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What is a civil war?

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 12:26 UK time, Wednesday, 29 November 2006

When does sectarian violence in Iraq turn into a civil war? It’s an issue we – and others – have been wrestling with for some time. This week, the US TV network NBC became the latest news organisation to describe the fighting there in such terms.

No-one who’s watched, listened to or read the accounts of BBC correspondents Andrew North, Hugh Sykes, David Loyn and others in recent weeks, could be in any doubt about the level of violence seen in Baghdad and beyond.

NBC is hardly alone in characterising what’s going on in Iraq in such terms – as early as April, Iraq’s former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi described it as a civil war; six weeks ago, one of the most respected US commentators, Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria, said he too was in no doubt that Iraq was in a civil war. The murder of more than 200 people when Sunni Muslim insurgents blew up five car bombs and fired mortars into Baghdad's largest Shiite district last Thursday, suggests they might be right.

Harvard professor Monica Toft suggests there are six objective criteria all modern civil wars share:

  • the struggle for power over which group governs the country;
  • at least two organised, armed, groups of combatants;
  • that the “state” is formally involved in the fighting;
  • the intensity of the conflict;
  • that the two groups are each taking significant numbers of casualties;
  • and that the fighting is within the boundaries of a single country.

She believes Iraq meets all six. But I wonder if describing it as such, really aids our understanding of what’s going on?

The fighting in Iraq defies simple categorisation. There are at least two other dimensions to the situation there. In Anbar province, the violence in places like Fallujah and Ramadi is driven by the original insurgency against the US-led occupation. Anbar is a Sunni stronghold – the targets, by and large, are not Shia Muslims, but American servicemen and women.

Further south, a third battle emerges – fighting between rival Shia militias. The two most powerful are the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army, linked respectively to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and Moqtada al-Sadr, the leaders of the two largest blocs in Iraq's coalition government. These militia vie with each other for power, in tit-for-tat assassinations and drive-by shootings that have become a regular feature of life in places like Basra. It’s this battle that British troops in the south of Iraq often find themselves caught up in

There is no single picture in Iraq – no single term can do justice to the complexity of what’s going on there. For now, we’ve decided not to use the term civil war – not because the situation isn’t bad, nor life for those involved increasingly difficult. Others will continue to describe it as a “civil war” – we’ll continue to report their comments with attribution. But it’s precisely because things are critical, that we need to explain and provide the context – something, one simple phrase can never do.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 01:14 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Hugh wrote:

If you believe that the situation in Iraq meets all the criteria for a civil war then you should be prepared to label it as such.

Obviously in reality no simple phrase can sum up the full complexity of the situation in Iraq. However, that doesn't reflect how the BBC has reported on Iraq or reality, nor, I suspect, reflect how the BBC will continue to report on Iraq. The complexity of the situation hasn't stopped the use of catch-all phrases like 'continuing violence' so far. Why should that suddenly change now that the most appropriate catch-all phrase is civil war?

  • 2.
  • At 01:16 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Esam Samara wrote:

Wasn't Lebanon's civil war called a civil war despite the alliencies and the fighting the different sects in that country had with each other? Did the Lebanese civil war end being a civil war when Israel invaded that country or when the US sent their Marines over there?
I truly find it exasperating and even scary to see major news outlets in the UK and the US trying to rationalized their way out of their responsabilites in reporting what's going in the Middle East.
To this day almost no news outlet in the US will use the word "occupation" when refering to the situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The word is used extremely sporadic so much so that I have a very difficult time explaining to Americans there is actually an occupation going on in the land where my family has an olive farm nearby Ramallah.
This is not only insane but it's an outright insult and you should know that.

  • 3.
  • At 01:25 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Ken wrote:

I think it is ridiculous for the BBC to worry itself about whether there is a civil war or not. Just report events and let politicans make political judgements.

"BBC - News with attitude"

Jon - your analysis defies objectivity and logic. It was obvious a long time back that Iraq satisfied the criteria for civil war.

Is this denial of facts to allow the war-mongers to try save face for all their deceptions and lies?

Not a New Labour supporter are you ;)

It is this sort of intellectual ineptitude by leadership, authorities and commentators (such as yourself) that allows this sort of situation to develop into what we have now.

  • 5.
  • At 01:34 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Daphne Millar wrote:

So it has nothing to do with the fact that the British, like the American,government doesn't want people to think of it as a civil war? And nothing to do with the impression that many people have formed that ever since the Hutton affair the BBC has frightened of offending the government over Iraq. Or indeed anything.

  • 6.
  • At 01:44 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Dafydd Ladd wrote:

Your world news editor seems to be bending over backwards NOT to describe the situation as it is in Iraq. It is a pity the accuracy he claims to want to portray is not present when the news describe the death of 'insurgents' or 'terrorist' relying totally on occupation forces press releases. They nearly all turn out to be false as many of the 'insurgents' end up as civilians. The same applies to Afghanistan and in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

  • 7.
  • At 01:45 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Ian Laver wrote:

Don't insult me, Jon. I know it's civil war and I can make up my mind about that regardless of whether the term is used by you or not. I know what's going on, largely because of the excellent coverage by the BBC.

If the government decided, this afternoon, to start using the term "civil war" (far-fetched, I know, but bear with me here) then so would the BBC.

  • 8.
  • At 01:48 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Pamela S wrote:

A trite answer when you consider in the past the BBC had no problem in describing the Lebanese combatants as guerellas -- but when it comes to
describing the present Iraqi conflict with British troops directly involved you persist along the governmental line on "spliting-hairs" over it's usage.

I'm in the US and not accustomed to rational public discourse. I'm astonished to read something so sane, so insightful, so...well, thoughtful.

God bless the BBC. When there's news outlets like yours in the world, it's hard to see outfits like NBC as anything other than hacks.

  • 10.
  • At 01:51 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Nick Carding wrote:

Why are you and other media so concerned about what to call what's happening in Iraq? I suspect that few outside your trade care what you call it; it's what happens that matters, and how it's reported - and none of you are particularly praiseworthy in that respect for much of of the time. Your self-absorption in the face of a far more important reality does you little credit. Try looking outwards, not inwards, please.

  • 11.
  • At 01:56 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • pippop wrote:

The three monkeys approach is often a very British choice.

See no civil war, hear no civil war, speak of no civil war.

But will it work?

[Excuse me while I put my head back in the sand.]

  • 12.
  • At 01:56 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Rik Jenkinson wrote:

Yes there are a lot of different battles going on for lots of different reasons but that doesn't stop what's going on from being a civil war.

In the Russian Civil War there were a lot of factions fighting for a lot of different things. In the Ukraine the Greens were fighting for the independence of their country from Russia. The White armies were a mixed bag in the extreme, encompassing Cossacks, Democrats, Tsarists and even legions of Czech soldiers fighting largely to get home. Much of the fighting was also done by little more than glorified groups of bandits, out for what they could get.

