and "Neo-Con Imperialism" than have America establish a viable democratic Iraqi state and see Bush get credit for it.

BTW, Holsinger and I were making side wagers on how long it would take you get get around to citing Abu Ghraib to poison the topic in usual leftie form.

Nice to see you come in on schedule.

AMAC,

This is from Ralph Peters March 1, 2006 NY Post column:

March 1, 2006 -- THE reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest. There is no civil war in the streets. None. Period.

Terrorism, yes. Civil war, no. Clear enough?

Yesterday, I crisscrossed Baghdad, visiting communities on both banks of the Tigris and logging at least 25 miles on the streets. With the weekend curfew lifted, I saw traffic jams, booming business — and everyday life in abundance.

Yes, there were bombings yesterday. The terrorists won't give up on their dream of sectional strife, and know they can count on allies in the media as long as they keep the images of carnage coming. They'll keep on bombing. But Baghdad isn't London during the Blitz, and certainly not New York on 9/11.

It's more like a city suffering a minor, but deadly epidemic. As in an epidemic, no one knows who will be stricken. Rich or poor, soldier or civilian, Iraqi or foreigner. But life goes on. No one's fleeing the Black Death — or the plague of terror.

...and

Oh, the attacks will continue. They're even predictable, if not always preventable. Driving through Baghdad's Kerada Peninsula District, my humvee passed long gas lines as people waited to fill their tanks in the wake of the curfew. I commented to the officer giving me a lift that the dense lines of cars and packed gas stations offered great targets to the terrorists. An hour later, one was hit with a car bomb.

The bombing made headlines (and a news photographer just happened to be on the scene). Here in Baghdad, it just made the average Iraqis hate the terrorists even more.

You are being lied to. By elements in the media determined that Iraq must fail. Just give 'em the Bronx cheer.

AMAC,

Here is one more from another Ralph Peters NY Post column "DUDE, WHERE'S MY CIVIL WAR?": http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/64677.htm/

March 5, 2006 -- BAGHDAD

I'M trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.

Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view's clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn't give me the right skills.

And riding around with the U.S. Army, looking at things first-hand, is certainly a technique to which The New York Times wouldn't stoop in such an hour of crisis.

Let me tell you what I saw anyway. Rolling with the "instant Infantry" gunners of the 1st Platoon of Bravo Battery, 4-320 Field Artillery, I saw children and teenagers in a Shia slum jumping up and down and cheering our troops as they drove by. Cheering our troops.

All day - and it was a long day - we drove through Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. Everywhere, the reception was warm. No violence. None.

And no hostility toward our troops. Iraqis went out of their way to tell us we were welcome.

Instead of a civil war, something very different happened because of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. The fanatic attempt to stir up Sunni-vs.-Shia strife, and the subsequent spate of violent attacks, caused popular support for the U.S. presence to spike upward.

Think Abu Musab al-Zarqawi intended that?


And riding around with the U.S. Army, looking at things first-hand, is certainly a technique to which The New York Times wouldn't stoop in such an hour of crisis.

The NYTimes reporters have(certainly Edward Wong and Robert Worth) been looking at things first hand, going out into the field and often without a full US Aarmy unit to protect them. Peters may not agree with their reporting but to slander them for not going out or risking their lives is wrong. In fact, the Iraq was

Incidentally, the NYTimes just published an article about how Kurdistan is peaceful, with no violence, and how Kurds ignore the violence to the South. And CBS News 60 minutes actually had an episode 2 weeks back about how Tal Afar had become a model for stabilizing Iraq.

But I guess that anything that doesn't meet your standard "journalists = evil fifth columnists" doesn't exist.

erg (#83):

And CBS News 60 minutes actually had an episode 2 weeks back about how Tal Afar had become a model for stabilizing Iraq.

One has to keep in mind that simplifications and generalizations are just that. "Blogs" or "New Media" includes myDD, DailyKos, the Huffington Post, and a whole host of other entities. "MSM" includes the NY Post (Ralph Peters, above), Jack Kelly, the Fox network, etc.

Any broad statement not hedged with qualifiers will thus inaccurately portray some important details.

