CNN’s Hala Gorani reports today that in conversation, Colin Powell told her that “if he were still heading the State Department, he probably would recommend to the Bush administration that those terms [civil war] should be used in order to come to terms with the reality on the ground.”
This debate of whether or not to finally apply the label “civil war” began with the eruption of violence over the weekend, with CNN’s Michael Ware reporting, “For the people living on the streets, for Iraqis in their homes, if this is not civil war, or a form of it, then they do not want to see what one really looks like…. We’re talking about Sunni neighborhoods shelling Shia neighborhoods, and Shia neighborhoods shelling back.”
Soon after, NBC decided it would use the phrase, Dan Froomkin nodded approvingly, and we were off to the races. The Nation writes today that this may signal the true awakening of the mainstream media.
The real confusion here, of course, lies in the fact that no firm or commonly accepted definition of “civil war” exists, coupled with the fact that we live in time in which words and phrases, bent in a million different ways and co-opted for the purposes of spin, retain little meaning. Unsurprisingly, The Daily Show makes this point best.