The question everyone seems to be asking is, is Iraq disintegrating into civil war?

We know that over 700 people have been killed since the February 22 Samara bombing, and that reprisal attacks are most likely far from over. Interethnic conflict rages on – around 85 bodies were found within a 24-hour period on March 14th, killed execution-style. Bodies are dumped in various parts of Baghdad, be it in mass graves or even more in bomb attacks. Many of them are unable to even be identified as Sunni or Shia.

The violence in Iraq is clearly far from over, whether the US is involved or not. The fact that there is no secure plan in place for the future, and that President Bush now openly admits that the war will most likely outlast his presidency, are facts that comfort no one, least of all the people in Iraq.

It has been three years already, and hope seems to be waning – on all sides. According to recent polls, U.S. opinion is at a nearly 70% disapproval rating of how President Bush is handling the war in Iraq.*

In the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Nicholas Sambanis of the Department of Political Science at Yale University offers insight into the nature of civil war:

‘Without ad hoc rules to code its start and end and differentiate it from other violence, it is difficult, if not impossible, to define and measure civil war. A wide range of variation in parameter estimates makes accurate predictions of war onset difficult, and differences in empirical results are greater with respect to war continuation.’

So the question of whether or not we call it a ‘civil war’ in Iraq is irrelevant. The gruesome events will occur and will continue to occur, and to say it is not a civil war today but will be or may be one tomorrow is also irrelevant. The fact is that it is a place where its citizens do not feel safe anywhere, where violence exists indefinitely, and protection from the US (or anyone, for that matter) does not appear to be enough.

Everyone knew that the transition to democracy in Iraq would not be easy, but we need to be mindful that democracy will prevail, and that it is worth the price – despite the looming nature of recent events, and whether we call it a civil war or any other name.

*Newsweek Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. March 16-17, 2006