Iraq’s Civil War Grinds on, with 62 Dead, 200 Wounded in Karbala Blasts

Bombings took the lives of 62 Shiite pilgrims, mostly in the holy city of Karbala, but also in Diyala province. Sunni Arab guerrillas are still attempting to destabilize the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by provoking Shiite-Sunni feuds and spreading a feeling of instability that interferes with investment and reconstruction. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed some 60 persons in the northern Sunni Arab city of Tikrit, as they were standing in a police recruitment line. The Sunni Arab guerrillas are thus still pursuing a strategy of punishing Sunni Arabs for what they see as ‘collaboration’ and of attempting to foment Sunni-Shiite civil violence.

Al-Hayat, writing in Arabic, reports that authorities halted the pilgrim processions in Karbala as soon as the first bomb went off.

The bombings come at a time when al-Maliki still has not filled key cabinet portfolios such as Interior and Defense, for the moment holding them himself. The bombings are thus an embarrassment to the recently formed national unity government and its prime minister. In the past two days, bombings and attacks have killed at least 139 persons in Iraq, including the attack in Tikrit and further bombings in Diyala Province. The violence is typically blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq, a shadowy terrorist organization supposedly affiliated to al-Qaeda. But likely the bombings are the work of cells of disgruntled Iraqi Sunni Arabs, including Arab nationalists as well as fundamentalists, who do not accept the dominance of Iraq by Shiites and Kurds or the new Baghdad alliance with Tehran.

All these years after George W. Bush’s insane war of choice against Iraq, that country remains mired in civil war, as social scientists define it:

“Sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1,000 battle-deaths per year, pitting central government forces against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance, determined by the latter’s ability to inflict upon the government forces at least 5 percent of the fatalities that the insurgents sustain.” (Errol A. Henderson and J. David Singer, “Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, May 2000.)

Some 676 insurgents were killed in Iraq in 2010 , according to Iraq Body Count. To meet the Henderson and Singer criterion for a civil war, the guerrillas would thus have to kill about 34 Iraqi troops annually. In fact, they killed 408, or 60% of the fatalities that the insurgents sustained. Actually, one could argue that we should include the 60 US troops killed in this number, and perhaps even the 1,075 policemen, many of whom undertake paramilitary duties. In the maximal case, the insurgents killed 1.543 government or government-allied security forces, or over twice the number that Iraqi government forces killed among the guerrillas.

The total of deaths from political violence in Iraq in 2010 was 5,167. This number included 4,023 civilians, though apparently the 1,075 policemen killed are being included in that ‘civilian’ category.

In any case, Henderson and Singer would certainly consider Iraq a civil war on the basis of these statistics.

The bad news is that there is no early prospect of this civil war ending, and security improvements have leveled off in recent months.

All this is not to say that the 47,000 US troops still in the country should remain (at all!) If Arabic-speaking, Iraqi Shiite troops and police could not stop a truck bombing in Karbala, US troops wouldn’t have a prayer of doing so. This level of violence cannot in fact bring down the Iraqi government. But it can keep Iraq from attracting foreign investment and keep the population nervous, and so is an element of destabilization.

Bush and the Neoconservatives’ shining beacon on a hill has in fact become a nearly 8 year long civil war, with no end in sight.

19 Responses

  1. No it is not. Noticed that the targets are pilgrims because they are softer and easier targets then military ones.

    Yes there is violence, however to call this a civil war is not true. The Diyala province was the area that I was in from May2…008 to July 2009 with over 165 missions with the main cause of enemy action from IEDs. More so from actively going seeking IEDs to disarm/destroy them. Talking to the many of the people that had to deal with what was going in in Iraq in the past and the difference is staggering. The main area that is still having issues is Mosul.

    Iraq is a place then is completely different than anything you can imagine, they way they live, exceptions of life and what to expect. I could tell you for days what to expect and it will still not prepare you for what you will see.

    • Well it fits the definition. To deny it, you’d have to show that the definition is wrong. That the guerrillas use IEDs as a weapon of choice does not challenge the definition to my mind.

      • It matters greatly because we are comparing it to our country. A better example would be someone claiming that there is a civil war during the 20s becuase of all the mob fighting and crime.

        The PKK is a good example, they have been doing ter…rorist attacks on Turkey to the point were Turkey and even Iran have launched air and artillery strikes in northern Iraq. This has been going on for years and I have yet to even hear people call this a civil war.