Re: Tal Afar and 60 Minutes--Because my nephew was with the 3rd ACR in al-Anbar, I followed these campaigns pretty closely. For MSM, that meant the Baltimore Sun and Time (print), NYT and WaPo (web), the Today show (TV) and NPR (radio). Relying on these sources, I would have concluded that the Army and Marines were flailing about, occupying and then abandoning one funny-sounding town after another, tormented by IEDs set by invisible insurgents who could mass and then disperse into a sympathetic population at will.

In contrast, by regularly visiting Bill Roggio's websites, I got links to Centcom press releases, maps overlaid with unit dispositions, Coalition and Enemy Orders of Battle, and Roggio's interpretation of the combatants' strategies and tactics. By the time the 3rd ACR got to Tal Afar, I could email my nephew with informed guesses about what his regiment was doing. In other words, Roggio's contemperaneous analyses checked out, as far as "ground truth."

That "60 Minutes" belatedly came to understand "clear and hold" months after the dust had settled: better late than never, I guess. Embarrassing, though, that one guy in New Jersey with a DSL connection could run circles around all these professional news-gathering organizations.

Don't you think?

I don't agree with Trent Telenko's and Ralph Peters' answer as to what's happening ("You are being lied to."). I think the MSM's failures have much more subtle and complex causes, on the whole.

Partly, it stems from a sea change that's gone mostly unremarked. Read Ernie Pyle's combat dispatches and it's clear: he was emphatically on the side of the GI, Ike, FDR, and the Allies, and thus against the Nazis and Japanese. The MSM may celebrate Pyle's writing, but they have repudiated his position. See Trent Telenko's comment of March 22, 10:57pm, above. 60 Minute's Mike Wallace puts it in his own words.

I'M trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.
What a crock. A reporter could have ridden around our downtown area just about any week during the Civil War and not seen a hint that it was going on. Or he could have strolled along the creek in our back yard and heard only birdsong. No violence. None.

The town, by the way, is Manassas. And the creek is Bull Run.

Your arguments about what a "civil war" is, or what "is" is, are essentially an attempt to gerrymander the language. The funny thing is that the same arguments make an even stronger case that we're not involved in a war in Iraq. Just compare how many died in WWII.

It's a civil war if their leadership says it is, and they have.

Maybe you've never watched 60 minutes, they're not a fast acting program in general. It has to do with alot on how they get stories. Usually it's broken somewhere else first, then they go out of their way to get interviews on camera (which likely slows down the process). They're stories are almost always 'late', it's not a conspiracy thing.

They probably also arrange timing of stories for better selling value.

Incidentally, the NYTimes just published an article about how Kurdistan is peaceful, with no violence, and how Kurds ignore the violence to the South. And CBS News 60 minutes actually had an episode 2 weeks back about how Tal Afar had become a model for stabilizing Iraq.

And the NY TIMES are also the people taken in -- on the front page no less -- by a a hoaxer claiming to be the guy in a hood at Abu Ghraib and also the people who blew to Al-Qaeda how the NSA was tracking them. Increasing the chances that there will be a successful sequal to 9/11/2001.

Please also note what I said here:

3) Many of the stringers for CBS and other network news teams are either Palestinian or ex-Ba'athists "helpers" who are terrorists themselves.

4) The professional media values of the Western media strongly influence it to set up American troops for ambushes or other problems to get "if it bleeds it leads" video for the sake of getting eyes for news stories.

I didn't say that ALL media journalists are 5th column.

Some are.

A very few are pretty good.

Most are just lazy careerists doing as little as possible to get as many eyeballs as possible with "If it bleeds, it leads" photo ops.

Real reporting is hard work. Not only in the gathering of the news, but in getting past the preconceived notions of the editors back home who lock on to an idea, a "Frame" they want everything to be hung off of.

This influences the reporters in Iraq to use stringers with connections to the "insurgents" -- terrorists by any name -- so they can get those photos to hang their words off of.

When those stringers are in fact terrorists, you see cases where the stringers set up ambushes to get the pictures the reporters and their MSM patrons want -- thus indirectly funding terrorist operations against Americans.

The better and more productive the stringer is in getting these pictures, the more likely he is a terrorist.

