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Monday, November 27, 2006
Civil War in Iraq? Finkelstein Doesn't Say Why It's Not
Topic: NewsBusters

A Nov. 27 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein chastises NBC for calling the sectarian violence in Iraq a "civil war":

The MSM has experienced embarrassing episodes of premature declaration before, notably in Florida 2000. Is the case stronger here? Is this quibbling over terminology, or is there something larger at stake?

Note also [Matt] Lauer's statement that NBC News consulted with "a lot of people," and that McCaffrey chose to "weigh in on the side of calling this a civil war." That seems to suggest that there was another "side" among people NBC consulted who took the opposing view. But Today never told us who they were or what they had to say.

Finkelstein certainly seems to disapprove of NBC using the "civil war" terminology, as his flip reference to the 2000 election indicates. But he fails to offer any argument for why it shouldn't be used. If one is going to attack the logic of others -- and, specifically, attack them for not substantiating their claim -- shouldn't one offer a logical, substantiated claim in response?

A tag at the end of the item notes that "Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq." But the articles he wrote for about his trip were puff pieces mostly concerned with attacking the idea of immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq -- something no major U.S. politican has pushed. He did, however, quote Iraqi deputy prime minister Barham Salih as saying that "extremist forces were trying to push Iraq into all-out civil war, and he predicted that in the next few weeks, the Iraqi government would have to make some very serious choices."

So Finkelstein appears to know that using "civil war" to describe the situation in Iraq is not an outlandish assertion, since he used it himself. So why not defend his argument instead of resorting to flip claims about "premature declaration"?

Posted by Terry K. at 9:33 AM EST

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