What I've just described bears a pretty striking resemblence to how you've just described Iraq. Many other civil wars have also been fought with similar chaos and localised agenda.

So what's *really* stopping us from labelling this a Civil War? Is it our reluctance to accept quite how badly we've messed up over there?

  • 13.
  • At 02:13 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

It's correct not to describe it as a civil war. Many of the "insurgents" fighting in this war are not even Iraqi. They come from Iran and Syria with the backing of their governments, and from terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If it were not for these foreign invaders stirring the pot, there would be very little trouble.
In the past the BBC has often wrongly described the Israeli presence in West Bank/Gaza as an "occupation", glad you are being more accurate here.

  • 14.
  • At 02:16 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Jonathan Dando wrote:

Jon,
If New Labour were suddenly to grant the BBC the inflation-beating price rise to the license you are so desperately seeking (but looking very unlikely to get) I wonder whether this terminology would change at all. I wonder if you then might start reporting the situation as it in, rather than terminology that will please (or at least not anger) Mr. Blair and co.

It all just rather stinks of the BBC sucking up to the government in the post-Hutton era.

  • 15.
  • At 02:16 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Edward Farrow wrote:

Mr Williams,

I find your justification on the question of the use of the term "civil war" absurd.

How on earth can the situation in Iraq defy such categorisation. As a journalist, you are supposed to represent the facts, and the cold and simple reality on the ground is one of a “civil war” that is more complex and grotesque than any comparative war that has reared its head in recent times.

Conterminously, if you take your modus operandi into the domestic realms of journalistic coverage then you would struggle to call a street fight a fight, or possibly even a spade a spade.

You focus on the margins of Professor Tofts definition and, even then, when each point is ticked, you declare that the complexity of the situation means that Iraq could never bear such definition.

And yet, the evidence is concrete and foolproof despite the security of the Kurds (who may yet be drawn into the conflict). Without exception, each and every member of the armed forces that I have spoken to, describe it as a “civil war”. In the same way, the Iraqi puppet Prime Minister and each and every Iraqi citizen lives with the monstrous burden that such failure of definition exacerbates. For it is they, who are most accurate when they say that previously civil communities have been usurped by a factionally defined, “civil war”.

There is no other definition that can be matched to this context. It is therefore utterly irresponsible to not report the situation in Iraq as such

I wonder, in all seriousness, whether you would really be writing such stuff if The Hutton Inquiry had not imposed Birt's stooge (Mark Thompson) on your organisation (In addition to the loss of Michael Grade and the upcoming licence fee question).

Indeed, I wonder whether your etymological fastidiousness on the word "civil war" has been equally and evenly applied to your journalists when they use the word "democracy" - in relation to Britain’s contribution to the political narrative that has so catalysed and shaped Iraq's “civil war”.

Finally, in light of your blog, I wonder whether you ever find yourself thinking: is this why I became a journalist?

  • 16.
  • At 02:19 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • paul wrote:

Dear Jon

Since the Hutton Report, the BBC has been over self conscious in its reporting of the Iraq War. Any reporting or commentary that is likely to displease Blair is subject to a scrutiny that results in it being watered down and rendered anodyne. I suggest this is currently the case with the term civil war.

  • 17.
  • At 02:20 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Capaddona wrote:

It is clearly a civil war- the presence of external pressures and parties do not make the situation in Iraq unique. No civil war occurs without externallly driven context. I fear the editor is acting in this way for some political reason? OK if that's what you want but lets not muck about with the meaning of the langauge everytime some politician gets touchy

  • 18.
  • At 02:23 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Dan Morris wrote:

The BBC never fails to continuously and cumulatively disappoint me these days. Terrorists are 'militants', a civil war is an 'insurgency', and oh yes, the BBC is a 'news organisation'.

Why not merely move to Yemen. You'll surely be happier there.

  • 19.
  • At 02:26 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Paul Inwood wrote:

I believe you are wrong when you state that there is "no single term" to describe the complexity of the situation there. I think the word chaos aptly describes the ongoing battles amongst the many factions in Iraq!

  • 20.
  • At 02:27 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

Pathetic reasoning. All wars are complex - perhaps you should not call any armed conflict a war then? You're not calling it a civil war because the charter is up and you're in thrall to the Government.

I understand the careful treading BBC must do through this minefield. The Government are always happy to brand the BBC as 'unhelpful' or vaguely disloyal if they are seen to use terminology clearly at odds with the Government's position.

In addition, the term 'civil war' is now perhaps too simplistic for the complex situation in Iraq, the Lebanon and in other countries. 'Civil War' brings up images of two clearly delineated sides, one the 'official' government (or Crown) and the other the 'rebels'. But in our current unhappy times, we shouldn't insist on a term that doesn't actually fully cover the melt-down within a nation.

  • 22.
  • At 02:29 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Aaron McKenna wrote:

I believe the main reason there is confusion as to whether or not Iraq is involved in a civil war is because political leaders have muddied the waters to their own ends. We invaded Iraq with the promise of bringing peace and democracy, and so to class the current situation as a civil war would look even worse than the simple reality of seeing over a hundred people killed every day.

Just because there are multiple factions involved, some from outside Iraq, does not mean that it is not a civil war. Civil wars have been intensified by outside involvement in the past. Essentially, this war is a struggle for the fate of Iraq, which has wider consequences in the world we live in. I would class it as a civil war, but I would not pretend that the outcome has ramifications merely for the Iraqi's. They just happen to be the unfortunates who have to do most of the dying.

Perhaps Iraq could be classed as an Islamic civil war, given the fight which rages between moderates and hard-liners; different sects within Islamic society? Or perhaps, given the amount of different combatants, it's a minor World War? You could spin it any which way you want, but at the end of the day it's a war. Easy for us to argue over what type from our far removed bunkers...

  • 23.
  • At 02:31 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Ian Birch wrote:

Perhaps a single letter 's' is required - referring to the situation as 'Civil Wars'?

Perhaps the reporting could also look at how to get out of the situation. The end game looks like it will involve a new partitioning (I gather the original definition of Iraq was a rather arbitrary concept) and some of what in former Yugoslavia would have been called ethnic cleansing. This should create some rather more homogeneous entities ...

  • 24.
  • At 02:32 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Neil wrote:

"Few outside the trade care" says one poster - but I don't think that's true. Witness the huge number of (highly partisan) responses to the debate on "when to use the word 'terrorist'".

  • 25.
  • At 02:36 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • David Erswell wrote:

Remind me - when is charter renewal?

  • 26.
  • At 02:37 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Simon de Deney wrote:

The reason why 'civil war' is such a contentious term, particularly for the American and British governments, is simply because it includes the word, 'war'.

Including it is an admission that the 2003 invasion has helped created a situation of such appalling barbarity that 'war' actually fails to describe the horror.