The reporters and their MSM patrons know this and use them anyway. Eyeballs are everything. American national security isn't even a 3rd level concern.

That is why I am in favor of the American NSA and US military bugging the cell and satellite phones of every reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan as a tool to hunt down terrorists.

I have some time now. Erg, my next post will respond to you, but first I want to get off this statement by leftie Christoper Hitchens at Radio Blogger, as it is directly relevant to the issue of accurate reporting of the purported civil war since the Samarra mosque bombing.

And I still see no further promotion of the Iraqi civil war concept from the MSM. My emphasis in the quote.

http://www.radioblogger.com/#001487
"CH [Christopher Hitchens]: Well, I object to people like Michael Moore for example, or Ramsey Clark being referred to as...in the New York Times as anti-war activists, or anti-war campaigners. They're not anti-war at all. For one thing, they're not pacifists, particularly not Ramsey Clark. For another, they've declared that they believe the beheaders and jihadists and the blowers up of Mosques and mutilators of women and so forth are a liberation force or an insurgency. Michael Moore even said they were the modern equivalent to the American founding fathers. So in that case, fine. George Galloway's the same. Many of them are. They're not really against the war. They're not anti-war, but on the other side in the war for civilization, and they should be called out on it and given their right name."

Erg,

Here's what has really happened with ethnic cleansing in Iraq.

Starting Position: Millions of Iraqis lived in ethnically mixed areas - mixes of Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurd in the same neighborhood. The Kurds are Sunnis but their religious affiliation is unimportant compared to the Shiite Arab vs. Sunni Arab distinction. These mixed areas varied wildly in composition – many even had no majority of a particular group.

The Big Surge: The Baathist aka Sunni Arabs and Al Qaeda went after the Shia and Kurds big time when their terrorist campaign started up a few months after we conquered Iraq.

This resulted in almost all the Kurds in ethnically mixed areas fleeing to Kurdish controlled territory in northern Iraq. The vast majority of Shia in ethnically mixed neighborhoods with Sunni Arab majorities fled to Shia areas where there were few, if any Sunni Arabs. There was some flight of Sunni Arabs in majority Shia areas to Sunni Arab areas, but nowhere near the numbers or proportion of Shia flight from Sunni majority areas.

This was THE major period of "ethnic cleansing" - well over half of the ethnically based population transfers in Iraq since its occupation occurred during an initial titanic surge occurring in a period of a few months. Almost all the violence in this time was by Sunni Arab aka Baathists and Al Qaeda terrorists against Shia and Kurds.

But it wasn't called a civil war.

There were some but not much Shia and Kurd attacks on Sunni Arabs in this period, but those were almost all targeted assassinations of Baathist thugs who had been especially beastly to Shia and Kurds while Saddam's Baathist regime was in power.

The Big Middle Period, defined as the period between the Great Surge described above, and the Samarra mosque bombing.

Ethnic cleansing continued during this period, but more in local spurts than anything continuous. This predominantly took the form of Shia flight from insecure ethnically mixed areas, defined as those where there was a large enough Sunni Arab proportion that Baathist and Al Qaeda killers could safely operate, even if the Sunnis did not constitute a majority in a given area.

During this time the reverse (Sunni Arab flight from predominantly Shia areas) took place to a much greater extent than in the Great Surge period. Here too the form was more local spurts than anything continuous.

Targeted assassinations of deserving Baathists grew significantly during this period, but were still tiny in numbers (especially including numbers of casualties) compared to Baathist and Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on Shia. Attacks on Kurds were limited because there were few ethnically mixed neighborhoods, all in the north, containing Kurds.

There were very few Shia attacks on Sunni Arab civilians, exclusive of targeted assassinations, during this period. This does not mean that the Shia refrained from their own ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arab minorities in their terroritory, just that they almost solely used scare tactics as opposed to murder and assault. But they definitely did encourage Sunnis to leave majority Shia areas.

The result of all this was almost complete ethnic cleansing by the time of the Samarra mosque bombing. The dribble during this middle period added up, and there was a much smaller base of population numbers in ethnically mixed neighborhoods at the beginning due to hasty flight during the Great Surge.

But this was not called a civil war.

