S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What constitutes "Civil War"?

All kinds of people get hurt in a war.
For me there is no more poignant symbol of war than empty shoes.
The military boot is not the only shoe that shows up at a scene of carnage. Bloody scenes are more prevalent in the news out of Iraq these days. What does this signify?
Some think it is a sign that the country is now fighting a civil war. Just what is the meaning of the words "civil war." Obviously it is not an agreed upon definition because government officials cannot tell us whether that is indeed what is now happening in Iraq.
The Houghton Mifflin Dictionary defines the term as, "civil war NOUN: A war between factions or regions of the same country." See also, Wikipedia's discussion of civil war.
"Exaggerated": Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld declared there is no civil war. NDTV reports in this article that, quote:
US Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld has rejected suggestions that Iraq is engulfed in a civil war.However, he predicted there would be additional "bursts" of sectarian violence in the weeks ahead. Rumsfeld also claimed that Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements had infiltrated Iraq to cause trouble. "They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq," he said. "And we know it. And it is something that they, I think, will look back on as having been an error in judgment.
Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld asserted that media reports have exaggerated the violence in Iraq since an attack last month on a revered Shiite mosque that touched off a wave of violent reprisals between sects. "I do not believe they are in a civil war today," Rumsfeld said, with Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at his side. He said, "there has always been a potential for civil war."
"Troubling": An official from the State Department on March 4 did not think that it is a civil war. Quoting from an Aljazeera story,
Bloodshed among religious sects is a blow to the US-backed goal of a broadly representative Iraqi government, top US civilian and military officials said. Sectarian attacks and reprisal killings that began with the bombing of a revered Shia mosque are troubling but do not necessarily portend further violence, James F Jeffrey, senior adviser to Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said in an Associated Press interview.
"It indicates that the path to national reconciliation and the path to a national compact that we're striving so much for has a way to go. It means we better continue working and work harder on it," Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey discounted the threat of all-out civil war but warned that the volatile situation could worsen. "There is still the risk of sectarian attacks" double or triple the scale of what Iraq witnessed before the 22 February mosque bombing in Samarra, he said.
"If they were to grow worse, then I think we would have a different situation."
"Pandora's box": Our ambassador to Iraq sounded a more realistic warning about the situation, as the U.S. is getting more involved in the political process there. The Pittsburg Tribune Review carried this story, from which I quote,
In an interview published Tuesday, Khalilzad said the 2003 U.S. ouster of Saddam
Hussein had opened a "Pandora's box" that could see the violence and turmoil now
gripping Iraq turn into an all-out regional war if American troops are withdrawn too quickly.
"We have opened the Pandora's box and the question is, what is the way forward?" Khalilzad told the Los Angeles Times. "The way forward, in my view, is an effort to build bridges across (Iraq's) communities."
But narrowing differences among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds has become an
increasingly difficult task in the aftermath of the Feb. 22 bombing that destroyed the golden dome atop a Shiite shrine in the mainly Sunni city of Samarra.
"Likely": Many Americans think that civil war is likely in Iraq. Here is the Aljazeera story with a quote,
Eight in 10 Americans think recent sectarian violence in Iraq has made civil war
likely, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday. ABC
said the parliamentary elections in December had produced a sharp gain in public
optimism that the US was making progress in Iraq, but the slide towards civil war has erased those gains just as quickly.
The Washington Post said more than seven in 10 Republicans and eight in 10 Democrats and political independents believe civil war is coming, showing that the public's assessment of the situation cuts across party lines.
What do I think? It depends on which day you ask me. But I do think avoiding a civil war will take a lot of luck, and more skillful diplomacy than has been the hallmark of the current administration. Take a look at what Stickings at The Reaction has to say about this question in an earlier post.

No comments: