Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Pentagon Report Acknowledges 'Civil War' in Iraq


And some of the violence in Iraq adds up to a civil war. That's the grim assessment of the Pentagon's quarterly report on Iraq. The last three months of 2006 were the bloodiest in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003. And it's the first time the Pentagon has delivered such a bleak assessment.

As NPR's Guy Raz reports, this is also the first time that Pentagon has acknowledged civil war in that country.


GUY RAZ: A few hours before the Pentagon released its most depressing report on Iraq to date, the military spokesman in Baghdad, Major General William Caldwell, gave a briefing to reporters and said...

Major General WILLIAM CALDWELL (U.S. Army): We are seeing positive signs in the streets, signs that life is improving for the people of Iraq.

RAZ: But the Pentagon's own strategists see it a bit differently. Every three months, they are required to report to Congress on how they see the situation in Iraq. Now, most of these reports, and there have been seven in the past two years, delivered upbeat accounts of life in Iraq, reports that military analyst Anthony Cordesman has long dismissed as...

Mr. ANTHONY CORDESMAN (Military Analyst, Center for Strategic and International Studies): Propaganda.

RAZ: But then last night, Cordesman, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, read the latest Pentagon report on the situation there, and two years after Cordesman himself first called the Iraq conflict a civil war, he saw that the military establishment had finally acknowledged what seemed to him obvious all along. So did he feel vindicated?


Mr. CORDESMAN: I don't think anybody can feel vindicated. There are 26 million Iraqis involved. We've had thousands of Americans killed, tens of thousands of wounded.

RAZ: The report is 40-odd pages of statistics and analysis. But basically it says that between last December and this past February things have gotten even worse. Here are a few numbers. More than 1,100 attacks per week, the highest ever recorded. Sectarian murders at an all-time high and a conflict that is in part a civil war.

Mr. BILL ODOM (Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute): That strikes me as really quite remarkable.

RAZ: This is former General Bill Odom. He now works for the Hudson Institute. And he is not surprised about the conclusions of the report, but about where it came from. And he thinks because it was written by Pentagon analysts, it'll have an enormous impact on the national debate over Iraq.

Mr. ODOM: It will make the country more aware of the impossible situation we're in, an awareness that the administration's done a great deal to obscure, a reality they've been able to obscure.

Senator JACK REED (Democrat, Rhode Island): It is sort of the second shoe that's dropping.

RAZ: This is Rhode Island Democrat Senator Jack Reed. The first shoe that dropped he says was the National Intelligence Estimate. That report was released last month. It was the first official government document to acknowledge stirrings of a civil war in Iraq. Now Senator Reed, a former Marine who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says when you combine the two reports, they undermine the administration's argument over Iraq.

Sen. REED: I think their message of this is all the central front in the war on terror frankly was contradicted by the fact it's a civil war.

RAZ: And the reason why the administration's been reluctant to use the CW term is because poll after poll shows the American public simply isn't interested in getting mixed up in other countries' civil wars. But whether or not Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, there is one thing the Pentagon's report didn't take into account, and that's the so-called surge. By around the end of May, more than 26,000 additional U.S. troops will have been deployed to Iraq. And if that plan's successful, the next Pentagon report - due out in June - might just be a bit more optimistic.

Guy Raz, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: The Pentagon report is called "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq." You can read it at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.