When NBC and MSNBC began to refer to the civil war in Iraq by its proper name, they took the predictable hits from rightwing media -- Fox personalities were aghast at the notion that journalists might actually go off the White House script, while Rush Limbaugh says he doesn't really care what we call the fight because its time to "just blow the place up."
With all due respect to Mr. Limbaugh and the clarifying power of his preferred substances, it does matter what we call the fight in Iraq.
If what is taking place in that country is a civil war, as opposed to a meaningful battle in the war on terror, then there is every reason to withdraw U.S. troops from the region as quickly as possible. At a point when polling shows that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want the U.S. troops to leave, when Americans say they want an exit strategy not just in polls but in their votes on election day, and when U.S. and British military analysts are reaching a consensus that a continuing U.S. presence fosters anti-American sentiment globally, there is simply no reason to keep young men and women from East St. Louis and Ottumwa in the crossfire between Sunni and Shia death squads.
So is it a civil war?
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says it is.
"I would call it a civil war," the man who ran the State Department during President Bush's first term told a forum in the United Arab Emirates this week.
"I have been using it (the phrase 'civil war') because I like to face the reality," Powell explained, according to news reports from the business conference he was attending in the Persian Gulf state.
Powell, whose testimony before the United Nations prior to the war played a critical role in "selling" the project, was asked at Wednesday's conference whether he regretted that testimony. The former secretary of state said he did, indeed, regret it, while making the excuse that he was working with the information that was available to him at the time.
What does the information that Powell is now working with tell him?
While he is still stopping short of calling for full withdrawal, Reuters reports that Powell said that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq should be reduced.
It is time, Powell said, to begin winding down the U.S. presence because, he explained, "The coming strategy has to be an Iraqi strategy, not American strategy."
Has Powell joined the cut and runners? No. As he says, he's just decided that he prefers to face reality.
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