The Iraqi Civil War compared




Deaths per day

Finnish Civil War

19th January 1918 - 7th May 1918

(108 days)



Irish Civil War

28th June 1922 - 24th May 1923

(330 days)



Lebanese Civil War

13th April 1975 - March 1991

(6138 days)



El Salvador Civil War

24th March 1980 - January 1992

(4331 days)



Iraqi Civil War

1st May 2003 -

1st March 2006 (1035 days)



Sources: Wikipedia and Iraq Body Count Website (click on hyperlinks in table)

Note that the figures for the Iraqi Civil War begin on 1st May 2003 - the day George Bush declared the ending of major combat operations (his "Mission Accomplished" speech) and do not include the amount of Iraqis who died during the invasion proper.

As you can see, defining the current situation in Iraq as a "civil war" is consistent with other civil wars throughout history. Although nowhere near as bloody as the American Civil War, the Russian Revolution and the Spanish Civil War, the Iraqi Civil War compares favourably with other civil wars that were fought during the 20th century.

In terms of casualties, the 30,000 in Iraq compare well to the 36,000 who died during the Finnish Civil War. However, the civil war in Finland lasted just over 100 days making it a short but very bloody conflict.

The civil wars in El Salvador and Lebanon lasted well over a decade with casualties at least twice that reported in Iraq. However, the length of these two civil wars has led to lower deaths per day compared to Iraq. In Iraq at present, just less than twice as many people are dying per day than those who perished in El Salvador and Lebanon.

The Irish Civil War in 1922 and 1923 killed less people in total, and killed less per day, than the current situation in Iraq.

Comparing civil wars is obviously frought with the inevitable apples vs pears situation. Indeed, more people have perished in some civil wars than have died in some international conflicts. Obviously one of the problems is trying to answer the question "What defines a civil war?"

I won't even try to address that particular question now, but I will point out that history has generally named certain conflicts without any real dispute among either historians or ordinary people. Thus it is acceptable to define the conflicts in places like El Salvador, Lebanon, Ireland and Finland as being "Civil Wars".

And if these particular conflicts are defined in this way, then all the current evidence from Iraq suggests that a civil war has been occurring since George Bush announced "Mission Accomplished" to the world. Therefore it is no longer appropriate to report or define the situation in Iraq as merely a "conflict" or an "insurgency". What is occurring in Iraq is a civil war. Let's stop playing around with words and call it as it is.

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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1 comment:

Craig Schwarze said...

I'd never even heard of the Finnish civil war...

It's all semantics of course. Your side want to call it a civil war because, well, it sounds bad. My side want to keep it an insurgency because, well, it doesn't sound so bad. Neither label changes the fact of what is happening on the ground.

Obviously there is no "official" definition of a civil war. But I do note the following from wiki - "An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight" conventional battles.