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        The closest thing to a Civil War happened when Muqtada al-Sadr tried to cause the Diyala providence to revolt. But he fled the country for the safety of Iran while giving his troops a “fight to the death command”. His army was eliminated as a effective fighting force. There is still violence but nothing really came close to a organized revolt after that.

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        Also with the IEDs the big change was that in the first part we were finding them everywhere, but now only if we look for trouble. Not to bring in the fact that Iraq has a lot of unexploded ordinances around on the east part of the country from the Iran=Iraq war that are still laying around.

        • Yeah, you’ve lost me altogether by comparing the Iraqi guerrilla movements to mere US crime. Iraq has crime syndicates, too; we’re not even talking about all the violence and deaths that come out of them.

      • It matters because if you have not lived a area how do you know what is regular crimes and what is not. A murder in a small town will have a different affect then a murder in a large city.

        Also have you ever been to Iraq, let alone the Diyala province? I have been in many of the places that this author is talking about for 14 months.

  2. Prof. Cole, I wonder if maybe some new categories and definitions are worth academic discussion.

    Maybe the closest fit for a descriptor for the daytoday in Iraq, from the current informed and dispassionate thinking and writing on the subject, is the cited pronouncement on what constitutes a civil war, post-Colonial style. But maybe some other words, even neologisms, might even better capture the situation, gain the necessary “traction” in The Narrative, and help guide the Thinking Class, and maybe even the Great Game of Real World RISK! players, into urging bits of policy and behavior that might lessen the circular and chaotic nature of All That. Even if the drivers of the Situation, the profiteering and political-power-seeking and Baksheesh-bobbling and fundamental(ist) fact that humans with their tribal wiring still intact find semi-organized violence and freedom from RuleofLaw just so, well, liberating.

    And FUN! I mean, can you appreciate how much FUN it is, adrenaline-rush exciting and viscerally satisfying too, waiting for wary and yet unaware Enemies to walk into the killing field of a Claymore mine, or drive over that stack of 155mm artillery shells the most recent Imperial Invaders lost track of and you have wired up with the appropriate detonator? Or waiting for some random person to raise his or her head above a shattered masonry wall long enough for your perfectly aimed .308 bullet to turn that skull and all those beautifully organized and interconnected neurons into a Pink Mist? Especially if the reaction from The Enemy is to kill some other people on YOUR nominal Side, thus continuing the flow of Otherhateandfear-driven nutrients (guns and money and shelter and parades) to you and your large or small Band of Warrior Brothers? And there are no consequences to you personally at all, or none that you in your mindset care a whit about?

    Here’s a couple of nominatives that occur to me, off the top of my head:

    Mosh Madness

    Of course, words are not really adequate to capture all the complex nature of the socioeconomicopolitico-neurologicanimustication that might be glimpsed through one linguistic lens or another, with its field of view necessarily limited by the optics preferred by the observer. And just like with the realm of engineering, particularly bioengineering and “social engineering,” scant attention is often paid to unintended consequences of New Applications and “fixes” and profit opportunities, or such reservations are buried in hubristic shouts of “We know what we’re doing!” or “I don’t care, this is really cool and I’ve made a career out of implementing it!” People who are immersed in the bouillabaisse of random or slightly directed violence in places like Iraq and Notagainistan and Sudan and such, fully invested in some perverse and dead-end world view, are loath to write off that investment in a hope, repeatedly vain, that Something Better might arise. (Maybe the people of Tunisia will be the exception that proves the rule, if the jackals and Sneaky Petes and Lenins among them can be kept at bay.)

    Physicians look at complex presentations of symptoms and try to figure out root causes and diagnoses and prescribe treatments for the fundamental aliment(s), in the hope of curing the patient or at least palliating the disease. Often all they have to offer is placebos, opiates and the comfort that attention of a caring human gives, but the emotional and cognitive processes that drive them are so very different from the processes that are active in most of the rest of us, up to and including “martyrs” willing to commit Jihadicide, and “commanders” managing Multi-Trillion-Dollar Networked Battlespace and the endless strands of MIC DNA that determine so much of the public physiology of the species.

    I wonder: If we understood those better, and were willing to see them in action in ourselves, and were willing to be behaviorally cured of atavism and troglodyterie, if maybe “civil war” by any definition might go away?


  3. Spork says

    “It matters greatly because we are comparing it to our country. A better example would be someone claiming that there is a civil war during the 20s becuase of all the mob fighting and crime.”

    I suppose the Mafia represented militant Latin Catholicism?

    I wonder if Spork was among the majority of polled US troops in Iraq who believed we were primarily there to get even for Saddam’s help doing 9/11/2001.

