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Situation in Iraq: A civil war is a civil war is a civil war

By Claude Salhani / 15 December 2006

LOOKING at Baghdad these days where exploding car bombs, suicidal jihadis, kidnappings, lack of security and rampant crime has become a daily occurrence, one could easily draw parallels with the Beirut circa 1975-1990 civil war, years of violence that left Lebanon devastated.

Both Americans and Iraqis are trying hard to call the violence in Iraq anything but what it really is, a bona fide civil war. What else can you call a conflict where Iraqis are killing fellow Iraqis?

Similarly in Beirut, no one really wanted to call what was happening a civil war. In that respect Beirut and Baghdad are not alone. There are in fact many precedents of wars and civil wars being called other than what they were.

Lebanon’s civil war was never referred to as such: it was called “The Events.” The violence that for decades plagued Northern Ireland, where Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics were busy killing each other, that is when they were not busy killing the British, was also never called a civil war. The Irish referred to their conflict as “The Troubles.”

And the conflict between North and South Korea, although it was a full-scale war with the United States and United Nations troops backing the South Koreans against the communist north, which in turn was backed by China, was never called a war: it was referred to as a “police action.”

Using that same logic Iraq is not engulfed in a civil war. Iraq is experiencing “troubling events in which police actions are underway in efforts to restore law and order and security, and in an attempt to bring democracy to the country. It could be called “The Unrest.”

The bottom line is that you can call the violence by any name you please, it will not lessen the level of violence, nor will it put a stop to the number of suicide bombers, killings, abductions, torture and the systematic destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure.

What would it take to wake up Iraqis to the fact that this insanity will lead them nowhere? Meanwhile, civil war, events, troubles or police action, the carnage continues.

On Monday, 67 people died in central Baghdad when a car bomb detonated near a group of workers looking for employment. On Tuesday 117 people died, and on Wednesday 67 people were killed. The list goes on.

Iraqis should take the time to look at some recent history and try to find out when was the last time anyone involved in a civil war could truly say they were victorious.

A quick look at Beirut where the Lebanese fought an insane war for more than 15 years should be ample motivation not to allow the country to fall into a civil war. All that Lebanon had to show after 15 years of strife was the destruction of the country and the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who fled the war.

The Iraqis should ask the Lebanese if after all this fighting and all these deaths, which side won and which side lost. The answer will most certainly be: nobody won, but the big looser was Lebanon.

And in Iraq, too, there will be no winners, only losers. The country is sinking deeper and deeper into total anarchy. Even the presence of some 130,000 US combat troops and thousands of other coalition forces could not prevent the mess that Iraq finds itself in.

Despite their technical superiority, their superior training, greater motivation and complete command of the skies, US and coalition forces were unable to prevent the chaos. Part of the blame falls on the Iraqis, who since the Americans invaded in 2003, chose to think narrowly — placing their tribe’s clan, sect or ethnicity’s interest ahead of the nation’s.

Instead, Iraqis chose the path that would lead to violence and take Iraq down the road to self-destruction. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the three years since the US invasion. An untold number of the country’s intellectuals, professors, poets, doctors, painters, sculptors, actors, business people, along with tens of thousands of others — mostly the elite have fled to safer lands. Some will return when the war is over, but as in most cases, the majority will settle in their adopted countries. What a loss for Iraq!

Buildings, bridges, infrastructures, and the like can be rebuilt. The people who immigrate because they can no longer stand the daily carnage are irreplaceable. With every new car bomb, with every new death, with every new report of more bodies found with traces of torture, more and more Iraqis choose to leave the country, never to return.

Iraqis missed a great opportunity after the fall of Saddam to take control of their destiny and show the world they are politically mature enough to take the reigns of their country and run it along democratic principles. In that respect they have failed miserably.

Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington, DC. Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com

 
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