THE BLOG

Denialists on Iraq: Civil War, Schmival War!

05/25/2011 11:50 am ET

Can we stop with all this denialist hair-splitting about whether or not Iraq is engaged in a civil war?

With 50 to 60 people being killed each day, it's sickening to watch Bushie apologists stretch their linguistic wings to describe things as an "incipient" civil war. Or maybe a "slide" towards civil war. Or, if you're a cockeyed optimist, a "long way from civil war."

My favorite straw-grasping Bush groupie is former CIA chief James Woolsey, who recently told the News Hour that Iraq was not experiencing civil war because - get this - "We don't have Antietam and Fredericksburg and large armies clashing."

Holy ethnocentrism, Batman! If the American Civil War, with its 19th century set-piece battles, is the standard by which all civil wars must be defined, then most of the civil wars of the past century were not civil wars. Why? Because virtually none of them had vast armies clashing on blood-soaked fields of battle.

Consider:

Greek Civil War: Killed - 158,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 1, the Battle of Konitsa.

Guatemalan Civil War: Killed - 200,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

Lebanese Civil War: Killed - 150,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

Liberian Civil War: Killed - 150,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

Bosnian Civil War: Killed - 175,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

Somalian Civil War: Killed - 400,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

Nicaragua Civil War: Killed - 60,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

El Salvadoran Civil War: Killed - 75,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

Algerian Civil War: Killed - 100,000.
Number of Antietam-style battles - 0.

Woolsey, baby, you could look it up.

Two million people died in these conflicts, and most died the way people are dying in Iraq today: by death squads, sabotage, car bombs, assassinations, kidnappings, skirmishes, local clashes, massacres, check point killings, sniper fire, mortar fire, reprisal raids, etc.

I wonder if the dead would be glad to hear that - according to brilliant analysts like former CIA director Woolsey - they did not die in civil wars?

Maybe. But that's what I'd call cold comfort.