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The brutal truth: it's civil war (Times, 10 March 2006)

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Benbow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 05:49 AM
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The brutal truth: it's civil war (Times, 10 March 2006),,6-2078650,
by Ben McIntyre

In Britain and America, civil war comes freighted with historical resonance, the very antithesis of a society that is stable and free. Britains parliamentary democracy was profoundly shaped by a gruesome civil war; Americas ideal of nationhood was founded on the resolution of a civil war that nearly shattered the country.

For months, we have heard that Iraq is on the brink, the cusp, the verge of civil war. But the ugly truth is that by every practical definition historical, numerical and political Iraq is already in the grip of a civil war.


As Paul Starobin points out in a bleak but brilliant assessment in The National Journal, civil wars tend to end only when one side crushes the other. If it came to an all-out communal war, the majority Shia would probably win, but at a cost of inflaming the entire region, for the implications of Iraqs civil war extend far beyond her borders. Like the Spanish Civil War, the conflict would surely draw in neighbours: Sunnis from Saudi Arabia and Jordan in support of Iraqi Sunnis, Iranian Shia backing their co-religionists.

The civil war in Bosnia was ended by outside intervention, but in Iraq it was military action by outsiders that created the power vacuum into which civil war erupted. Civil wars may peter out through sheer psychological exhaustion, when the cycle of reprisal and revenge finally runs its course, as happened in Algeria; boredom played an important part in subduing the conflict in Northern Ireland. In Iraq, that point seems bloodily distant.

This is Bush and Blair's legacy. For ever and ever and ever.
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