On Hannity & Colmes, Brent Bozell criticized NBC News' decision to refer to the situation in Iraq as a "civil war," saying that there are "probably 100 generals" in Iraq "who would disagree" with that assessment. Bozell offered no specific examples of any high-ranking military officials who have said Iraq is not in the midst of a civil war.
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On the November 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Media Research Center founder and president L. Brent Bozell III criticized as "entirely an editorial comment" the decision by NBC News to refer to violence in Iraq as a "civil war." He asserted that Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC's Today, had "said that he consulted with a lot of people, and then he put on one general who agreed with him." Bozell added that Lauer had ignored "probably 100 generals in the field in Iraq who would disagree" with NBC News' assessment of the situation there. Bozell offered no specific examples of any high-ranking military officials who have said Iraq is not in the midst of a civil war, though a Media Matters for America review* did find one such military leader.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for the Multinational Force in Iraq. Caldwell told reporters on November 28 that a civil war was not under way "because the government is still functioning. ... We don't see an organization trying to overthrow it and assume control. ... We also see a security force that is responsive to the government." However, a number of retired generals have declared Iraq to be in a civil war, while numerous military officials, including commanders in Iraq, have warned for months that continued violence there could lead to civil war. Further, while active-duty officers cannot defy the commander-in-chief, whose press secretary has said Iraq is not involved in a civil war and who has himself declined to state that Iraq is involved in a civil war, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said on the March 19 broadcast of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that U.S. military generals told him "privately" that there has been "a low-grade civil war going on in Iraq, certainly the last six months, maybe the last year."
On the November 27 broadcast of NBC's Today, discussing NBC News' decision to call the situation in Iraq a civil war, Lauer noted, "This took careful deliberation. We consulted with a lot of people." He then asked retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey: "Why did you weigh in on the side of calling this a civil war?" McCaffrey responded:
McCAFFREY: Well, Matt, to be honest, I've been calling it a civil war, low-grade conflict, for 18 months. Now it's on the verge of spinning out of control. We, clearly, without question, have massive levels of violence, thousands are being killed each month, and it's a struggle, without question, between two factions -- in this case Shia and Kurds -- who have separate political agendas.
In addition to McCaffrey, a number of other retired military officers have publicly said that a civil war is already under way in Iraq:
- Retired Maj. Gen. William L. Nash: "We're in a civil war now; it's just that not everybody's joined in. ... The failure to understand that the civil war is already taking place, just not necessarily at the maximum level, means that our counter measures are inadequate and therefore dangerous to our long-term interest." [ABC News, 03/05/06]
- Retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr. and retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns: "There already is a civil war, even if the Administration doesn't use that term. It is beside the point that one side doesn't wear uniforms, a common occurrence in today's warfare. With conservative estimates of 12,000 - 25,000 civilian deaths and many more thousands wounded since the fall of Baghdad, the high level of civil violence is indisputable." [Nuclear Age Peace Foundation article, 11/05]
- Retired Col. Jack Jacobs: "If that isn't a civil war in Iraq, then I don't know what else you would call it, and you'd be wrong if you called it anything else." [MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 11/27/06]
During a November 28 press conference, when asked whether Iraq was embroiled in a civil war, Bush responded that there was "sectarian violence" and that there was "all kinds of speculation about what may be or not happening." During his November 27 press gaggle, White House press secretary Tony Snow said that the administration does not classify the violence in Iraq as a civil war because "you have not yet had a situation also where you have two clearly defined and opposing groups vying not only for power, but for territory." Active members of the U.S. military are bound by numerous provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to not contradict the administration's position. However, several top commanders, while not publicly stating that the violence in Iraq constitutes a civil war, have warned for months that civil war would be likely unless the violence stopped:
- Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli: "We're trying to knock down sectarian violence and go after those folks, those death squads that have caused this new form of violence, that if left unchecked could lead to civil war." [The Washington Post, 09/16/06]
- Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East: "The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war." [Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 08/03/06]
- Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "[W]e do have the possibility of [factional violence] devolving into civil war." [Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 08/03/06]
- Gen. George Casey: "A countrywide, a threat of a countrywide civil war, I think that, I would say, that probably is the most significant threat right now." Casey told ABC News that, in his estimation, the violence in Iraq did not constitute a civil war at that time. [ABC News, 08/07/06]
From the November 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: NBC's Today show opened this morning with host Matt Lauer, declaring the network has decided to characterize the struggle in Iraq as a, quote unquote, "civil war." Lauer went on to state that NBC had consulted with a lot of people in determining this extreme change in terminology, also pointing out that the White House strongly objected to NBC News' stance.
Joining us now is president of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell, Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz. Brent, it seems that they -- they think that they're Walter Cronkite and they want to have an impact here, but they've never done this -- they've never given the American public the story about all the success in Iraq. It seems always to be lost in all of this.
BOZELL: Well, it does. It's entirely an editorial comment that Matt Lauer made today. It's in keeping with the policy of NBC News, however, which has been to do nothing but report the negative. Now, this guy was in Iraq -- now that I'm remembering this right now -- last year, where he went to interview the troops, trying over and over and over again to get them to tell him that there was a morale problem, and one by one told him that there wasn't a morale problem. This is an editorial comment, through and through. Look, he said that he consulted with a lot of people, and then he put on one general who agreed with him. He didn't put on all the generals, including probably 100 generals in the field in Iraq right now who would disagree with him.
* Search of Nexis News database for "Iraq" and "not w/5 civil war" and "Gen.", month of November.