  • 27.
  • At 02:41 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Peter wrote:

I thought this was well considered and rationally argued. Those who like tabloid journalism with simple categories won't like it, but I thought this was the BBC not the Sun or NBC (praise God!). Well done! It was over simplification that got us into this mess; only careful analysis will get us out. Could we please have some of the same in your coverage of the Israel situation?

Jon - to put it in an analogy as succinctly as possible - with the hope that you might understand (if being honest then you clearly are in denial).

Jelly is still jelly in a trifle - even though it contains fruit with custard and cream on top.

  • 29.
  • At 02:42 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Steve F wrote:

The term "civil war" is commonly applied to messy conflicts featuring many actors with different ideological or local agendas.

Jon Williams' definition would allow us to refer to "the American Civil War", because it was a simple two-sided conflict over state control. But that is not true of, for example, the Russian Civil War or the Chinese Civil War, which more closely resemble current developments in Iraq.

  • 30.
  • At 02:42 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • NonnyO wrote:

Two or more factions of citizens within a country fighting for or against something constitutes a civil war. It's bad enough that the US, helped by the UK and others, committed a war crime by invading Iraq which led to the destabilization of the country, which has led to the civil war in the first place. We used to be civilized nations. What happened to diplomacy?

I normally never watch network news on TV in the US, and if I watch any news at all it's BBC via PBS in the US, since I get more facts from BBC, as well as e-newsletters.

Please don't be as stupid as most US Lamestream Media. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and a civil war by any other name is still a civil war.

  • 31.
  • At 02:43 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

Unfortunately, it reads to me on the basis of what Jon Williams says as if there are several overlapping civil wars: it's silly to suggest that two factions fighting are a civil war, but many factions fighting aren't.

Iam Laver's comment hits the nail on the head: if the Prime Minister (or Mr Bush) called this a "civil war" tomorrow, surely you would then adopt their usage, regardless of whether the facts on the ground had changed?

Obviously the phrase "civil war" wouldn't remove the need for careful contextualisation and description: but this applies to any phrase you could use...

  • 32.
  • At 02:47 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

The BBC has been badly bruised in the past when it displeases the government of the day. This has been especially true in recent years over Iraq.

I expect the BBC will continue to avoid using the term "Civil War" as long as that is also the policy of Whitehall. It will change when:

a. Bush calls it a Civil War,
b, then Blair will call it a Civil War
c. then the BBC will call it a Civil War.

No-one else is fooled.

  • 33.
  • At 02:58 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Nick wrote:

Thanks for that explanation of editorial policy. Now can you explain why the BBC refers to Palestinian terrorists as "militants"? They deliberately aim to murder civilians, yet BBC reporters make them sound like members of the RMT.

  • 34.
  • At 03:00 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Joe wrote:

'Civil War' is a redundant definition in the 21st century, I do not believe that any war is fought now just between two internal combatants.
I think that by using the word 'War' about the bloodbath going on in Iraq is a very emotive word and distracts from a more realistic term for what is happening in Iraq, namely Religious Genocide.
The majority of the killings are by either Sunni or Shia death squads, who are not supported by the majority of the population.

  • 35.
  • At 03:04 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Chris Dare wrote:

Civil war is when civilians fight each other. End of story. The powers that be are in denial over this issue, because they were warned this would happen. They chose, instead, reckless adventure in the face of intelligence. I suspect Bush Junior was just sorting out "unfinished business" which his father, wisely, avoided, i.e. the persual and capture of one S.Hussain Esq., Baghdad, Iraq. Tony Blair wanted his "Maggie Moment"; thank God she, and not he, was in power during the Falklands, otherwise they'd all be speaking Argentinian by now!

  • 36.
  • At 03:07 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • mike ogden wrote:

There is no civil war. That's like saying there is a civil war in moss side because there's a few gun toting jerks running about. Just because they have bigger guns doesn't make it a civil war. We need to get about the job of defeating the insurgents, the corruption that is hindering the country and move forward. That's the reality. It's a hard job and sniping from the sides doesn't help though it's easy to do, isn't it?

Lefty anti war bias would love for the BBC to start labelling the situation in Iraq something which it isn't. Well done the BBC for having a balance.

  • 37.
  • At 03:12 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Bryan wrote:

I am sorry but this just smacks of avoiding the truth.It is a civil war and to refuse to call it such is a betrayal of objective reporting. The fact that the British and American are involved may indeed complicate the struggle but behind all this is the fact that for years Iraq had a minority faction ruling a majority and now the two are in combat, both politically and militarily, to either gain or regain the upper hand.In the world of BBC left wing PC posturing you can call it what you like, but please don't insult the rest of us

  • 38.
  • At 03:13 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • David O'Rourke wrote:

Perhaps if the BBC were equally cautious about using the term 'terrorist' for almost anybody standing up to Blair and Bush (see Reuter's admirable position on this), and going so far as to ape Bush's pronunciation of 'nucular' (Middle East Correspondent) they might have a scintilla more credibility in this matter.

Disappointing pusillanimity from the BBC. If the criteria are met, then you are admitting that there are other reasons for your decision than simply reporting the truth.

The idea that the presence and involvement of "neutral" forces has any bearing on the definition of the war, is ludicrous. Armed factions are killing each other in their hundreds, with both the legitimate government and international bodies powerless to stop them. If that's not a "civil war", then I suggest that the term is entirely redundant.

  • 40.
  • At 03:16 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • cairo wrote:

There is no civil war.
Sunni people marry shiia people and have been doing so before and during Saddam's Reign.
These killings are instigated by outside forces to make it appear as sectarian or civil strife.
The outside world, especially the West, takes the focus and blame of themselves and puts it in iraqi culture- as if to imply Iraqi's were savage before Saddam and it was saddam that kept them at peace.
Niether is it a power vaccum problem...the Majority is Shiia and Sunnis submit to this as the majority of the mideast is Sunni-they feel no threat.

  • 41.
  • At 03:26 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Valerie Daly wrote:

There may be argument over whether to call it a civil war or not but where are people brave enough to call it a religious war. Without religion there wouldn't be the different factions to fight against or to shelter within.

  • 42.
  • At 03:29 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Peter Furtado wrote:

If you are taking the line that the fighting is uncategorisable, more complex and arguably worse than mere civil war, then PLEASE can you stop your reporters endlessly signing off their reports with lines like 'this tragic event is another step on the road to civil war'; 'Iraq may tip over into civil war' and so on. Just a journalistic tic, maybe; but it's sensationalist, unhelpful to listeners, and now I learn it's against your editorial line.

  • 43.
  • At 03:48 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Dan R wrote:

Just because Blair & Bush refuse to call it a civl war doesn't mean that ii isn't one!

  • 44.
  • At 03:49 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Adrian wrote:

Jon - as a Monika Toft fan, you might want to look at the work of Collier and Hoeffler...

  • 45.
  • At 03:52 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Bazza wrote:

So the BBC continue to tow the government line whilst still rejecting a high majority of opinions questioning it's impartiality.

