Every day I grow more frustrated by conservative commentators, a couple of whom are featured on my station, to spin the conflict in Iraq as a war against terrorists who would otherwise be blowing up cars and churches in the United States. Either they don’t understand what’s happening or they’re deliberately misrepresenting the facts to shore up what public support remains for the war.
The fighting in Iraq is a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and our young men and women are being killed when they get in the way. Maj. William Voorhies, the American commander of a military training unit in Baghdad, said just that in an interview with the New York Times: “I have come to the conclusion that this is no longer America’s war in Iraq, but the Iraqi civil war where America is fighting.”
The violence is a struggle for power between the majority Shiite population and the embittered Sunnis, who are trying to hold onto the power they enjoyed under Saddam.
The creation in Iraq of the only Shiite-run Arab government, toppling long Sunni dominance, has released long-restrained hatred between Islam‘s two main sects. Battles between Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias are claiming scores of victims every day and forcing tens of thousands to flee the country.
And while the main battle has been in Iraq, Shiite power has become a dominant issue across the Middle East, and Sunni Arab leaders in Jordan and Saudi Arabia are expressing growing concern about Shiite power in the Arab lands, often backed by non-Arab, Shiite Iran .
The two sides have been politically divided, too. Sunnis are by far the majority in the Muslim world, but in some key Arab states the Shiites are a majority or a significant minority — in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia — but have been dominated by Sunnis, often as a legacy of colonial rule by the Sunni-ruled Ottoman Turkish empire and the British.
The world is better off without Saddam Hussein, but guys like Hannity and O’Reilly need to quit painting this as a righteous battle against the forces of evil. It may be that the Bush administration has set in motion a regional civil war, and we need to quit politicizing our interpretations and see it for what it is.