BAGHDAD — I don’t see a civil war in Iraq. I don’t see a constituency for civil war. The vast majority of the people want hope for their families, not to massacre their neighbors or divide their country. A poll conducted in June by the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan group that promotes democracy, found 89 percent of Iraqis supporting a unity government representing all sects and ethnic communities. No wonder no “rebel army” steps forward to claim credit for vicious car bombs and cowardly executions of civilians.
I see debates among Iraqis — often angry and sometimes divisive — but arguments characteristic of political discourse, not political breakdown. The Council of Representatives meets here in Baghdad as the sole legitimate sovereign representative of the people, 12 million of whom braved bombs and threats last December to vote. No party has seceded or claimed independent territory.
I see a representative government exercising control over the sole legitimate armed authority in Iraq, the Iraqi Security Force. After decades in which the armed services were tools of oppression, Iraq is taking time to build an army and national police force loyal to all. There have been setbacks, but also great successes. In Fallujah, a city almost lost two years ago, I have seen the cooperation between the local army commander, a Shiite, and the police chief, a Sunni.
I don’t see terrorist and criminal elements mounting campaigns for territory. Al-Qaeda in Iraq doesn’t use roadside bombs, suicidal mass murderers and rocket barrages to gain and hold ground. Extremist Shiite death squads don’t shoot people in the back of the head to further their control of the government. I do see random executions seeking to instill fear and insecurity. I don’t see a struggle between armies and aligned political parties competing to rule.
I studied civil wars at West Point and at the Army Command and Staff College. I respect the credentials and opinions of those who want to hang that label here. But I respectfully — and strongly — disagree. I see the Iraqi people suffering from overlapping terrorist campaigns by extremist groups combined with the mass criminality that too often accompanies the sudden toppling of a dictatorship. This poses a different military challenge than does a civil war.
As the Iraqi people labor to build a country based on human rights and respect for all citizens, they are moving from the law of the gun to the rule of law. Violence will increase before life gets better. Those who know that freedom and democracy offer more hope than anarchy will not give up.
Regardless of what academics and pundits decide to label this conflict, hundreds of thousands of brave Iraqi soldiers, police officers and civil servants will continue to go to work building a free, prosperous and united Iraq. And every day more than 137,000 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen will lace up their boots, strap on their body armor and drive ahead with our mission to support these courageous Iraqis.
Army Maj. Gen. Caldwell is the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.Top