It is my impression that most of the remaining ethnically mixed neighborhoods, as of the Samarra mosque bombing, consisted of small proportions of a minority residing in areas where almost all the inhabitants were of that area's majority. I.e., there were small numbers of Shia in areas composed almost entirely of Sunni Arabs, and vice versa. They survived because their neighbors protected them.

After the Samarra Mosque Bombing.

Erg is entirely correct that the one thing occurring in this period which had not happened earlier consisted of large armed Shia groups (bigger than assassination teams) going into exclusively Sunni areas to attack Sunni Arabs who had not been associated with the Baathist regime or Baath terrorism during the U.S. occupation. Had this been more than sporadic in numbers or brief in duration, it would have heralded not so much a civil war as deliberate ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs from Iraq overall, as opposed to specific neighborhoods. But the numbers of such attacks were so few, and they took place in such a brief period with a definite ending, that they cannot be regarded as evidence of a civil war.

My impression here is that such attacks were done by Shia militias controlled by Iranian intelligence, and that the latter had both ordered that those be started, and terminated. I could be wrong here, but I doubt it. The mosque bombing was clearly an inside job, so it wasn’t done by Sunni Baathists or Al Qaeda, which makes Iran the most likely suspect. And the organized attacks by large Shia groups on Sunnis were turned off too quickly to have been anything spontaneous. They were planned before the mosque was bombed.

There certainly was a temporary spurt in ethnic cleansing too, which more likely was spontaneous, but at this point the numbers and proportions of potential victims was so limited due to all the prior ethnic cleansing that anything going on in this regard is simply not material.

But, as I mentioned to Erg earlier, from the perspective of a lefty propagandist promoting the civil war concept, I’d have seized upon the latter – the known spurt in ethnic cleansing after the Samarra bombing – as the best evidence of a civil war. My reasoning here is that few pay any attention to the 33 month period of episodic ethnic cleansing prior to the bombing, while the post-Samarra bombing spurt involved mutual ethnic cleansing of both Shia and Sunni minorities in areas where the other religion’s adherents were dominant. Furthermore the victims had almost always been protected by their neighbors against terrorists, only their neighbors couldn’t stop really large armed groups of rival “militias”. That gave stories about this more human interest from the perspective of the American readers targeted by lefty propaganda.

And, as a lefty propagandist, I’d have avoided stories about Shia militias attacking non-Baathist Sunni Arab civilians because of the possibility that those militias might be identified with Iran. Anything pertaining to Iran’s mullah regime is poison for lefty propagandists – the American people correctly regard the mullah regime as their worst enemy.

Anyway, erg, this is my opinion of what has actually happened.

Erg # 76:

I was playing games with you because you were so loose in your terms. A civil war involves mutual combat between factions, as opposed to one-sided massacres, plus a statistically significant body count. It isn’t just ethnic cleansing, mutual or one-sided, accompanied by some violence. There must be significant mutual casualties or it isn’t a war.

So I shot down your definition attempts in succession. You finally twigged onto the mutuality requirement by noting the Shiite militias’ role after the Samarra mosque bombing, plus acts by police forces dominated by Shiite militias, but you haven’t related, because you can’t, those to significant casualties. So you pointed instead to casualties not merely outside the area of operations of the Shiite militias which acted up after the Samarra mosque bombing, but casualties occurring in other periods, even years before. That is comparable to citing the enormous number of traffic fatalities around the world in the past hundred years as proof of a violent civil war in Iraq.

Your citing of specious evidence is best demonstrated by your allegation that (my emphasis… this may be the first time the general Sunni community” [presumably you mean “Arab community” as Kurds are Sunnis] “took arms in their communities.” You can do better than that.

And you ignore the obvious Iranian involvement in all this. Its mullah regime bombed the Samarra mosque, and it was Shiite militias and police they controlled who briefly attacked Sunni Arab civilians in Sunni Arab areas. IMO this was a demonstration of deterrent force against American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

And, as a lefty propagandist, I’d have avoided stories about Shia militias attacking non-Baathist Sunni Arab civilians because of the possibility that those militias might be identified with Iran.

Tom -- sorry, you're being completely illogical.

