Calling Iraq a civil war is a judgment

Posted: Nov 29, 2006 10:55 AM
Calling Iraq a civil war is a judgment

With the declaration Monday by NBC that Iraq's woes would henceforth be branded a "civil war" by the network, everything changed. The "Today" show's Matt Lauer made the announcement to a stunned America. CNN's Michael Ware intoned, "If this isn't a civil war, I don't know what is." Suddenly, the clarity that comes only with definitive declarations of definitions rendered by the Beltway-Manhattan media elite arrived. No more confusion. No more anguish. A pronouncement that blew away the fog of civil war had been issued.

We ought to brand 11/27 as MSM Triumphalism Day, an annual celebration of elite media pretension unsupported by actual influence in an environment of declining market share.

PBS used to own this corner of the business, but as the news divisions of the networks have headed towards public television land in terms of actual influence, the talking heads of the big four have begun to take on the trumpeting sounds associated with Bill Moyers and "The News Hour."

Even Don Imus was making fun of the NBC potentates' decree about the language of war, and he works in part for the Peacock. The arrogance is not off-putting nearly as much as it is amusing.

There is an enormous amount of violence in Iraq, though the networks haven't told us yet whether that violence is more or less than under Saddam Hussein, though it is certainly better publicized. The slaughter of the Shia after the first Gulf War — that was a civil war too, I suppose, but without Al Jazeera or Michael Ware to bring it home.

Saddam's butchery and that of his sons and their totalitarian colleagues went unreported, and didn't involve exploding cars or IEDs, but the carnage in terms of body count was at least as large and actually far larger by many estimates.

But we didn't get that news through the long years of sanctions and oil-for-food-for-dictators, in large part because of big media enablers of Saddam.

So now one of shrinking giants wants us to know that in its collective judgment a corner has been turned. The implications were not spelled out other than a lot more furrowed eyebrows.

Does this mean we have entered a prolonged campaign against insurgents such as was seen during the "Malayan Emergency" when from 1948 to 1960 when 90,000 British and Commonwealth troops battled about 30,000 guerillas?

Is it a reprise of Lebanon's bloody and prolonged civil strife, which raged from 1975 to 1990 and threatens to erupt again?

Is NBC predicting a Rawandan-style genocide, or a replay of the north versus south in Sudan or the Nigerian civil war and the tragedy of Biafra?

NBC wasn't saying, which is exactly the point. The network is posing, substituting portentousness for any sort of analysis and prediction. I look forward to Matt Lauer, or anyone, actually predicting the course the conflict in Iraq will take.

But that would require judgment and thoughtful comparison of civil wars from the past with the evolving situation in Iraq. And MSM isn't very good at that. That would require judgment, not a pose.