Mr. Cheney assures us that there is no civil war in Iraq, and that the constant bombings are the result of insurgents. Or extremists. Or maybe just terrorists. The violence, you see, is a “desperate tactic…to stop the move to democracy.*” There’s simply no way it would be an embedded and serious problem. Mr. Cheney claims that violent factors within Iraq are trying to instigate a civil war, but have failed in this aim. (Much like we have failed in our aim to come, conquer, and leave.)

Which is interesting, because people in Iraq, including the Iraqi people, maintain that there is, in fact, a civil war.

At the heart of this struggle over words is a struggle over politics. I suspect that if the American government admitted that Iraq is experiencing civil war, the calls for withdrawal would only increase. For this reason, the American government has a vested interest in marginalizing and belittling the violence in Iraq. To do otherwise is to admit defeat, and this is an unacceptable course. This is becoming their war. We started it, to be sure, put the match to tinder, but the Iraqis haven’t jumped to put the fire out, either.

I am beginning to suspect that Mr. Cheney lives in an interesting alternate fantasy land, and I wish that he would invite me over. In his world, it seems, we are winning the war, troop morale is at an all time high, and insurgency in Iraq is on the wane. Negative feelings about the war are due to the irresponsible media printing negative stories about Iraq. That silly liberal media prefers covering car bombings to the machinations of democracy. Perhaps if Iraq’s parliament actually met, the media could report on it, eh?

It seems fairly clear to me that Iraq is struggling with a civil war. Various factions within the country are fighting for power. Sometimes via political means, and sometimes via less diplomatic channels. I’m not sure I would call the civil war a revolution, although forces are aiming for change of some sort or another. And yes, they are using terrorist tactics to get the point across–nothing like a brisk car bombing to make sure someone has gotten the message.

I disagree that there must be organized battles and armies present for a condition to be called a civil war. During the American Revolution, for example, American troops used insurgent tactics against the British, and use of unconventional military tactics was one of the reasons we won (an old British friend obliges me to say “and the French helped, of course.”) I suspect that the same people who ardently maintain that Iraq is not in the throes of a civil war would be offended to hear the American Revolution referred to as an insurgency. Because it wasn’t, and what’s going on in Iraq isn’t.

It’s important to me to call things by their names. When ideological splits are tearing a nation apart, when factions are using violence as a political tool, when people within a nation are attacking each other, it’s a civil war, Mr. Cheney.