I post that for a lefty propogandist this story would be gold, because it would establish 2 points anti-war commentators (both leftist and paleocon) make from time to time:
-- Major civil war between factions could break out or had broken out
-- Iran had gained greatly in power in Iraq, which would seriously undermine the rationale of the Bush administration in invading iraq.


A civil war involves mutual combat between factions, as opposed to one-sided massacres, plus a statistically significant body count. It isn’t just ethnic cleansing, mutual or one-sided, accompanied by some violence. There must be significant mutual casualties or it isn’t a war.

There was mutual combat in some areas. We have an Iraqi blogger mentioning neighborhood militia groups that fought attempted incursions by Shia militias.

Besides I would suggest reading more up on the Lebanese civil war. There were instances of mutual combat, but there were many instances of one sided massacres of other groups. The presence of American troops doubtless acted as a deterrent to major combat actions in Iraq, just as British army troops acted as a deterrent in some of the worst riots in Belfast (although even then body counts were well below those in IRaq). Not all civil wars involve grand manuevers, some take place block by block, building by building, room by room.


but you haven’t related, because you can’t, those to significant casualties

The most optimistic reports (including Allawi) say 70-80 deaths a day.

The Lebanese civil war saw 100K casualties over 15 years, i,e. 6000 a year. Huge casualties are not required for a civil war.


Your citing of specious evidence is best demonstrated by your allegation that (my emphasis “… this may be the first time the general Sunni community” [presumably you mean “Arab community” as Kurds are Sunnis] “took arms in their communities.” You can do better than that.

I'm not even sure what you're saying here. I believe that this is indeed the first time that Arab Sunnis took arms in large numbers (mostly to defend their neighborhoods). Previously, it had just been largely Baathists and AQ types.


And you ignore the obvious Iranian involvement in all this. Its mullah regime bombed the Samarra mosque, and it was Shiite militias and police they controlled who briefly attacked Sunni Arab civilians in Sunni Arab areas. IMO this was a demonstration of deterrent force against American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

In which case, why attack Sunni Arabs, some of whom had been attacking the US anyway ? WOuldn't it make more sense to attack US troops as a deterrent action. I believe that AQ rather than Iran bombed Samara, but in any case its irrelavant. Many civil wars are accompanied by lots of outside meddling. Syria, Iran, Israel, and even the US were involved to some extent in Lebanon's civil war.

Incidentally, here is what Zeyad of Healing Iraq says.

He describes a lynching of a Sunni taking place and then says

Note that life looks absolutely normal in the surroundings. You can see children running about, stores open, religious holiday flags and even a traffic jam. Perhaps Ralph Peters will happen to drive by with an American army patrol and enjoy the scene of children cheering for the troops, while wondering where his civil war is, dude.

Then he goes on to say


Today it was all out war in Baghdad.Please don’t ask me whether I believe Iraq is on the verge of civil war yet or not. I have never experienced a civil war before, only regular ones. All I see is that both sides are engaged in tit-for-tat lynchings and summary executions. I see governmental forces openly taking sides or stepping aside. I see an occupation force that is clueless about what is going on in the country. I see politicians that distrust each other and continue to flame the situation for their own personal interests. I see Islamic clerics delivering fiery sermons against each other, then smile and hug each other at the end of the day in staged PR stunts. I see the country breaking into pieces. The frontlines between different districts of Baghdad are already clearly demarked and ready for the battle. I was stopped in my own neighbourhood yesterday by a watch team and questioned where I live and what I was doing in that area. I see other people curiously staring in each other’s faces on the street. I see hundreds of people disappearing in the middle of the night and their corpses surfacing next day with electric drill holes in them. I see people blown up to smithereens because a brainwashed virgin seeker targeted a crowded market or café. I see all that and more.

This is Zeyad, one of the first Iraqi bloggers, who has always been highly contemptuous of Sunni terrorists and Islamists, and was even pro-US for a while.

erg,

If lots of fatalities with minimal mutual combat counts as a civil war, a century of vehicular accident fatalities was a worldwide civil war.

If one-sided slaughter by violence counts as a civil war, the killing fields of Cambodia were a civil war.

You are trying too hard to ignore the "war" part of civil war.

Tribal conflicts don't count as war. A traditional Afghan faction vs. Afghan faction "battle" consists of both sides firing wildly into the air and then running away, with few if anyone hurt.

