Monday, November 27, 2006

NBC makes it official: It's a civil war

The White House is frowning this morning, but at long last at least one of the Big Four US networks is calling a spade a spade. This morning on the Today Show, NBC said the situation in Iraq is definitely a civil war. One of the criteria they used to come to that determination is the fact the insurgency is now self-sustaining. More significant is Gen. Barry McCaffrey's assessment that there are not just two, but three sides to the war and a Baghdad administration that refuses to take sides so as not to alienate any disaffected side -- Sunni, Shi'ite, or Kurds -- and things won't turn around until Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki actually does make his stand.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what those of us in the real world have known for nearly four years. Fighting a war isn't just about taking territory, it's also about winning the hearts and minds of people on the ground. Unless you have willing participants who can shepherd the way in, you're only setting up a situation where you don't know who's loyal and who isn't. By contrast, consider the Normandy invasion in 1944. The Allied Forces from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom were able to succeed in part because there was a well organized resistance in France but who were lying low until they got a coded message on the radio -- beamed from across the English Channel -- that the time had come. True, the casualties were extensive, but the mission succeeded because the Nazis found themselves surrounded.

It's my feeling that notwithstanding American claims about WMD (there were none), or it not being about the oil (of course it was), it's the Americans that took sides. They took a gamble and decided to side with the majority Shi'ites, in spite of the States' history with another country's regime being dominated by that particular sect of Islam (namely, Iran). When the Sunnis started fighting back, the US was trapped and suddenly had to change on the fly to a military occupation force trying to broker a peace between the two sides. Except there was no peace to keep -- in fact, it was impossible to even make the peace.

Sadly, Canada is also caught up in another civil war, the one in Afghanistan. We and the rest of NATO seem incapable of trying to strike the right balance between deterrence, defence and development. Our main focus should be on the third "D" but instead we're so busy helping facilitate the drug trade that the Taliban has gotten their second wind.

NBC got it right and It's time for the rest of the media to get rid of their semantics and tell the truth. When Canada's media refers to the October Crisis of 1970, they say Trudeau "proclaimed the War Measures Act," rather than just saying he imposed martial law. When they talk about the destruction of the Africktown section of Halifax, they talk about it being a demolition when it fact it was ethnic cleansing.

A civil war, by any other name -- including "insurgency" -- is still a civil war.

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