There’s the war, and there’s the war about what to call the war.

So is the conflict in Iraq a civil war? Yes, according to The Los Angeles Times, NBC News, most correspondents at CNN, The New York Times and increasingly more media outlets.

No, according to the White House. “I hear people say, ‘Well, civil war this, civil war that,’” the President said in August. “The Iraqi people decided against civil war when they went to the ballot box and a unity government is working to respond to the will of the people.”

The semantics are vitally important to the President, of course, because he will find himself defending the indefensible if America is officially seen to be fighting on this scale in another country’s civil war for no apparent reason. And the same applies to Australia’s involvement.

Like almost everything else about this war – its genesis, its conduct and its spin — the debate about what to call the Iraq conflict is farcical. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck … it’s a civil war.

Peter Fray

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