Sorry Jon, but you come across as extremely patronising. Unfortunately i've noticed this trait creeping into much of the BBC lately.

  • 46.
  • At 03:53 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Eddie wrote:

This makes me desperately sad. Post Hutton, post Gilligan gutlessness. Tell the truth and take the hits, or get out of the news business altogether.

  • 47.
  • At 03:57 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Dr. Qazi wrote:

It is sad to see people arguing about the semantics of words such as "civil war". This is all the while certain sections of Iraq are being torched. People who insist on calling this sad situation as civil war are simply looking for a way to belittle US and UK alliance.

It is not the love of Iraqi people, rather their hate for US and UK that drives this struggle on semantics. Anyone who has an ounce of love for Iraqi people would surely try to extinguish the flames instead of setting up academic arguments.

It is rather shameful that Muslim countries in the region are watching this sad scene from the sidelines. I wish people of Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia force their governments to send in the badly needed police force in Iraq. This is the only way we can stop the madness in the region. Even if US and UK are humiliated and kicked out, Iraq will be left like the Talibanic Afghanistan. That will be truly bad for all the people in the region.

peace.


  • 48.
  • At 04:01 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Nick Carding wrote:

Judging by the responses here, it seems I was wrong when, in an earlier post, I said that few outside the media care whether what's happening is called a civil war or not. Worrying about - and debating - the nomenclature, however, still seems to me to be an irrelevant, frivolous and distracting pastime for a media organisation to indulge in when there are more important things to be done and said about the debacle in Iraq.

  • 49.
  • At 04:15 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Mark boland wrote:

I am sure I saw John Simpson say - either last night or the night before - that Iraq had indeed descended into a state of civil war.

It's a civil war.

Iraqi's are killing Iraqi's to assert control over geographic areas and based on tribal allegiance.

Come now, let's have no ore of this nonsense and call it by the correct term.

Still, Kevin Bakhurst will be pleased, I've finally found a use for his 'Your News' strand:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2006/11/your_news.html

we users can front reports where the civil war in Iraq is called just that.

It's really a case of the British Government controlling what is given to the people isn't it?
Whatever about Murdock giving us only what his wants through his news network, how come we have become so innocent to think Tony Blair is not dropping hints that the BBC better back the troops abroad, and call it like he says, rather than how it is.

  • 52.
  • At 04:23 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Forbes wrote:

I don't understand the purpose of your post. Civil wars are messy affairs but they can be described. You present criteria which Iraq meets but you wont follow it. Please let us know what is the criteria you are using.

  • 53.
  • At 04:25 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • David Dell'Agostino wrote:

wow. you should write for the Bush administration.

  • 54.
  • At 04:30 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Tim Mullin wrote:

Your position makes sense. But what to call it? Something that describes the situation accurately and succinctly. Fiasco comes to mind.

  • 55.
  • At 04:40 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Jesse wrote:

God bless, praise God! and thank God are used in half of the comments in favour of NOT referring to Iraq as Civil War.

What does that suggest about the invasion / occupation of Iraq and those who support it?

  • 56.
  • At 04:45 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Kazzy wrote:

Why the BBC is not calling Iraq a civil war?

Because the BBC does as it's told by the government, you supposed impartiality is the biggest joke in today's media. An even bigger joke than Fox News "We report, You decide"

  • 57.
  • At 04:58 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • William wrote:

Why I thing your comments were so good? Because you just revealed something that we in the states are not getting in our news media. The fighting n the south, were so many Iraqis have been killed and the news media here has so blatantly refused to accurately report, is between to rival "Shia" militias.

If Shia are killing Shia and not, or not so much Sunni, then this is NOT, so much, a divided nation as we are being told. As a country Kurds are serving in the national military along side Sunni and Shiite Muslims. That does not s civil war make.

Nuclear WMD's, remember chemical WMDs were, would probably had been found if the President had not gone the route of tring to please the world, the UN and Democrats in our congress.

Moqtadar should have been arrested and/or shot when they had him holed up in that Mosque. Instead of trying to please the 'stand by and do nothing crowd' lives would have been saved and Iraq may not be at the level of violence it is today.

  • 58.
  • At 05:15 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • William wrote:

This comment by "It is a pity the accuracy he claims to want to portray is not present when the news describe the death of 'insurgents' or 'terrorist' relying totally on occupation forces press releases. They nearly all turn out to be false as many of the 'insurgents' end up as civilians. The same applies to Afghanistan and in the Israel/Palestine conflict."

I don't where that comes from, mainly, nearly always the only people killing civilians are the Iranian backed forces who are not from Iraq and the common criminals.

Also, we did not invade Iraq to give the Iraqi people anything. Saddam was seen as having WMDs which he was not allowed to have. Chemical WMDs were removed from IRAQ. Nuclear ones have not yet been found, and ar probably residing in another country now. Nations have never gone to war to better each other. Saddam received an ultimatum from the UN, if the UN doesn't mean what they say they should shut up.

  • 59.
  • At 05:17 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Klaud wrote:

It's funny how all the armchair reporters outside of Iraq will say no civil war and those inside Iraq say civil war. The quality of journalism associated with the Iraq war has been appalling but I for one am gonna side with those inside Iraq rather than those reading the US govs account of the war.

  • 60.
  • At 05:17 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • fiona wrote:

What was that quote by Shakespeare ?

-a rose by any other name twould smell as sweet -

Give me a break!There is a tragic event going on in Iraq, whether you want to call it civil or not!!!!

  • 61.
  • At 05:20 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • chris wrote:

One of the criteria set out by Toft was that two or more factions are fighting. The editor rejects the term civil war because in Iraq the situation is 'complicated' - i.e. because there are more than two factions fighting for control of the country. This complexity is yet another reason to define the situation as civil war - not a reason to avoid calling it a civil war.

  • 62.
  • At 05:20 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Jeremy wrote:

Jon

You simply don't have the right to make these judgements. the words are words that are used to describe such things that are taking place. It's, I was going to say liberal thinking, but its worse than that, it's a case of you're trying to rewrite the english language because the accepted definitions don't fall into the outlook you're seeing. You don't have the right to do that. Terrorism as a word that "can be a barrier to understanding" is another example of the same way of thinking. Just report the facts with the accepted definitions instead of tryng to rewrite your own...

What are you all so afraid of?

  • 63.
  • At 05:21 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • name wrote:

one word: al jazeera

  • 64.
  • At 05:26 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Kurt wrote:

Why on earth must there be one "single term"?

Posit this:
* There is a civil war in Iraq. One bit of evidence: the Toft criteria.
* There are other sources of violence too. Though important, these are beside the point of whether there is a civil war.

NPR radio here in the US (All Things Considered, 28 Nov 06) gave a reason why use of the term "civil war" is important: according to them, many Americans would be unwilling to sacrifice our troops for another country's internal dispute.

Presumably, Americans would know that other sources of violence exist.

