Defining problems — away

civil war

Main Entry: civil war
Function: noun
: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country

If only it were so simple

In Iraq, tit-for-tat violence between Sunnis and Shias has escalated to the point that hundreds of people are being kidnapped and murdered every day. Death squads roam the streets in open hunting season, and car bombs leave death, destruction, and mayhem in their wake. A recent incident in which six Sunnis were seized after Friday prayers, doused with kerosene, and burned alive exemplifies the barbarity that has been unleashed by the "liberation" of Iraq. The place truly has become hell on earth.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned Nero (Picture: NationalGeographic.com)

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has sought refuge in the dictionary as a last defense against facing reality, resisting the use of the term "civil war" for what is clearly a civil war.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "They have sectarian differences, and some of those are violent. It's not civil war."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "It seems to me that it is not a classic civil war at this stage. It certainly isn't like our civil war."

White House press secretary Tony Snow: "There is not a civil war going on."

Remember how much fun the Republicans had when Bill Clinton tried to weasel out of Monica Lewinsky charges, insisting that it depends on "what the definition of is, is"? That was a sublimely ridiculous thing to say, and it was rightfully mocked. The current nitpicking with "civil war" is equally ridiculous.

There are good reasons, of course, why the Bushies are loathe to use the term civil war, "good" politically, that is. They know that the American public, who are already disgusted by the Bush handling of the Iraq war, simply won't stand for US troops being in the middle of a civil war. And Senator John Warner (R-VA), doyen of military supporters, has already warned that what Congress had in mind was authorizing the president to wage war against terror, not a civil war, so calling Iraq a civil war strips away Bush's cover that Congress authorized him to do what he's doing.

No matter what you call the situation in Iraq, the only question that matters now is, What are we going to do about it? All this quibbling about definitions just avoids that very hard question.

Danzinger Jeff Danzinger (Click picture to enlarge)

Defining away problems is just standard operating procedure for the Bushies. Faced with the public's clear rejection of Bush's policy to "stay the course" in Iraq, the administration abolished the term, not the policy. Faced with shameful levels of poverty and hunger in this, the richest country on earth, they abolished the term "hunger" — if you have no food you are no longer hungry, you have "food insecurity" (Washington Post, 16-Nov-06, 17-Nov-06). In this same way, prisoners in the war on terror can be strapped to a board and submerged in water; can have electric shocks to their testicles; can be made to stand in "stress positions" for hours on end — but the US does not "torture."

To be fair, American culture is rife with similar label-smithing. Just one example: people are no longer crippled or lame or handicapped, they are physically or mentally challenged or, better yet, differently-abled.

That settles it: I'm not fat, I have thinness insufficiency.