What is the truth? Is it a civil war, like the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, when Franco led his armies out of North Africa into Spain to overthrow a regime and end an anarchic situation where priests and nuns were being murdered and Bolsheviks seemed about to ascend to power? No, it is not.
The war in Iraq consists rather of many small wars. The Kurds in the north are seizing and ethnically cleansing Kirkut in anticipation of a day of secession that will give them a nation. Al-Qaida and the Baathists in Anbar are fighting U.S. Marines to expel them from Iraq.
Al-Qaida attacked the Golden Mosque and perpetrated atrocities against Shia civilians to incite the Shia to reprisals and ignite a Sunni-Shia sectarian war. Zarqawi, before we got him, succeeded. He set off the chain reaction that has now a momentum of its own.
The Shia initially backed the Americans and Brits against the Sunni insurgents. Having won power, however, they now are fighting each other over how orthodox the regime should be, and whether the Shia should, like the Kurds, break away and set up an independent state.
The twin pillars of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government are the U.S. military and Moqtada al Sadr, mortal enemies who have fought bloodily before and may well be preparing for a decisive Battle of Baghdad.
Iraq seems to this writer less a classic civil war, like the Spanish and the Russian civil war between "Reds" and "Whites" from 1919 to 1921, than a version of bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all. That is the Latin phrase Thomas Hobbes gave to human existence in the state-of-nature thought experiment he conducted in "Leviathan."
Even our War Between the States was not truly a civil war. For the South did not seek to overturn Lincoln's election, capture the capital or rule the country. The South wanted only to secede from the Union of Abraham Lincoln as their fathers had seceded from the England of George III.
Yet, this argument about whether Iraq is or is not a civil war is deeply consequential for what it exposes. Our elite senses this war is lost, and they are preparing alibis for their roles in what may yet prove the greatest strategic blunder in American history.