War involves some mutual stand-up fighting between groups with at least some organization, and significant casualties among the losing forces - not the losing side's civilians alone.

So far you have given every indication that your use of the term "civil war" depends on cheapening the term "war" into meaninglessness, and there are no contrary indications.

Ethnic strife alone is not war. There is more to war.


Tribal conflicts don't count as war.

Tribal conflicts can most definitely count as war. Many of Africas wars, including its civil wars, have been extended tribal conflicts.


War involves some mutual stand-up fighting between groups with at least some organization, and significant casualties among the losing forces - not the losing side's civilians alone.

Again, not always. Civil wars are not always comfortably removed from battlefields, civilians are often involved, sometimes there is no distinction between civilian and combatant, sometimes organization for each side is relatively small at the unit level.


So far you have given every indication that your use of the term "civil war" depends on cheapening the term "war" into meaninglessness, and there are no contrary indications.

So far, you have presented only bizarre analogies (asking me if anything in Iraq differed from Jersey circa the 60s), and other even more bizarre segues.

Let me ask you -- do you consider Lebanon 1975-1991 to be a civil war ? Lebanon lacked many of the things you say are essential to represent war -- there were many periods of quiet, casualties were not that high much of the time, there were massacres, and there were forces that consisted of no more than a few dozen people.

Ethnic strife by itself is not civil war, but prolonged ethnic strife, with sufficient violence (whether open or in back rooms), police and army splitting along ethnic lines, unstable government etc. is civil war.

erg,

I wouldn't call 1980's Lebanon a civil war, but for a reason other than the ones you mention - there just weren't ANY battles between even semi-organized groups of more than maybe 100-150 men on a side.

Anarchy is not war. Sectarian strife isn't war. Bleeding Kansas in the 1850's wasn't a civil war. Racist southern white massacres of their enemies during and after, the Civil War, such as their massacres of German colonists in Texas 1861-62, or their massacres of blacks at the end of Reconstruction, weren't civil wars. Those were just massacres, with some exceptions during the latter when the blacks were armed and fought back - Southern whites suffered more casualties in combat then than all the pro-slavery types did in Kansas in the 1850's.

Arnold Kling of Tech Central Station had a good term for this but I forget what it was.

Michael Yon again suggests that Iraq has been in a state of 'Civil War' for a long time, a situation mainly the result of decades of Ba'athist dictatorship.

Much depends on the meaning of 'Civil War', and on the implications that the speaker wishes to draw from the use of the term.

Mark Steyn seems to agree with Tom Holsinger's point of view on what constitutes a "Civil War" versus other kids of mass violence.

This is from radioblogger.com.

HH: Mark Steyn, a mil-blogger in Iraq, in Mosul, actually, named Buck Sargeant, sent me an e-amil today, which includes in part, some slams at Michael Ware and other journalists, and he says soldiers really do know what's going on, and he concludes by saying the media wants us to lose, and they're doing their damnedest to see it happen. But I have faith in the American people that they're too smart to fall for that trick twice. Do you think that attitude, whether or not justified, is pervasive in the American military?

MS: Yes, I think so. I think that is one of the big stories here, that in fact, the military, whether or not Iraq is like Vietnam, I don't think it is. That's rubbish. But clearly, the military this time around is not like Vietnam. That's the big difference. Anyone who gets e-mail from the troops knows that they're full of pride in what they're doing, and they think it's doing very well. And the way...I think the way to test this is just to try and be reasonably objective about it. When people use terms like insurgency and civil war and all this, think about the meaning of those terms. We've seen what civil war is within recent memory, in Rwanda and Bosnia and Ivory Coast, just to pick three examples. That's where the country gets split from top to toe between different ethnic groups, and they all start killing each other, and rival governments spring up, and there's massive population displacements. None of that is going on in Iraq, and it's absolute...you know, Tim Russert said today, he defended NBC, the media's Iraq coverage, by saying we capture reality. Yeah, they capture reality in the same sense that those insurgent guys capture people. They saw it's head off and shout Allah Akhbar at reality. That's what they're doing when they capture reality. The reality of what's happening in Iraq is very different from what Tim Russert thinks it is.

