US Media Agree on Iraq Civil War

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Monday that Iraq was "almost" in a state of civil war or would soon be if drastic steps are not taken to halt the spiral of deadly sectarian violence.

US Media Agree on Iraq Civil War
Despite adamancy from the White House to concede, leading US media outlets have agreed to categorize the raging sectarian violence in Iraq as a "civil war" amid heartbreaking horror stories emerging every day from the war-ravaged country.

"We should mention we didn't wake up on a Monday morning and say,'Let's call this a civil war'. This took careful deliberation. We consulted with a lot of people," said Matt Lauer, the presenter of NBC's "Today" morning show.

The leading channel has become the latest mainstream news organization to use the term, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Lauer and retired US general Barry McCaffrey, an NBC News military analyst, said a civil war opposes at least two sides using violence toward political ends in a country whose government cannot stop the conflict.

Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria wrote that "there can be no more doubt that Iraq is in a civil war, in which leaders of both its main communities, Sunnis and Shiites, are fomenting violence."

Editor and Publisher, a leading US news industry publication, described the decision to use the charged term as a "turning point."

"Apparently the utter chaos and carnage of the past week has finally convinced some to use 'civil war' without apology," the magazine said in its online edition.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Monday that Iraq was "almost" in a state of civil war or would soon be if drastic steps are not taken to halt the spiral of deadly sectarian violence.

In a fresh outbreak of violence, up to 17 people in Iraq were killed on Tuesday, including two in a triple car bomb attack at a Baghdad hospital.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said in a report earlier this month that 7,054 civilians were violently killed in September and October.

UN and Iraq medical sources estimate that more than a 100 people are dying daily in sectarian violence across the country.

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have lost their lives since the March 2003 invasion than would have otherwise happened.

No Official Line
 "There can be no more doubt that Iraq is in a civil war," said Zakaria. 

Robert Thompson, a television and popular culture expert, saw in NBC's decision to call the conflict a civil war a sign that the US media had turned a corner since the lead up to the 2003 invasion, when they were seen as following the official line in their coverage.

"I think the job that especially television news did leading up to the war was certainly not their finest hour," Thompson told AFP.

"This is one more step in that direction of beginning to reclaim how they're going to define and frame these stories as opposed to having them defined and framed for them by press conferences and the like," he asserted.

US President George W. Bush on Tuesday parried suggestions that Iraq had sunk into civil war, arguing that a recent upsurge in violence was part of a spiral of sectarian unrest that began nine months ago.

"We have been in this phase for a while," Bush insisted during a stop-over in Estonia on his way to the Latvian capital Riga for a NATO summit, part of a high-stakes visit to Europe and the Middle East.

"No question it's tough. There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, happening in my opinion because of these attacks by Al-Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisals."

The comments came hot on the heels of an acknowledgement on Monday made by Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that the conflict in Iraq had entered a "new phase," characterized by increasing sectarian violence.

The White House has repeatedly rejected the term civil war to define the violence in Iraq.

White House spokesman Tony Snow used different words when describing the situation.

"Feet to the Fire, the Media after 9/11," by award winning journalist Kristina Borjesson, prompted questions over whether the US media was duped by the White House, was negligent or complicit in the rush to war, and whether senior reporters were too close to government sources.

In the book, 21 reporters reflect on the Bush administration's case for the preemptive invasion of Iraq in 2003, on the grounds Saddam could offer weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.

A recent US presidential report revealed that the US was "dead wrong" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its officials made the case for invading the oil-rich country despite intelligence doubts and strong voices of dissent.

"Religious Prisons"

An Iraqi man mourns the death of a loved one. (Reuters)  

Heartbreaking horror stories of sectarian violence continue to emerge every day from Iraq.

The Times, the only British newspaper that has a full-time bureau in Baghdad, reported Tuesday that Shiite extremists have converted their mosques and prayer rooms, called husseiniyas, into execution chambers.

"It hurts me when I remember what happened," Hassan Mahmoud, a Sunni, told the paper, recalling an ordeal inside a Shiite prayer room.

Mahmoud was kidnapped along with a Sunni colleague by Shiite militiamen and taken to a husseiniya where he saw the beheading of his friend by a man dressed in a Shiite clerical uniform, a black turban and a cloak.

Mahmoud realized that if they knew he was a Sunni he would die.

"I'm from the Mussawis in Al-Amal," he lied, giving the name of a Shiite tribe.

Mahmoud still dreams of the friend who was beheaded in front of him. He wakes up screaming: "Don't slaughter him. Please don't kill him."

For Iraqis the semantic question over whether the fighting meets the criteria of full scale warfare misses the point.

"If we wake up every morning to hear that 40 to 60 bodies have turned up here and there in Baghdad, civil war cannot be any different," Damis Abdullah, a Sunni Arab woman working in the culture ministry, told AFP Tuesday.

Most Iraqis who spoke to AFP accused Iraq's political leadership of pushing a sectarian agenda.

"The Sunni and Shiite politicians are trying to drag the country into a civil war using the militias and gunmen who are spreading here and there," said Kadhim Saleh, a Shiite writer living in Baghdad.

After forming a unity government in May, al-Maliki, a Shiite, vowed to dismantle militias to help restore security to the war-torn country. But since then, no action has been taken.

Iraq's most revered Shiite scholar Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has recently admitted his inability to prevent a civil war, lamenting that he no longer has an influence on Shiites who have switched allegiance to militant groups and death squads.

Saleh was out of breath from dragging his possessions out of the downtown house he once shared with a Sunni family, but was regretfully leaving to avoid putting them in danger.

"I left my neighborhood this morning for good after living there for 10 years, while my Sunni neighbors cried for me and bade me farewell with tears and candles."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16