  • 65.
  • At 05:37 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • A Zammit wrote:

Interesting to see question being posed - only this morning, as I listened to yet another BBC correspondent saying 'Iraq could be on the brink of civil war' I isntinctively went, 'I thought it was already!' I wonder where I got that idea from?

  • 66.
  • At 05:39 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • scott wrote:

Civil War ? How about just plain old "chaos" ?

  • 67.
  • At 05:56 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • balkis wrote:

Being bi-lingual I alternatively read UK and French news. Interesting the French press appear just as relunctant to write the Iraqi conflict has now turned into a "civil war".
I would therefore be tempted to conclude the semantic choice has as little to do with the respective countries past political choices in Irak.
I think it has a lot more to do with trying not to alert the general public opinion.
Something along the lines "don't mention the war" ... understatement has become a international sport !
Dormez en paix braves gens

  • 68.
  • At 05:58 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Nic wrote:

I agree with a lot of the other posts. A very large number of civil wars are very complex. Take the Spanish civil war 1936-9. It involved a great variety of factions, many of whom fought each other (take the fighting between the anarchists and the communists for example). Even factions nominally on the same side had very different goals (monarchists fighting with fascists etc). There were also large numbers of combatants from abroad - Germans, Italians etc.

It was still a civil war though.

Looks like most of the people who pay for you disagree with you Jon.

  • 70.
  • At 06:01 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Daniel Davis wrote:

I actually agree with Mr. Inwood's comment. "Civil War" may not be exactly right but "chaos" definitely applies. I actually think that the presence of US and UK troops is acting to destabilize the situation.

We have at least three major groups attempting to wrest power from the Iraqi "government": The Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds. All have there own agendas, and all have common enemies/allies: the US and UK forces. Instead of just fighting each other, they're also fighting our forces. No wonder it's so hard to point a finger at what is going on. There are several nested layers of violence. It's almost like a civil war imbedded within a resistance movement against an occupying invasion force.

  • 71.
  • At 06:02 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

I'm not sure how this lines up with the excellent debate chaired by Claire Bolderson on the World Tonight last evening. It made the point that Kofi Annan believes we are on the verge of there being 'civil war' in Iraq.

It also discussed NBCs decision to start using the term 'civil war' to describe the situation in Iraq. Clearly there are groups fighting each other as well as the 'coalition' forces.

I am not saying you are wrong not to use this term, but I would be interested to know what changes will need to happen to the situation before that term would be used.

This was a question a journalist posed to George Bush; his response was interesting to say the least.

  • 72.
  • At 06:18 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Charles wrote:

FYI:
Kenneth Pollack, who wrote the book entitled "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq" (Hardcover - Sep 18, 2002), recently (August 2006)co-wrote an article in the Washington Post claiming that (1) Iraq is indeed in a state of civil war and (2) the political forces at battle there are embedded in many other Middle Eastern countries. According to this article, this situation creates the danger of progressive collapse of many states in the region - a new "domino theory". According to the article, prevention of this collapse requires the continued presence of foreign troops. His book was taken as a "bible" in the lead-up to the invasion and viewed as necessary reading for many in the US who supported it. Nevertheless, the Bush administration ignored key recommendations in the book (which is probably worth reading again in hindsight). They continue to selectively ignore "off-message" conclusions by experts, even those in their camp.

  • 73.
  • At 06:34 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Syed Hasan Turab wrote:

Civil war is an unhuman wild behaviour of humanbeing with other fellow's living in the same cultural, society & country.
This is a temporary emotional behavior under political, religious, and economic influences where emoitions overcome the normal mental condition, under this situation emotional condition take the command of human brain.
Under this emotional sickness society divide in certain groups, tribes in common interest as they are fully motivated this is why feel no harm to disrespect basic human prinsipal & values of life.
During this prevailing Democratic time each & every one is fully motivated that he is right, no one is ready to admit his fault or wrong.
As conclusion this is a dark side of modern Democractic practic as majority is not ready to understand the importance of minorities satisfaction living in the same culture, society & country. Look at the largest Democracy show business, it stink from each & every point of view, technically knock out.

  • 74.
  • At 07:03 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

Because George Bush says it isn't

  • 75.
  • At 08:51 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

A point I missed from my earlier post, again in reference to something said last night on 'The World Tonight'.

My perception of what was said was that whilst Al Qaeda had been involved in fomenting the unrest up to now, there was such a state of conflict now that it would continue even in their absence.

I agree it is often unhelpful to start bandying terms like 'terrorist' around. There is clearly a point where the BBC would use the phrase 'civil war'. Let us hope that the situation doesn't worsen to the extent we find out where that point is. It may be an academic or semantic issue to us, but life and death for those involved.

  • 76.
  • At 09:03 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • nehad ismail wrote:

It may not be a fully fledged civil war. No one can deny that it is murder committed on alarge scale, carried out on the basis of which branch of Islam the intended victim belongs to. It is obvious a Sunni is killing Shi'ites and Vice Versa.
Call it what you may, but some 120 people are killed day in day out most of whom are innocent apolitical people, is a large scale war. Is'nt 3500 per month not enough to qualify for civil war. At this rate in 10 months 35,000 will join the 150,000 already killed. Just think and give it any name you wish.

  • 77.
  • At 09:09 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Caspar wrote:

What do you call a mess? Not necessarily a civil war, but what if it looks like one?

It is your effort to try and explain that I appreciate Mr. Williams. But not your argument, which shows a rather odd sensitivity to the use of the civil war-label.

Al least part of the current violence in Iraq, or violence in parts of the country if you will, seems to justify to speak of a civil war in fairly general terms when it comes to describing what is going on every day.

The BBC surely can provide further perspective on the complexity of problems in Iraq while not, as some sort of principle, rigidly avoiding the use of the term civil war.

  • 78.
  • At 09:33 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Does putting a name on the conflict make anyone feel better? Understand it more clearly? Change any of "the facts on the ground?" Does putting it in a box lumped under one slogan make it easier to ignore the complexity of what is actually happening? All of the different factions involved? All of the different motives, targets, and methods? Each group has its own reason to resist the establishment of an orderly and peaceful Iraq under democratic rule. The fact that they seem to be prevailing in some areas as depicted by the media creates smug self congratulatory "I told you so" justification in the minds of some people who opposed the war from the beginning. This is not the war the coalition fought to remove Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime in the belief that they were a danger to other nations including the US. That war was won and over with a long time ago. Mission Accomplished! This war is about preventing Iraq from emerging as the first truely democratic Arab state in the Middle East. A lot of the combatants from Al Qaeda to Baathist holdovers, to Iranian backed militias, to Syrian backed militias each have their own motives to veto 9 million Iraqi voters who risked their lives and went to the polls more than once to cast a ballot in that nation's first free elections. But what is the reason for the liberals in the developed world for not wanting a democratic Iraq? Is their hatred for President Bush greater than their hopes for the Iraqi people or are they just cut and run quitters when the going gets tough? Are these the same people who say what a shame the genocide in Darfur is, somebody should do something about it? Well when they do, these are the first to object.