    IMO his general attitude comes from an “imperial hubris”failure to see the truth about the surge failing.

    Spork, comparing the war to a football game, US troops in effect fell behind early in the first quarter about 24-0. By the early fourth quarter (let us hope) it was 41-10. The surge itself lessened the US/insurgency score to 48-28. But you are still well behind squashing it i.e. evening the score.
    All this apart from levels of skill or bravery possessed by US troops.

    But let us hope the whistle has all but sounded.

    • The reference to the mobs was to compare what criminal groups will do to gain and keep power. What amount of violence they can get away with is one of the big differences here.

      Also I have yet to say anything about 9/11 and Saddam. Which I think while we did not break UN/international laws that it we should not have invaded Iraq. The reason I went personally was that we should make sure Iraq does not turn out like Somalia with out anything close to a working government and ripped apart by fighting warlords. Which we are still dealing with in the terms of Pirates raiding ships in the Horn of Africa.

      Also another concern what happened in the early 90s in the former Yugoslavia that lead to the the conflict there. Iraq and Yugoslavia are similar in that both nations were made from the remains of Central powers nations. Both had many groups that had bad blood going way back. Both had a Iron handed dictator that used force and bribes to retain his own power. The difference is that Tito died it lead to the break up in 1991.

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      Now going back to the surge one of the big thing that it did was allow use to go into the more remote areas of Iraq. This allowed us to talk to the local leaders and village elders that were being neglected by the main Iraqi Government. The reason for these towns and villages (even Iraq Army and Police checkpoints) is the differences between our (Western) system and (Middle East) theirs. Our system is if there is something that needs to be down that everyone knows what is happening and that if some has to leave that they can be replaced. Their system is the exact opposite that information is horded and to be as irreplaceable as possible even if it means that the project is affected. If you are in charge of a village this will greatly affect those that you are in charge of.

      Here are some examples of the differences and how directly going to these areas help.

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      It is not just about raw troop numbers but how they are used.

      “A disorderly mob is no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house”

      link to

  4. Of course there’s a civil war: that’s what the neocons wanted and that’s why there was no post-war planning. The Israel Lobby neocons pretend to be about spreading democracy whereas they actually are about destabilization. Michael A. Ledeen wrote in his 2002 book The War Against the Terror Masters: “First and foremost, we must bring down the terror regimes, beginning with the big three: Iran, Iraq, and Syria.” “Stability is an unworthy American mission…. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia…The real issue is not whether, but how best to destabilize.” Of course, fomenting civil wars and destabilizing the Muslim enemies of Israeli expansionism has been a longtime Israeli strategy. This policy was enunciated in February 1982 by Israeli strategist Oded Yinon writing in the World Zionist Organization magazine Kivunim. The idea was to dissolve Israel’s enemies into powerless ministates. Yinon relished the Iraq-Iran War which he hoped would lead to civil war and fragmentation of Iraq, Israel’s most feared enemy. It did not. However, the Zionist neocons then lied us into the unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003 which did foment a civil war. Similarly, the current US/Israel-pushed Hariri tribunal is aimed at destabilizing Lebanon. That’s what the neocons want.

  5. “Of course there’s a civil war: that’s what the neocons wanted and that’s why there was no post-war planning.”

    One of the reasons that there was a lot of problems how things are done. I would say that assumption was the big reason why any post war planning to not work.

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      • A failure? Sort of depends on your viewpoint.

        Ask the young males you can read about in sources like Jon
        Krakauer’s “Where Men Win Glory,” who get off on killing Wogs and that rush you get in combat and as many of them will tell you, that intimacy and comradery that can only be experienced by one of the Band of Brothers.

        Ask Xe and KBR and Sikorsky and Lockheed-Martin and a host of others, and all the myraid people in the Supply Chain, and all the logisticisians and general “managers,” and ‘whoever’ drove away with $9 or $10 billion in unmarked, non-sequential $100 bills conveniently shrink-wrapped in blocks on pallets, and maybe even Kristol and the rest of the tapeworms who brought the monster to life, and I am sure they will tell you it’s a great success. At splitting the idiot American polity, and separating all those people who actually generate the Real Wealth that every Nation requires from their hard-earned money, making the rest of the parasitic agenda of the Right so much easier to sell to the dopes at home (Boy, we gotta get rid of that DEFASIT, don’cha agree? But we must PRESERVE OUR WAY OF
        LIFE AND FREEDOM AND SECURITY at the same time…)

        • So your claiming that the only people that consider Iraq a successful ether gets off on killing or stole money by being a contractor (regardless of if it really happened or not).

