Cultural Revolutions

Violence in Iraq

Violence in Iraq has escalated, following the February 22 attack on the revered Shiite shrine al-Askari in Samarra.  Some 200 Sunni and Shiite mosques were attacked, burned, or bombed in the two-month period after the attack.  The weekly toll of explosions, retaliatory attacks, and targeted killings has prompted many commentators to describe the chaotic conflict as a “civil war.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rums-feld, under renewed pressure for the U.S. military’s lack of progress or an exit strategy, rejected this designation.  He claimed that many reports of violence were “exaggerated” and accused the media of giving heart to the terrorists and discouraging those who hope for success.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, commentators in the Arab world accused the United States of surreptitiously fomenting sectarian violence in order to have a reason for an extended military presence.  “Claims that Iraq is about or has already fallen into a civil war benefits [sic] the occupation hugely,” opined Al Jazeera on April 21.  It quoted veteran British reporter Robert Fisk as saying that Iraq is not a sectarian but a tribal society, yet “somebody,” nevertheless, is trying to provoke a civil war: “The real question I ask myself is: who are these people . . . ?  Now the Americans will say it’s Al Qaeda, it’s...

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