April 5, 2006

When Civil War Is Too Darn Civil

Hatched by Dafydd

I had thoughts about the supposed "civil war" in Iraq, but I decided not to bother posting them. I thought nobody would be interested, because -- I assumed -- the claim was so tortuous that it would just be a passing fad.

Boy howdy, was I wrong about that. Here's former Democratic nominee John Kerry, that man who would have been president (but for three hundred thousand votes), tooting the "civil war" horn in his op-ed piece in today's New York Times:

We are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.

So maybe I was also wrong that nobody would be interested in my civil-war ruminations. Here was my point:

What bothers me most about the claim that Iraq is in a civil war is the mendacious motive behind it all. If a fellow were using a consistent definition of civil war for some sociological, political, or military purpose, and that definition was a little looser than I would like, it wouldn't really irritate me. But those who sling around the claim, like Sen. Kerry (D-MA), have a very shifty purpose in mind.

The technique is to redefine some common but horrific term to scoop in far more cases than it ought... but still rely upon the frisson of the original meaning to make readers think the situation is more dire than it is.

For example, the late gender-feminist Andrea Dworkin (Rush Limbaugh would definitely call her a "feminazi") redefined "rape" to include all heterosexual sex. PETA routinely redefines the word "murder" to include the killing of animals, even for food. Both rely upon the very real horror people feel when the contemplate the normal and usual definitions of those words to manipulate them into feeling the same horror for perfectly ordinary activities.

And now "civil war;" I have seen some very wide, obtuse definitions that could apply to virtually any conflict on any level, so long as the fighting takes place all in one country. One writer I know even claims that America in the late 1960s was in a "civil war."

(He refers to the protests and street action against the Vietnam War -- for example, the ructions surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which spawned this infamous mangled explanation by Mayor Richard Daley the elder: "The police in Chicago are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve disorder!")

In some circumstances, such open-ended definitions can be useful. We can talk about infighting within a club as a civil war, or we can say "John and Mary's divorce turned into a civil war." We could talk about the Basque terrorism in Spain as being a "low-level civil war." And if we made plain how we were using the word and didn't try to imply anything stronger, we'd be on terra firma.

But the Democrats know very well what most people will imagine when they hear that "Iraq is in an escalating civil war": they think of Rwanda, with its hundreds of thousands butchered by machetes. They think of Bosnia or Kosovo; they think of Vietnam, where millions were killed.

Perhaps the more historical minded think of the bloody civil war in Russia after the Czar was deposed, the war between White and Red Communists, or the terrible civil war in Spain between the Fascists, the Communists, and the Anarchists. Americans probably think of Antietam and Shiloh and Gettysburg.

Clearly this is what John Kerry wants us to think, for in his very next breath, he is espousing near defeatism and calling on us to threaten to pull out immediately -- and in any event to leave by the end of the year:

Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.... [that we might win]

Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military....

If Iraq's leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end.

When John Kerry says "civil war," he may have in his mind something like what France is undergoing right now -- riots and general strikes -- plus some terrorism. But it's what he knows is in your minds that is offensive: deliberately relying upon the revulsion that average Americans feel towards actual, full-blown civil war, which would imply total failure of our effort, is undeniably a lie by inuendo.

It's like saying a man is a rapist and murderer, when what you really mean is he beds his wife, and he sometimes kills his own chickens for eats.

It's a vile, craven, boorish debater's trick that plays upon people's natural assumption that distinguished senators don't lie... and it makes me shake with retroactive terror at the thought that Kerry very nearly found himself ensconced in the Oval Office.

I know it's a tiny point, the logical fallacy of using one peculiar meaning of a word, knowing your audience will infer a quite different and much more apocalyptic meaning. There probably isn't even a Latin phrase for it. It's cheap and shoddy; it's the ultimate in "gotcha" arguments. And it is meaningless, except insofar as it may mislead the mentally weak.

So was it even worth bringing up at all? I'm still not sure.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Davod

Remember they say that Democrats never change their spots. Kerry is running true to form.

In the 70s he attended at least two sessions withn the North Vietnames in Paris. At a time when we were still at war.

Now he suggests a civil war and wants to have a meeting to get all parties together. He means the ratbags killing civilians. He wants to bring the criminals to the negotiating table after they have already lost.

This is what the French tried to do during the Vietnam War (after they got kicked out). The French also tried to do the same thing with Iraq WarII. They wanted to get the Baathists and others together after the fighting had stopped but the ratbags started killing civilians. Another way to give credance to illegitimate

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 3:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: CroolWurld

I heard on NPR this morning, with regard to 527 legislation, that Kerry had been "ambushed" by the Swift Boat Veterans. Politics is hell, ain't it?

The above hissed in response by: CroolWurld [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 5:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Over long term it is easy to see a pattern in Kerry's approach to military situations: running away and self promotion.
He bailed out early from his Vietnam tour after filing for very dubious medals.
He made a name for himself betraying his fellow soldiers and lying about what the war in Vietnam was like. He traded with the enemy in Paris.
He was against American strength during the Cold War.
He voted against the first Gulf War.
He has been trying to dress up his call for defeat and retreat in this war for years now.
There is some deeper psychology happening in this man than jsut being another corrupt anti-American leftist.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 6:14 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

I think the voters are (as a whole) smart enough to see through these verbal sleights of hand, and I think most people think less of Kerry every time he opens his mouth this way. I don't worry about John Kerry.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 6:50 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Oh, and changing direction for a moment to this question of "civil war in Iraq": while we readers of biglizards may realize what a canard this is, that fact may well be slowly sinking in even on the left! This is big news, even though John Kerry hasn't realized it yet. My evidence is that the Brookings Institution just released their most recent analysis of casualties in Iraq, and have concluded that declines are trending down for troops, for Iraqi police and for Iraqi civilians. This got picked up on at least one lefty bolg (hey, I know, it's only one! that's better than none.). Check out Election Analysis blog.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 7:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Sorry, I forgot to say that Instapundit pointed out the momentous news (above) to me.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 7:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: mbnyan

Part of the problem with this debate about whether there is really "civil war" in Iraq is that most people lack an understanding of what the actual situation in Iraq has been since 2003.

The entire situation has been mischaracterized by the media for years. If people had understood what was actually going on there, then you could call it what you want and people wouldn't be decieved. However since most people get their news from media which can't cover more than a sound bite, a term like "civil war" becomes the definition of the situation rather than merely a description which people can accept or reject based on their own knowledge.

The solution to the problem of over stretching the term "civil war" is the same as the solution to the problem that allows that term to become part of the debate: Educate people about what the real situation is. Then they can decide for themselves if it is a civil war or not.

Unfortunately educating people is a difficult thing, but blogs like this are part of that solution.

The above hissed in response by: mbnyan [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 11:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: rightonq

I couldn't have said it better myself. When reading this, I was thinking that you were saying exactly what I'd been thinking but couldn't put into words.

The above hissed in response by: rightonq [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 12:28 PM

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