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TUESDAY, AUGUST 8, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Webster's dictionary gives good definition of civil war

One of the problems among many problems in Iraq is agreeing on whether the nation is in civil war.

The Bush administration has reasons to insist that it is not because admitting civil war would be admission of failure and of being wrong about a nation hungry for democracy.

Anti-war forces say Iraq is in a civil war and military leaders say that continued sectarian violence could lead to civil war.

But how does one know when a nation is in civil war? Non-partisan Webster's New World dictionary offers more than a hint. It says:

Civil war is war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation.

But the Bush administration insists there's going to be no civil war even as neighbors blow up neighbors and people who lived in the same Baghdad neighborhoods for years turn on each other. Rarely does a day go by that a suicide bomb doesn't take its toll on civilians.

People who don't care if Iraqis kill each other ought to weigh the words of prominent Nebraska Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel:

"We are ruining our United States Army. We are decimating our Army. We can't continue with the tempo and the commitment that we are on right now," he said Sunday on CBS.

The generals, of course, can't declare Iraq in a civil war until the administration does. Yet their denials are more carefully worded and less forceful today than they were three months ago.

It is not right to continue to put American troops into this untenable situation.

If the senator is correct, giving up a hopeless fight in order to save the Army should be the nation's new priority.

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