  • 79.
  • At 09:34 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Tylor Brand wrote:

While I agree that there is a deep rooted conflict that involves all six criteria, I'd hesitate to characterize this as a Civil War, if simply that the complexity and lack of concrete objectives for the most part seems to imply something different. Of course, the only reason we are having this debate is because of the politicization of the term and the entirely negative connotations that it carries.

So, when I say it's not a Civil War, I'm not saying it to legitimize anything or to brush aside the growing daily terror in that country, the crumbling authority, and puerile and naive misuse of military force by the US and UK, I'm just saying the terminology is wrong. And with such a politically volatile topic, semantics is often everything.

I suppose the next step in the coverage of the conflict is to come up with something that sticks better to the subject while retaining all the negative connotations of "Civil War." "Unmitigated, violent crumbling of civil society" seems apt, but it just doesn't have the ring... "bloodbath" perhaps?

  • 80.
  • At 10:21 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • John Farmer wrote:

Admire your sentiment in saying the Beeb is trying to explain a complex situation which one simple phrase - civil war - does not cover, but given the backdrop of the Beeb omitting major news this week from Iraq - such the F-16 downed in Anbar province and the Kirkuk Oil depot fire that ceased all oil supply from North Iraq - it increasing looks like the Beeb is under Blair's influence.

  • 81.
  • At 10:29 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Most of the posters here seem to recognise that this explanation is clearly an insult to our intelligence.
Rather than giving clarification, your refusal to use the term "civil war" gives the impression that the situation is not yet that bad. This bizarre self-censorship is presumably a result of government pressure (either real or perceived).
You say no single term can do justice to the complexity of events there. On the contrary, civil war is always chaotic and messy. Without the context of civil war, your statements about militias vying for power, drive by shootings etc lack weight.

Perhaps the question should be:

What are journalists for?

  • 82.
  • At 10:49 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Jim wrote:

We could be pushing for peace.

To argue over which words we should use to cover the blood being spilled in Iraq is sick, sick, sick.

  • 83.
  • At 11:48 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • clay wrote:

It will be a Civil War when there is a front line.

Civil Wars amoungst Muslims is like giving children balloons to keep them busy and out of your hair.

Not necessarily a bad thing until they can demonstrate that fighting and terror is not as normal in their community as getting up and going to work in the morning is in ours.

Jon is right. Although "civil war" is how we describe fighting between at lest two factions within one boundary, Iraq is more complicated than this.

The Harvard professor's six objective criteria are all there, but we need to look at Iraq before the coalition forces went in, AND we need to ask which other neighbouring countries are supplying or at least not preventing interference from state or non-state bodies.

And in his article Jon describes three other elements which complicate the issue.

Call it what you will, but the reason for not describing it as a civil war has nothing to do with the BBC's licence renewal (the usual conspiracy theorists at work here). It has much more to do with the fact that we may have bitten off more than we can chew, a situation exacerbated by insufficient help from others we still call allies. Also, although describing it as a civil war highlights the internal tensions it also leaves the coalition governments open to the charge that THEY caused it. A facile charge, but it will be made. Their cause was definitely NOT to do that.

If everything fails and Iraq returns to its old ways, then civil war WILL be the result, because the coalition will no longer be there. Of course the US/UK & allies will still be blamed. After all, wasn't it a land of "milk and honey" (or was that another "civil war") before we went there?

Religious, ethnic, tribal, historical, insurgent, resistance or civil. It's still war.

http://keeptonyblairforpm.wordpress.com

  • 85.
  • At 12:35 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Rachel Engler wrote:

I use to think the BBC was better than American news sources, but my opinion has changed. Now the BBC is just an arm of the Blair government. At least a CNN reporter can use the words "Civil War." My home paper, the Los Angeles Times, uses the phrase, and told us why. Other news sources in America do as well. So it's sad to see the once great institution of the BBC become such toadies. Particularly sad, because the BBC has some of the best correspondants in the world. Some of whom are risking their lives to report on the, yes, civil war, in Iraq.

Mr Williams, your pseudo-intellectual justification, which does nothing more than fall back on the useless 'things are complicated' rational, is embarrassing.

  • 86.
  • At 01:00 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Michael wrote:

The question here Jon is not whether or not it's a civil war, the question should be who is behind this Civil war, who is benefiting from this Civil war, and this is how the situation is complicated
Sunnies, Shias etc.... had been living together “peacefully” under the previous regime, who awakened the monsters and why? This is the question!!!

  • 87.
  • At 01:21 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Keith Fisher wrote:

I appreciate the care taken with how the multiple conflicts in Iraq are being categorised.
One of the reasons why I suspect the term "civil war" will increase in usage over the coming weeks and months is because it conveniently apportions blame and identifies primary cause with the Iraqis themselves.
Look out for the "civil war" to become a popular term even with the majority of Republican politicians in the States. It serves multiple political purposes; it squarely places responsibility for the carnage on ordinary Iraqis, sets up the withdrawal logic -- after all, we tried our best but they just weren't ready to accept western-style democracy, and paints an ahistoric and therefore more pliable canvas for those who'd prefer to forget the original arguments made for invading in the first place.
The political science definition of a "civil war" may be a handy checklist but goes nowhere near capturing the other components of modern "civil wars", namely the active, public and often secret support of multiple sides by external powers.
Hats off to the Beeb for the care taken in deciding whether to apply this highly charged language.

  • 88.
  • At 02:12 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Ellie wrote:

Jon, Congratulations for not giving into the 'hype' spread by other news orgnizations. Iraq is a very complicated situation that goes beyond what we even read in the media. Insurgents from other Middle East countries bringing in weapons and funds to disrrupt the country are only the beginning of Iraq's problems. The Iraqi's, after the British and Americans are gone, may regret they did not cooperate more. The other Middle East countries would love to take them over and make them subservient to whatever they want. They should put all the Clerics/Mullah's in the same jail - don't let them out until they come to a consensus of how to get along!

  • 89.
  • At 02:50 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Warren Ogren wrote:


My skinny on the fiasco in Iraq

Let's call it a civil war. Then get the hell out of there. Let them slaughter enough of each other until they get tired of it - if ever. Tell them that when they've settled their differences, we will be willing to help them clean up the mess, unless they want us to keep our nose out of their business like we should have done in the first place. (Which would suit most of us just fine. Probably not the munitions makers though.)

Why should the west interfere in something that is primarily a religious war in which they have been killing each other for years.

  • 90.
  • At 03:02 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • GUY FOX wrote:

CIVIL WAR IS WHEN TWO OR MORE MILITIA FACTIONS FROM THE CIVILIAN POPULATION FIGHT ONE ANOTHER OR FIGHT A GOVERNMENT MILITARY FORCE IN AN ORGANIZED FASHION.

