I first saw this story this morning in the Boston Metro, front page and above the fold.  The Christian Science Monitor has the full story online.  (Don’t let their name fool you.  The Christian Science Monitor is a solid, respectable newspaper — well, at least as much as any mainstream US paper is these days …)

I’m not sure this is what the Bush League had in mind when they said — again — that we were “turning the corner” in Iraq.

BAGHDAD – Finding a way to head off civil war is at the heart of all the major initiatives – including the talks over a new constitution – in Iraq. But by most common political-science definitions of the term, “civil war” is already here.

“It’s not a threat. It’s not a potential. Civil war is a fact of life there now,” says Pavel Baev, head of the Center for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway.

Baev’s simple declaration is based partly on a “academic thumbnail definition of a civil war”.  I’m not sure where they get this, but the article defines a civil war as “a conflict with at least 1,000 battlefield casualties, involving a national government and one or more nonstate actors fighting for power.”

The body count in Iraq is tough to estimate, but …

According to www.iraqbodycount.net, a website run by academics and peace activists, 24,865 Iraqi civilians were killed between March 2003 and March 2005. The report said that US-led forces killed 37 percent of the total.

The spreadsheets in Dr. Faad Ameen Bakr’s computer shed some light on the casualty rate. Baghdad’s chief pathologist pulls down the death toll for Iraq’s capital in July: 1,083 murders, a new record.

Note that the definition of civil war is not 1,000 per month, but 1,000 total.  If we were just counting July and we were only counting Baghdad, the situation in Iraq would still qualify as a civil war.  (Oh, and to put a final ugly emphasis on the numbers … they do not include the deaths from car-bombings.)

As to whether or not the situation in Iraq involves “a national government and one or more nonstate actors” …

A year ago it was common to hear Iraqi politicians say most of the fighting was resistance to US occupation, and would subside with a US military withdrawal. Today, few voice that view.

“We are living in an undeclared civil war among Iraq’s political groups,” says Nabil Yunos, the head of political affairs for the Dignity Party, a Sunni party. “It’s not just Sunnis that are the problem. It’s the Shiites, the Kurds, it’s everyone. The violence has gotten worse, and we’re entering a very dangerous period.”

Go read the rest of the article for a good primer on the situation, but the short version is grim but unsurprising to anyone in the reality-based world … it’s a fuckin’ mess and there’s no easy way to clean it up.

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