Ralph Peters just weighed in on the definition of a "Civil War" here.

Perhaps it's time to consider what a civil war actually is.

I'd define it as a broad internal conflict between at least two contending governments, each of which has the overt support of a substantial portion of the population and each of which fields organized (if not always professional) military forces.

Such a definition doesn't draw crisp boundaries, since civil wars come in a range of varieties (sometimes the fielded military forces are just huge mobs), but the elasticity isn't infinite. Terrorism, even at its extreme, is not the same thing as civil war. And an insurgency only becomes a civil war when it offers an alternative system of government sustained by a people in arms.

But the difference is, above all, one of scope. Before we declare the next series of Islamist mob hits a civil war, let's consider the scale of a few real ones:

* In our own Civil War, over 600,000 Americans died in four years.

* In the brutal Spanish Civil War, hundreds of thousands died fighting, while an unknown number of others perished as a result of the struggle's general effects.

* During the Chinese civil war, tens of millions died - exact figures will never be known.

* Millions died as a result of the Korean and Vietnamese civil wars.

* How many millions died in the Russian civil war will never be known.

* The last decade's interrelated civil wars in the former Yugoslavia killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

* The series of African civil wars sparked by the genocide in Rwanda and spilling into Congo/Zaire and the Great Lakes region killed 3 million to 4 million - while the Clinton administration whistled past the graveyard.

* Other African civil wars, from Biafra, Angola and Mozambique through Sierra Leone and Liberia to Sudan and Ivory Coast, killed at least 10 million - indeed, it would be hard to find a better vantage point from which to ponder the effects of real civil wars than the tragic African continent.

Does any of this really sound like Iraq? Only Saddam's attempted genocide against the Kurds and the Shi'a Marsh Arabs came anywhere close.

It comes down hard where I laid it out the marker for what constitutes a civil war, doesn't it?

I agree and disagree with Peters. I disagree because I think he overemphasizes body count. I agree with his comment about factions.

I emphasize the term "war" as necessarily entailing some standup battles between organized groups because I use the ability to organize fighting groups as an indicator of the viability of a faction.

If a faction lacks the ability to deploy at least a semi-organized ground force in open battle, it is not a serious faction capable of forming a government and controlling a nation. That necessarily excludes Afghan tribal militias and the factions which fought the so-called civil war in Lebanon.

And a faction whose so-called organized forces fail to inflict significant casualties on another faction's so-called organized forces in battle, even when the first faction wins, I doubt that there was a real battle.

I repeat that the usual battle between Afghan factions consists of both sides firing their weapons wildly into the air and then running away with few if any casualties on either side.


. We've seen what civil war is within recent memory, in Rwanda and Bosnia and Ivory Coast, just to pick three examples. That's where the country gets split from top to toe between different ethnic groups, and they all start killing each other, and rival governments spring up, and there's massive population displacements. None of that is going on in Iraq,

Interesting that neither he nor Peters mention Lebanon, which just about everyone in the Middle East consider the model (if such a term can be used for such a ghastly situation) for a civil war.

Tom -- if you don't consider Lebanon to be a civil war, then theres no point in further discussions. However, will you at least concede that for many people (Middle Eastern reporters and others), Lebanon remains the archetypical civil war, and that people can honestly claim that Iraq is on the brink of civil war (as the American envoy did) without being fifth columnists (I somehow doubt that Allawi or Khalizad fall into that category).

Incidentally, Bosnia in its early years was not too different from Iraq today. Police and army that sided with one side, massacres, ethnic cleansing etc. The pitched battles between Serbs, Muslims and Croats came later.

If there were no US troops in Iraq, I think many of the mixed areas would fall into open civil war quickly, and largely based on the Lebanese model (miltias fighting each other block by block, endless alliances made and broken, endless interference by outside powers).

The Lebanese Civil War saw the rise of groups like the Lebanese National Movement that challenged the legimacy of the existing government and its particular brand of ethnic power-sharing. The conflict stands at a weird intersection of ethnic strife and civil war because of the makeup of the government.

In Iraq, I don't know any recognized group that is organizing around a challenge to the Iraqi Constitutional system, except al Qaeda and they're not involved in what I would call a civil war.