          As far as the first claim, in the 14 months that I was in Iraq I never had to fire my weapon in anger. The majority of our actions was dealing with IEDS. Also that we got a change to help repair and improve how the populations lives. From repairing schools to road improvements.

          Now about contractors it really comes down to that they are doing the jobs that the US military used to do that were done away with in the mid 90s. So to make up for the short comings contractors are used. Also consider how the use of contractors has grown over the years in the civilian sector that it is real not a surprise that their use in military sections would happen.

          As far as the conduct of the the contractors depends of each one. You can have those like blackwater that because of their actions lost their contract to operate in Iraq and you can have the others such as the ones that guarded our forward operating bases that did their job with honor.

          Lastly about the attitude, it matters because with your stereotypes that we are committing crimes on a daily bases and that our actions of helping the population gets actively ignored. But when liars like Jessie Macbeth tells people that his unit killed 200 people inside Mosque when he never even finishes Army Basic Training that it gets world wide attention.

        • Yo, Spork — what planet are you actually from?

          I may not have been to Iraq while one of the current rounds of shooting were going on, but i did spend 1967-68 in a place called Vietnam, where as is always the case in the Game Of War, atrocities were committed on both sides. I was actually stationed a short distance from a little village called My Lai, something I learned only years later after, well, you ought to know that story.

          Proud of your service time? Think you did good stuff for the Hajjis? Did you ever use any of the other pejoratives, “towelhead,” “sand n____r,” stuff lke that, when you were there? If you were policing up IEDs, did you happen, on the larger scale, to notice how many were made from Made In The USA 105 and 155 mm artillery shells and various sizes of US-made bombs that the War Planners were stupid enough to leave around after the Imperial Invasion aka “shock and awe, shucks” for the Wogs to police up and use? Have you read a book called “Where Men Win Glory,” by Jon Krakauer, that weaves a nice narrative of who and what kind of young male actually wears the the BDUs and stomps around in desert boots, lost between all that training in “finding, fixing and killing ‘the enemy'” and weird, morphing notions of “the mission” to pacify the Wogs by one childish stratagem and then another, and another, the most effective being bribing them not to shoot at “NATO Coalition” forces for some period in some location? And as to who thinks “Iraw” is a success, your reduction of my general broadside on who might buy into that notion to two inaccurate categorizations does not begin to capture the flavor of the reality. go read stuff by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, an actual war hero given not one but TWO Congressional Medals of Honor and a bunch of lesser ribbons for prowess in the kind of imperial warfare that he finally came to see in its real, hegemonist, predatory-capitalist nature, so much so that he coined the phrase “War is a racket,” and then went on to show so very clearly how true that is? Here’s just one resource for your review, Google Smedley Butler and you’ll find a whole lot more: link to

          I don’t know what your background and issues are, but tossing out “Jessie Macbeth” as impeaching the views of a whole lot of GIs who have learned about Notagainistan, as I learned about Vietnam, that “we” are a stupid people on the whole who let Judas goats lead us up the chutes of the imperial slaughterhouses time and again does not begin to poke holes in the “ground truths.”

          And tell me again what you might know about that missing $9 or $10 billion in cash, which is in addition to the maybe $200 billion in fraudulent, unnecessary or “treasonous” scamming of those “contractors” over there? I would not be particularly defensive about people doing GI jobs for 10 to 50 times what GIs get paid to do them, with much better benefits as a rule, guys who kill civilians without consequences, and slurp vodka out of each others’ butt cracks and belly buttons. And a bunch of other stuff that if you look around and are honest has gone down and happens every day “over there.” Blackwater, if I read it right, has become Xe, and is still very much “in operation” over there, along with KBR whose electricians electrocuted several GIs and on and on…

          What do you get out of continuing this discussion here anyway? Your people have won the battles and the war, and for the rest of us, “resistance is futile.” Many of us just want to shout out a little before we are dragged down by the barbarians and mercenaries.

        • It kinda matters since the subject we are talking about is Iraq. If we were talking about Vietnam then it would be a different story. ( I would like to know what unit were you and what was your job)

          Now about My Lai there will always be cases, but were not the majority of how we acted.

          Actually the majority if not all was Russian made. With Russian RPG-3 grenades. But a lot of the IEDs and UXOs were from the Iran and Iraq war. You can still go to the boarder and find unexploded mortars and such. Also you really think that we are the only ones that use those type of rounds?

          I take it your talking about such groups as VVAW/VFP?

          I say again contractors can come in all shape and sizes, honorable or corrupt. No different then outside the Military.

