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Civil war in Iraq
|This article is part of SourceWatch and Congresspedia coverage of the
Bush administration's war in Iraq
- "In the bleakest assessment yet of conditions in Iraq, the 10-member Iraq Study Group bluntly said President George W. Bush's current policy 'is not working' and urged the White House to hold direct talks with regimes in Iran and Syria on ways to reduce the bloodshed," Sheldon Alberts of CanWest News Service reported December 7, 2006. "The panel specifically called on the White House to embark on a major diplomatic initiative before the end of December, or risk having Iraq continue its 'slide toward chaos'."
"The debate is over: By any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war. Indeed, the only thing standing between Iraq and a descent into total Bosnia-like devastation is 135,000 U.S. troops—and even they are merely slowing the fall. The internecine conflict could easily spiral into one that threatens not only Iraq but also its neighbors throughout the oil-rich Persian Gulf region with instability, turmoil and war," Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack wrote August 20, 2006, in the Washington Post.
"The consequences of an all-out civil war in Iraq could be dire. Considering the experiences of recent such conflicts, hundreds of thousands of people may die. Refugees and displaced people could number in the millions. And with Iraqi insurgents, militias and organized crime rings wreaking havoc on Iraq's oil infrastructure, a full-scale civil war could send global oil prices soaring even higher," Byman and Pollack wrote.
"Across central Iraq, there is an exodus of people fleeing for their lives as sectarian assassins and death squads hunt them down. At ground level, Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold on a massive scale," Patrick Cockburn reported in The Independent (UK), May 20, 2006.
In the war in Iraq, the "worst-case scenario has always been a full-blown civil war between its former Sunni ruling class and the long-oppressed Shiite majority with U.S. forces caught in the middle" and the "new worst-case scenario has Iran or Syria getting directly involved as the body counts rise. Iraqi security forces are obviously incapable of keeping the peace. Americans can't leave but don't have the numbers to impose martial law on the entire country and, in the process, expose themselves to greater risk," according to a March 1, 2006, Detroit Free Press editorial.
New "outbursts of violence" in a "series of suicide attacks, car bombs and mortar barrages rocked Baghdad" February 28, 2006, killing "more than 75 people" and wounding many. Two explosions on March 1, 2006, left another 26 dead and 65 wounded, as Iraq "teetered on the brink of sectarian civil war." 
"The past six days of violence that have convulsed Iraq since the bombing of the al-Askariya shrine" on February 22, 2005, "could be much worse than Iraqi and Coalition officials have admitted," Chris Allbritton wrote in TIME. The Washington Post reported February 28, 2006, "that more than 1,300 bodies had been delivered to the Baghdad morgue, directly challenging the Iraqi government’s assertion that 216 people had been killed around the country since the Wednesday bombing of the al-Askariya shrine in Samarra.
"Hundreds of bodies were packed into the morgue, the paper reported, and wailing relatives clustered around the doorway hoping to claim the body of a loved one," Allbritton wrote.
"The fresh violence could re-ignite the hostility between Sunnis and Shiites just as Iraqis struggle to recover from the worst sectarian bloodletting since the war began," New York Times' Edward Wong reported. "Though politicians and clerics have been calling for calm, and a weekend curfew cooled off the fury in the streets, people across the capital remained anxious over the possibility of new violence."
President George W. Bush, following his remarks welcoming Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to the White House on February 28, 2006, when asked whether he feared "an all-out civil war," responded: "Obviously, there are some who are trying to sow the seeds of sectarian violence. They destroy in order to create chaos. And now the people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice. The choice is chaos or unity."
Chicago Tribune: "On the ground, it's civil war"
"The dictionary definition says a civil war involves war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation," Aamer Madhani wrote April 14, 2006. "An estimated 30,000 Iraqis have died in violence since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. There are no accurate figures of how many were killed by U.S. troops, but slayings of Iraqis by fellow Iraqis have increased dramatically as the war has progressed.
"Many U.S. and Iraqi officials insist that the violence engulfing the country does not constitute civil war. But by any reasonable standard, 'the conflict in Iraq is a civil war,' said James Fearon, a Stanford University political scientist who specializes in the study of civil conflict. 'The rate [of killings] is comparable to Sri Lanka, the Lebanese war and Bosnia,' all of which were widely regarded as civil wars," Madhani wrote.
"Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, said the question is only one of semantics. 'You can use whatever language you want to describe it, but the violence is increasing and it is becoming more vengeful and polarized,' Diamond said." 
According to Spengler in the January 21, 2004 edition of the Asia Times, civil war in Iraq may be preferable, as well as advantageous, to the United States. After all, it asked, "which is better, to have Iraqis shooting at American soldiers, or at each other?"
- "No one in the Bush administration wants to let slip the dogs of civil war. On the contrary, the White House still hopes that Iraq will set a precedent for democracy in the Muslim world. Yet civil war is the path of least resistance, so clearly so that the punditry of the world press has raised the alarm with one voice. A Google news search turns up 900 hits for the search terms 'Iraq' and 'civil war'. What is so bad about a civil war? No self-respecting state ever has been formed without one. All the European countries had at least one (some of them called religious wars). America has had two. The Middle East and Africa have them all the time. States are founded on compromise. Civil war is just nature's way of telling the diehards to slow down."
In the end, the real answer is this: "Americans are accustomed to happy endings. President George W. Bush wants to be remembered as the benefactor of the Muslim world, not as a second Genghis Khan. Only in the paranoid imaginings of the Muslim world has Washington set out to destabilize the region. ... Nonetheless, the tragedy will proceed as Washington at each step discovers that its only viable option is the one that pushes Iraq closer to dissolution."
Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay wrote January 22, 2004, for Knight Ridder that "current and former U.S. officials ... are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war." This "starkly" contradicts, they said, "the upbeat assessment that President Bush gave in his State of the Union address."
"The warning echoed growing fears that Iraq's Shiite majority, which has until now grudgingly accepted the U.S. occupation, could turn to violence if its demands for direct elections are spurned. ... Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish minority is pressing its demand for autonomy and shares of oil revenue.
"'Both the Shiites and the Kurds think that now's their time,' said one intelligence officer. 'They think that if they don't get what they want now, they'll probably never get it. Both of them feel they've been betrayed by the United States before.'"
"Another senior official said the concerns over a possible civil war weren't confined to the CIA but are 'broadly held within the government,' including by regional experts at the State Department and National Security Council.
"Top officials are scrambling to save the U.S. exit strategy after concluding that Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al Sistani, is unlikely to drop his demand for elections for an interim assembly that would choose an interim government by June 30. ... L. Paul Bremer would then hand over power to the interim government."
- "Iraq Transition: Civil War or Civil Society?", Hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, April 20, 2004.
- Connie Hammond, "The Gulf War never ended," Journal, Spring 2001 (issue); The Free Press, May 16, 2001.
- Stephen Zunes, "Iraq: 10 Years After Gulf War," The Free Press, October 18, 2001.
Articles & Commentary
- In particular, also see: