All Out Civil War

I’d like to know why we still keep seeing the phrase “all out civil war” in connection with the war in Iraq. A couple of years ago, the comment always was, there’ll be a civil war if we leave. It’ll be a bloodbath. The Iraqis decided to have a civil war while we were still there. So now we keep hearing that Iraq is on the brink of an all out civil war, and the government has the difficult job of preventing that. Well I’d like to know, what would an all out civil war look like?

Does an all out civil war mean that the soldiers fighting it have to wear uniforms? Do they have to use heavier weapons? What do you mean by the phrase _all out_? Does all out mean that the battle has to be like the Battle of Stalingrad? People died at a rate of roughly 400 a day during the American Civil War, the worst civil war of its century. The Iraqi body count in Baghdad has been running about fifty deaths a day. No one can keep track of the body count in the rest of Iraq, though people have tried. What does the daily death toll have to be to count as an all out civil war?

Let’s try to ask the question this way. Suppose we were losing fifty soldiers a day in a war. What kind of a war would we call that? During the years we fought in Vietnam, we lost roughly twenty soldiers a day. Did that war not count as an all out war? Does it not count because we didn’t use nuclear weapons, or because we didn’t invade North Vietnam?

I’d like to know what is the use of the distinction between an all out civil war and a civil war that is not all out? When one of the corpses lying on a Baghdad street with hands tied behind the back and a bullet in the back of the head is your husband or father, you don’t care much whether the people who did it thought they were fighting an all out civil war or not. Who cares what you call it – sectarian killings, reprisals, insurgent violence – it amounts to the same thing.

The reason the journalists keep repeating the phrase _all out civil war_ is that they want to remind us that things could get worse. Well yes, things could get worse. Things can always get worse. But that’s not the point here. The thing to remember here is that things have gotten very bad now, and they’re not getting better. Built into the phrase _all out civil war_ is the hope that things can get better, that the government can prevent the situation from worsening. And, one can add, the only way the Iraqi government can do that is if we stay to help them.

But remember that the Iraqi government is a fiction. Iraq does not have a government. If Iraq had a government, people would be secure. That’s the definition or a government. A government has a monopoly on the use of force. Put more precisely, a government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. No one has a monopoly on the use of force in Iraq. That’s the definition of a civil war. A civil war exists when no one has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Well, we can get technical here. That’s anarchy. When no one has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and various sides actually use force, that’s a civil war.

Iraq’s so-called government is a creature of the United States. The institutions that exist in the Green Zone: the parliament, the cabinet, the presidency and the prime minister’s office, the offices that administer the police and the army: these are not real institutions in the eyes of Iraqis. They exist to make America’s presence in the country look legitimate. If these institutions made up a real government, they wouldn’t have to hide in the Green Zone. If they made up a real government, they would be able to control the use of force in the country. Obviously they don’t make up a government, and they don’t have any control over anything outside of the Green Zone.

So I have a request for journalists here. Please stop referring to the Iraqi government as something that actually exists. If you were to say “American puppets,” at least you’d be honest. As it is, your analysis of what’s happening in Iraq sounds false as soon as you say the phrase _Iraqi government_. Who do you think you’re fooling? No one in Iraq thinks Iraq has a governement. Perhaps people here do just because they have heard the phrase repeated so often.

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