          What do I get out of this? That it is to show anyone who is reading that you have no interest in a honest debate once any statements you have to say are challenged.

          Prove me wrong.

  6. Spork, as a vet myself I respect you, but I’m confused about why you cannot bring yourself to call what is going on in Iraq a civil war.

    The 9/11 conspiracy kills 3,000 people. Bush claims that “freedom itself” was attacked. The US launches a global, possibly hundred-year campaign against “terror,” which is an abstract concept. Civil liberties are eroded. Billions of dollars are spent. Bud Light changes its “Real American Heroes” campaign to “Real men of Genuis” to show its support for the war effort. This was very obviously a big deal. Was all this out of proportion to what happened on 9/11?

    Even if Juan Cole’s numbers are only about half-right, and there were only, say, 3,000 deaths from political violence in Iraq last year, can we not call this what it clearly is: a confusing, low-level civil war with potential?

    I don’t know about you personally, but I think that there are two reasons why many do not want to call the Iraqi civil war a civil war.

    The first is that the absence of a civil war before the American invasion would lead many to reasonably conclude that the invasion itself might of had something to do with starting it. This is the argument made by those who think that Operation Iraqi Freedom was a fool’s errand from the beginning.

    The other is the following logic that if there is in fact a civil war amoung Iraqis underway, what in the hell can the US military do about it? Get between the multiple warring factions? Lend support to one side ( de-legitimizing it as a western puppet)? Most importantly for domestic American political calculations: How can the US claim victory if there is still a war going on?

    The strategy to me seems to be to refuse to acknowledge the situation for what it is, and hoping that this will somehow result in the situation changing.

  7. The reason that I consider Iraq not to be a civil war is that I see a civil war to be just that a war. No just a few random bombings do not simply fit that. Considering that there are many bombings all over the world with the most recent one in Russia.

    If this was a real honest to god civil war I expect to have real planned attacks by organized forces. Not some fourth rate terror group that would be the equivalent the Branch Davidians. This is the area that I worked it, it would be different if it was a place like Mosul. But it is not.

    If I may ask when did you serve?

    Now about 9/11 one of the big thing is not that there was a conspiracy to comment 9/11 but what happened afterwards with all the different laws that were passed. But everyone was so caught up in “It was a inside job” that they did not pay any attention what was being passed because you cannot say it in 30 seconds.

    Because when I think of civil war I think of Yugoslavia and that world has a lot of violence that comes with it. People want to use the word civil war because it has a direct link massive deaths war crimes, and everything that comes with it. But going in in this area it was nothing like these images that a civil war invokes.

    Now lets get into the whole Iraq invasion. This relates to 9/11 subject in that people were asking the wrong questions. The wrong ones were trying to some how prove that the invasion was illegal (which it was not). The right ones were; Should we be doing this with a active operation in Afghanistan that was neglected because of this invasion. The second is the lack of a working post invasion plan that was based on our system and not theirs. (That is one of the big changes that was included in the surge).

    Now you bring up warring factions again. One thing that came up for that was the foreign fighters managed to anger the local population. The Sons of Iraq are a good example of this. The only people we have been siding with are the local groups from Iraq and not the foreign fighters that are just looking for holy war and 72 virgins regardless of who gets hurt. That is one of the reason that people turned on them.

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    Iraq has a lot of things that went wrong but there many things that are going right. The Diyala province is one of them.

    Also if you notice JTMcPhee in his writings that anyone that disagree with it the “enemy” and has no problem doing anything that they can to diminishes the things that people have done to help in Iraq or in any other operations.

  8. Sporkie, you’re not making much sense.

    “Because when I think of civil war I think of Yugoslavia and that world has a lot of violence that comes with it.”

    The Yugoslavian wars lasted several years – with varying theaters of war but with consistently high death toll. When it ended in 1995, the death toll stopped. The region remains rife with guns, bombs and war criminals on the run, but there are no bombings, shooting sprees or organized resistance to the government in any of the states. While these nations have plenty of problems (including serious organized crime), fighting an insurgency is not one of them: the civil war is over.

    While you may think that a couple of thousand deaths in a nation the size of Iraq is not enough to be considered a problem (and yes the murder rate per capita is actually less than we saw in Louisiana post-Katrina), you can’t argue that Iraqis are living in a normal society, nor that there isn’t an organized, violent and reasonably succesful resistance against the state. Iraq faces a violent, existentialist threat to its existence which the ex-Yugoslavian states do not. Clearly, the civil war in Iraq isn’t over.

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