  • 91.
  • At 03:59 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Mylene wrote:

If it's not a civil war, what would you call the situation in Iraq then? No matter how you look at it, Iraq is now in a civil war. But who cares about defining the situation in Iraq, whether it is a civil war or not, is immaterial. What is important is what should be done to stop the bloodbath and put a stop on the killing of innocent people. Now, do you still think that debating on the nomenclature of what is happening in Iraq important?

  • 92.
  • At 04:57 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • George W. wrote:

Jon,
Thanks for the level headed analysis. It's downright refreshing. We need more prominent media personal that aren't spineless, liberal stereotypes with a myopic agenda!!!!

  • 93.
  • At 05:33 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Andrea wrote:

If we call it a "civil war", do we then have to acknowledge the global war on terror?

Best to call it "chaos", blame Bush and avoid the greater issue of global terrorism.

  • 94.
  • At 05:33 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • mathew wrote:

If all the criteria for civil war matches
with the curren situation in Iraq why dont call
it a civil war?.There is defenitly struggle for
power there.I think there are more than a dozen
combatant groups fighting.As far as the involvement
of state goes- no comments.The intensity of the
conflict and casualties are well above the mark . And
all theses happen inside the nation's boundary.What
else you need to call it a civil war?Ofcourse the
presense of foreign power is something not mentioned
in your defenition, but again all those bloodsheds are
not in their names i believe.
I dont know how you judged the fact that
calling the iraq insurgencies as civil war might
blur the context.If you are worried about the context
why dont you call it the name it deserves and then
explain the context rather than beating round the bush
and making us guess.

  • 95.
  • At 05:39 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Andrea wrote:

I suspect this preoccupation with calling Iraq a "civil war" stems from the desire to paint it as a failure.

Why else would everyone be going after the term with such venom?


Our Geneva news site has opted for calling it a civil war. We cite the BBC often and I know our readers value your efforts to provide balanced news, so I was intrigued by your rationale. It seems you have two main reasons: civil wars don't have outsiders meddling in them in a big way and they are less complex than the mess in Iraq.

So I tried to come up with a list of civil wars that have earned the cw label. I'm struggling - maybe you can help us by naming a few so we see the difference? I'm going back a bit in history, which has a tendency to reduce wars to their essentials (or maybe I mean school history books, not the same thing as history itself). Surely there I will find a real civil war, based on your definition.

Spanish Civil War, no outsiders? hmmm
American Civil War, not complex?
French Revolution, no one else had their say?
English Civil War, uh-oh, what are the Scots doing jumping into it? But then calling them foreign invaders (http://www.answers.com/topic/english-civil-war) could start another civil war, and we have enough of those right now.

  • 97.
  • At 09:32 AM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Dawud wrote:

In fact I would say that a civil war where the two sides were clearly demarcated would be the exception rather than the rule (likewise, civil wars that don’t ‘defy simple categorisation’).Why not start with our own English Civil War? Simply speaking, it was a conflict between the High Church Anglican King and his largely Presbyterian parliament (intensified by issues such as the King’s forcing an Anglican style prayer book upon the Scots Presbyterian Church). However an important aspect of the conflict was the parliamentary Presbyterian’s middle ground position (they were not anti-monarchy). The Presbyterians soon became enemies of the radical non-conformists of the New Model Army. The situation was made even messier by the fact that (like most civil wars) brother was often pitted against brother, father against son, neighbour against neighbour... My Oxford dictionary simply says ‘a war between people of the same country’. There’s nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade as long as ‘simple categorisation’ is where your analysis starts, not ends.

  • 98.
  • At 12:47 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Brendan Hynes wrote:

So what do you or the BBC and for that matter most of the British public care if Iraq go in to a civil war status?

The BBC and its staff have been anti Iraq War since the word go, and has helped to create a British perception that we should not be in Iraq and should get out ASAP.

This has resulted in our Government not being able to put the resources in to do a proper job in the first place, if we had been behind our government Iraq today might have been a far different place than it now is, The BBC can take its share of the blame.

So I ask again what do you (as Staff) or the BBC care if Iraq falls into a civil war and apart from it being News, what’s it got to do with the BBC?


To answer Martin: good idea. I think we should do this topic on Your News this weekend. I'll talk to the team. I can see there's alot of debate on it here and on the website. Also we may discuss it on Dateline.

Kevin Bakhurst
Controller, BBC News 24

  • 100.
  • At 08:30 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Saeed Vahid wrote:

I was surprised you are giving too much credit to a US network which is by no means objective as the BBC, and owned by a corporation who might have vested interest in Iraqi adventure.
Professional journalism in the US has died (beisde PBS)!

  • 101.
  • At 07:58 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Jean-François Mezei wrote:

Iraq may bee seeing multiple distinct conflicts.

But there were also multiple distinct conflicts between 1939 and 1945, yet those conflicts were combined into a single "World War II".

Perhaps the only argument against using the term "civil war" is the fact that Iraq is still invaded by foreign nations and the unrest could be seen as serious attempts to ensure that the illegal invadors fail in their quests to declare victory.

And if the invadors spent money with real rebuilding instead of funneling money via Iraq back to Haliburton and others, perhaps life would really improve in Iraq.

And instead of employing american firms and personel for the little rebuilding that has been done, they should have hired local iraqi companies and personal. Give people jobs and they are less likely to throw bombs left and right because they have nothing better to do.

The real criminals here are the invadors. They should be charged with the same crimes as Saddam (especially Rumsfeld who sold those chemical weapons to Iraq).

  • 102.
  • At 12:46 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

Jean-François

Much as i agree with the theme of your post there are a lot of inaccuracies. Rumsfeld did form a relationship with Saddamn and ensured he stayed in power and gave him money but he did not sell him all his weapons. It was mainly France and the UK that did that.

Also in terms of rebuilding Iraq although yes it is American firms doing it the majority of those employed are actually iraqi.

So while yes i think Rumsfeld, Cheeny, Bush and Blair should be charged with genocide it is not completely one sided. In terms of weapons well we really need to look at the whole international poor regulation of arms sales from the US, UK, Israel, Russia and various other nations. Afterall where do you think all thse african nations are getting there AK47's and 7.62mm rounds from?

More importantly where do you think the Taliban got there arms from? Or the extremists in Iraq now? The Talbian were funded by Pakistan and the CIA originally and in Iraq arguably its syria and Iran funding them. But there weapons are sold to them by all sorts of unscrupulous people and most of the money ends up getting laundered through major banks in London.

  • 103.
  • At 03:32 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • AKBER A. KASSAM. wrote:

It is already civil war going in Iraq, only our President Bush does not want to acknowledged this fact. He is the one who started this sectarian tentions and violence in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, Ther was absolutely no reason why he invaded Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from the power, Saddam Hussein was not related any kinds of threats to United States. President Bush would have put all his effort to hunt Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group Al-Quaida in Afghanistan who attacked our country on 9/11, and Not in Iraq, there are no Al-Quaida terrorist groups in Iraq,

Since Bush took the office, he has not done any thig right he is still part of the all problems and not part of solutions. America has reached crisis point in Iraq, Iran, syria, North Korea, Palestine and Labanon during Bush administration. American people are frustrated with Bush and his unpopular in Iraq.