I posted my long self-important citation to Hobbes elsewhere today, but I see nothing more and nothing less than the failure to organize a government that can keep people in fear. Without such a power, anybody can kill, rob and blow up anything they want to for any reason. Some level of violence will continue until Iraq's government is in place and is in control of competent military and police forces.

erg,

Lebanon qualifies as a nation, and a few of the factions in fact had recognizable armed forces, but those "armed forces" did not fight each other. THAT is why I said it wasn't a civil war. There was no war. The fighting as such never got beyond something more characteristic of Afghanistan or Rwanda. It was at most sectarian strife.

Outside Lebanon, I use the stand-up organized fighting requirement as short-hand for the existence of a nation and factions organized well enough to constitute a government of at least part of the place's area.

But I repeat, if the factions don't use their organized forces on each other, there simply is no war.

Well see, didn't that work out well? It all comes down to different understandings of what civil war means.... I suspect a large problem with the media is that they never explained what a civil war is in their terms, which would be much more informative to the general public. Then this debate over the definition of civil war could have educated the public (or at least give perspective), instead of the typical left-right "yes/no" debate we're getting from polticians/media.

Let's go another route then, Trent/Tom... will you at least admit there are serious problems with major secretarian strife in Iraq? Would you go as far as saying this non-civil war strife is splitting Sunni-Shia groups to the point were a pollitical alliance will become unsustainable?

alchemist,

There has not been a time in the past 30 years when there wasn't significant sectarian strife in Iraq - almost always one-sided masacres by the Sunni Arabs of Shiite Arabs and Kurds. This civil strife, in terms of fatalities, was a lot worse under Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime than at any time since we threw him out.

Try again.

alchemist,

I have read in a couple of places that at the calculated average annual mortality rate of the Saddam Hussein regime, our reconstruction of Iraq has save 100,000 lives that would have otherwise been lost had Saddam remained in power.

That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if this latest bout of violence will prevent the formation of a stable goverment in the near future?

Will it prevent stable integration of a a Sunni/Shia goverment? a Sunni/Shia military? a joint Sunni/Shia taxation program? joint sunni/Shia rebuilding plans? Sunni/Shia healthcare? Will this newest conflict prevent the very things that are neccessary for formation of a true single nation? (I'm not as worried about the Kurds, they seem willing to work with everybody right now?).

Yes, the conflicts have a long, troubled past. You could argue that this is just a minor outcropping of that history. But definately, in my opinion, the latest headlines (despite not being named correctly) indicate that divisions are becoming heavier, not lighter in Iraq. This doesn't mean anything yet, but it doesn't mean nothing either.

alchemist, you asked:
"I'm asking if this latest bout of violence will prevent the formation of a stable goverment in the near future?
Will it prevent stable integration of a a Sunni/Shia goverment? a Sunni/Shia military? a joint Sunni/Shia taxation program? joint sunni/Shia rebuilding plans? Sunni/Shia healthcare? Will this newest conflict prevent the very things that are neccessary for formation of a true single nation?"
No (other things will, but not this). No. No (other things might, but not this). No. No. No (other things will, but not this). I said in October 2003 on Daniel Drezner's blog (my emphasis):
"The differences between us pacifying Iraq's Sunni Arab tribes, and not doing so, will chiefly be these:
(1) how many Sunni Arabs remain in Iraq once we leave. Note that the Iraqi armed forces are being rebuilt with an all-new, i.e., non-Sunni, cadre. Unreconciled Sunni Arabs in Iraq will have the following choices once our occupation ends - (a) becoming reconciled, (b) becoming gone or © becoming dead.
(2) whether there is a significant prosperous and peaceful Sunni minority in Iraq to serve as a model for reconstructing the Sunni majorities in other Arab countries. It will be much more difficult for us to succeed with the latter if we don't.
Very heavy emphasis on (a) becoming reconciled, (b) becoming gone or © becoming dead. It's happening on schedule.

If the recent unpleasantness had any effects on this process, it was to speed up Sunni Arab reconciliation with additional motivation. War is not beanbag.

WEll, I didn't expect that answer, but at least it's enlightening.

TOO FREAKIN BIG

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