Dude, Where's My Civil War?

Ralph Peters is in Iraq reporting from the Forward Operating Base Loyalty. He says he's tried hard to find the Iraqi civil war he keeps hearing about, and is still unsuccessful.

I'm trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.

Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view's clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn't give me the right skills....

In place of the civil war that elements in our media declared, I saw full streets, open shops, traffic jams, donkey carts, Muslim holiday flags - and children everywhere, waving as our Humvees passed. Even the clouds of dust we stirred up didn't deter them. And the presence of children in the streets is the best possible indicator of a low threat level.

Peters theorizes as to why journalists want to portray Iraq as having a civil war.

First, of course, some parties in the West are anxious to believe the worst about Iraq. They've staked their reputations on Iraq's failure…. Many journalists are, indeed, brave and conscientious; yet some in Baghdad - working for "prestigious" publications - aren't out on the city streets the way they pretend to be.

They're safe in their enclaves, protected by hired guns, complaining that it's too dangerous out on the streets. They're only in Baghdad for the byline, and they might as well let their Iraqi employees phone it in to the States. Whenever you see a column filed from Baghdad by a semi-celeb journalist with a "contribution" by a local Iraqi, it means this: The Iraqi went out and got the story, while the journalist stayed in his or her room.

And the Iraqi stringers have cracked the code: The Americans don't pay for good news. So they exaggerate the bad.

It was exaggerated news after the destruction of the Golden Mosque that led journalists, waiting for months to be given the green light to use "civil war," to declare that all was lost.