These are the serious times for our country America. We American love our country America much better then Bush do. He consider himself the master and ruler of the the entire world for his selfis and thirsts motives and other nations as only second class in the world order. Let me remind him that there is absolutely no other super power on this earth except Almighty God and he will bring the justice.!!!!!

  • 104.
  • At 03:29 AM on 02 Dec 2006,
  • ngum ngafor wrote:

what do you call a situation where brother kills brother? let's cut out the euphemisms and call this thing what it really is, an all out CIVIL WAR!

Kofi Annan, has told the BBC:

"A few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6204980.stm

So - we are being told that one war is worse than another.

Exactly how does that fit with your analysis Jon?

Kofi says it is Civil War Plus - yet it does not qualify as any sort of civil war in your mind.

If your judgement or opinion does not fit ALL the facts then it is not the facts that are wrong.

  • 106.
  • At 06:54 PM on 04 Dec 2006,
  • John Bradley wrote:

This is a War. It's the continuation of a War brought about by the invasion of Iraq by the US and by Britain and sundry, equally misguided, countries.

There's only one criterion for War and that's a) LOTS of dead bodies, in and out of uniform.

The "Iraq body count" project has identified a minimum of 49,615 reported, named, civilians killed as of today's date. This is likely to be a fraction of the overall total.

What has started out to be an insurgency against the occupation may turn into Civil War. I hope not. I hope, too, that Messrs. Bush and Blair do not sleep easily in their beds just now.

  • 107.
  • At 12:53 AM on 05 Dec 2006,
  • chiz wrote:

Many of the reports that I've read suggest that the problem in Iraq is gangsterism writ large, e.g. people being forced out of jobs by henchmen who want their position and paycheck.

When drug cartels in some country fight each other and the government for market share, profits and power over corrupt officials is it a civil war? Is Colombia in a state of civil war? If so, what about Italy with the mafia?

Part of the problem with this debate is that many people assume that words have precise meanings with sharp semantic boundaries with the implication that there is some definitive yes or no. I don't think this is really the case and I'm not sure that there really is a precise well demarcated point when ann internal conflict becomes a civil war.

  • 108.
  • At 06:42 PM on 05 Dec 2006,
  • Ken wrote:

I don’t see why you need to describe it as anything. Why don’t you just report each event as it happens in Iraq and leave the analysis to us, the people and our representatives? This is a political judgement and not something that you need to worry about. You may have private views about whether or not events in Iraq can be described as a civil war but these views should not be made public. If you want to play politics then get yourself elected. Just report the news and stop agonising about issues that are nothing to do with you.

  • 109.
  • At 10:19 PM on 05 Dec 2006,
  • Amy wrote:

History has taught us that refusing to acknowledge the true scale of a situation does not mean that it will cease to be a problem. The international community refused to classify what was happening in Rwanda as Genocide and the consequences of this were horrendous. Not calling the conflict in Iraq 'civil war' will not make it go away - but could in fact make things even worse.

  • 110.
  • At 03:02 AM on 06 Dec 2006,
  • Ahmad Sardasht wrote:

Partition Iraq into 3

By imposition of foreign idealistic policies, neighboring countries intrusion into the domestic affairs of Iraq and immobilizing the Iraqis to make the right decisions for the future of their country and people, Iraq will never become self-regulating, self-determining and self-governing.

The only solution lays in the disintegration of Iraq into three autonomous regions. Iraq should have been partitioned from the very outset of US-led invasion. There is no reason to coerce the diverse Iraqi ethnic and religious groups to coexist together. A civil war has already begun and if not addresses rationally, it could swallow up to the entire Middle East.

  • 111.
  • At 04:13 AM on 06 Dec 2006,
  • delawar Kurdistani wrote:

The Iraqi Study Group should meet the people of Iraq for their consultation concerning the future of their country. Unfortunately, no respect has been paid to this key issue and all decisions formulated are mainly one-sided, lacking the interests of Iraqi people. Ensuing is some comments form an Iraqi citizen:

The first and major approach should be securing the Iraqi unguarded and susceptible boarders. By doing this, three indispensable goals will be achieved. 1) Foreign terrorist infiltration can be impeded drastically. 2) Arms, funds and ammunition extended by Iran, Syria and Turkey can be disrupted. As a result of that the terrorist networks inside Iraq if not completely destroyed, will definitely be wakened with no power to resist. The coalition forces can increase the number of their troops and carry out a one-time clear out. 3) Neighboring countries can be held accountable if they continue to destabilize Iraq. This will be regarded as a deliberate and direct act of hostility. The international community can condemn, take some serious actions or at least justify further US intervention.

A nationwide referendum under the supervision of United Nation Body should be held. All Iraqi should be encouraged to participate. If most citizens favor a portioning strategy, Iraq should be partitioned along the sectarian and ethnic lines. The UN can facilitate the Reconstruction Redevelopment and Resettlement process.

The US presence in the region is the source of discomfort. The troops could be positioned in Kurdistan. This will prevent any military intervention by neighboring countries and help defuse tension between the Kurds and their adversaries. Meanwhile, the Iraqi masses have an opportunity to demonstrate themselves. If capable of running their affairs, a timetable to withdraw could be discussed.

The Kurdish oil-rich city of Kirkuk is key to the stability of Iraq and it should be addressed, according. The Iraqi permanent constitution clearly indicates that a referendum should be held by 2007 to decide the fate of this primarily and geographically-dominated Kurdish city. As the date of referendum draws close, the country is further threatened to stir toward an all-encompassing civil war. Regarded as a Kurdish pro-self-rule ambition, Turkish military intercession is the most probable jeopardy. The United States should not allow any foreign interference and stand firm with the Iraqi people.

  • 112.
  • At 04:22 AM on 06 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

Jon Williams said, "But it’s precisely because things are critical, that we need to explain and provide the context – something, one simple phrase can never do."

What?! Just like your newsreaders and reporters consistently do when they simplify complex geo-political events down to the catch-all phrase "The War on Terror"?

That's different because.....?


  • 113.
  • At 06:29 AM on 06 Dec 2006,
  • umar tosheeb wrote:

It would definately have been civil war, if America wasn't involved in Iraq. Since America is fighting a war in Iraq, it is not clear whether this is a Civil War or not. It is not clear because we don't know if these people are doing all this to make sure that America would be defeated or that they are fighting amongsts themselves in Civil War fighting way.If America pulls out of Iraq then every thing will become clear, and we weould know if it's a civil war, or all this chaos is being created to defeat America, and make it look like civil war, and confuse Americans about what's really going on.

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