Unfortunately, this wonderful bit of happiness is overshadowed by the reality of an Iraq situation that grows more dire by the day. The debate has coalesced around arguments about whether or not Iraq is indeed embroiled in a civil war. Conservative warhawks say emphatically "No", because, of course, the reality of a civil war in Iraq belies their narrative of a blossoming peaceful democracy there. Yet the reality of ongoing violence between Iraqi factions remains.
Markos has a fascinating take on the nature of civil war, which applies directly to Iraq:
There's a laughable assumption in wingnutlandia that civil war means perpetual explosions, machine gun fire in the streets, and a people cowering under their kitchen tables. They look at Iraq and scoff at the notion that the nation is wracked by civil war (even though the country's former PM has already declared his nation is suffering such a war).
The Civil War I partly lived through, in El Salvador, cost 100,000 lives over 12 years. That's an average of 23 per day.
The civil war in Algeria has cost 200,000 lives since 1988, or roughly 37 killed per day.
And so on. What we're seeing in Iraq is far more horrific than your garden-variety modern-day civil war. It truly, honestly, isn't a matter of debate anymore. As for temperature, it's already twice to three times as hot of some of the most recent, deadliest civil wars.
This belies the notion by conservative war supporters that somehow Iraq is not in a civil war because the level of violence doesn't reach that point. I can't fathom the reasoning behind this, unless it is some attempt to compare Iraq to our civil war. This Stalin-esque idea that the civil war in Iraq is not so serious because the death toll hasn't reached a high enough level yet is a truly frightening example of how dehumanized the Iraqis have become to the war's supporters. This cavalier attitude is born out of the comfortable catharsis of supporting a war in which you're not actively taking part or living through. It's disgusting, frankly, and shows just how morally bankrupt the pro-war crowd is.
Further, another iteration of this immoral numbers game of lives is the claim that the 30 lives or so lost each day in Iraq are really not that significant. After all, many more Americans are killed daily in automobile accidents, etc. This rationale is laughably obtuse and demonstrates a real lack of both math skills and empathy on the part of the conservatives. First of all, the United States is about 10 times the size of Iraq. I find it impossible to believe that if 300+ Americans were dying each day in shootings and bombings across the country, that conservatives would find little about which to be concerned. Our country would be in a complete state of panic if such a thing were occurring. If the United States were losing 109,000 people per year in domestic militant violence, it would be one of the greatest catastrophes our nation had ever faced. And yet, conservative war supporters blithely dismiss the same level of violence in Iraq as being "ordinary" or, worse, a figment of the media's imagination. Again, it must be so very easy to hold the lives of others so cheaply when it's not your neighborhood being bombed.
Second, the complete lack of empathy towards the Iraqi people by the conservatives is sickening, especially given that helping the Iraqi people is their latest and greatest justification for Bush's war. They're only too happy to consign the Iraqi people to a life of violence and chaos, all in the name of spreading "freedom and democracy", yet they scoff at the idea that the level of violence in Iraq is serious. How very noble of our brave conservative war fanatics to lay down other people's lives for their ideology. Perhaps a little respect, a little empathy is due the Iraqi people; the people who are actually paying the price for Bush's "Big Idea".
In Markos' article, he also quotes a great passage from Peter Daou, who lived through the Lebanese civil war, that really sheds some light on the reality that conservatives so vehemently deny:
While "civil war" is a unitary term that connotes a single event of fixed duration, the daily reality is that life goes on, albeit in fits and starts.
Ceasefires are punctuated by artillery battles punctuated by peace summits punctuated by assassinations punctuated by more ceasefires punctuated by car bombs, and on and on.
One day we'd see kids playing in playgrounds, parents shopping for food, sunbathers on the beaches, the next we'd huddle in bomb shelters as rockets rained down on the city. One day we'd drive to a mountain village to visit with friends, the next we'd hear about people being shot at or kidnapped or disappearing on the same roads we traversed a day before. One minute we'd be sitting down to a quiet meal, the next we'd be racing for the basement as salvos of missiles slammed into buildings and streets and shops and homes.
The violence ebbs and flows, but for ordinary citizens - the lucky ones who survive - what remains is the misery and uncertainty, the demoralization and despair. With regional forces acting as puppet-masters, the victims are the people, the residents of the bombed out and burning cities and towns and villages. And the hatred cuts deep. Village pitted against village, cousin pitted against cousin, friend pitted against friend, neighbor pitted against neighbor, the wounds, physical and emotional, will last long after the violence ends.
So to the cheerleaders of this tragedy, I wish you could have lived it before you so glibly inflicted it on others.
As I've said before, the debate which began to settle around whether or not the Iraq situation had become a civil war is really moot. It's nothing but a desperate attempt by conservatives to divorce themselves from the harsh reality of war. War is the ultimate failure of statesmanship and, moreso, humanity. Certainly some good can come from war, but it's good that could be achieved in other ways, that carries with it such terrible costs as to be the grossest evil mankind can perpetuate on itself. How much greater then is the evil of a war started for no good reason, to champion a failed political ideology? The Iraqi people have paid and continue to pay a terrible price, along with our military personnel, for a war with no more purpose than to provide a laboratory for neo-conservative foreign policy, while most of the Americans who supported the war sit back here in comfort watching the death and destruction and pretending it's not significant.
The war's supporters continue to maintain that we must "stay the course" and "achieve victory" in Iraq, no matter the cost, which, again, is very noble since most of them won't actually be paying that cost. The reality is that there is no victory available in Iraq for the United States. That ship sailed the day the invasion began. There were other ways to help foment a democracy taking root in Iraq. But those options required patience and time, and were just not sexy enough for the pro-war crowd. In the dimwitted fantasy world of the pro-war crowd, military action equals decisive action; it's the good guys taking it to the bad guys and scoring the big win. The long-term diplomatic and humanitarian work required to actually build a new democracy just doesn't pack the cathartic wallop of "shock and awe!". Unfortunately, unlike the simplistic, black-and-white world where Bush and his supporters live, the real Iraq is a place of violence, chaos and hard decisions that will not be popular or exciting. Such is the reality of war, civil or otherwise.