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Dana Priest: Washington Post Avoids ‘Civil War’ Language Because Iraqi Gov’t Does Not Use It

By ThinkProgress on November 27, 2006 at 6:20 pm

"Dana Priest: Washington Post Avoids ‘Civil War’ Language Because Iraqi Gov’t Does Not Use It"

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Today on MSNBC’s Hardball, Washington Post national security reporter Dana Priest explained that her newspaper does not use the phrase “civil war” to describe the current violence in Iraq in part because Iraqi government officials say it is not a civil war.

Priest said she “absolutely” believes the “level of violence [in Iraq] equals a civil war.” But she acknowledged that the Post has “not labeled it a civil war,” explaining, “We try to avoid the labels, particularly when the elected government itself does not call its situation a civil war.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2006/11/priestiraq.320.240.flv]

Government officials in Iraq have a direct interest in avoiding the characterization of violence there as a civil war. The Washington Post’s job is not to act as stenographers for officials in positions of power, but rather to report facts as they exist on the ground.

Not surprisingly, experts disagree with Iraqi officials about the current conditions. According to scholars surveyed by the New York Times, not only is Iraq in the midst of a civil war, the current level of bloodshed “already puts Iraq in the top ranks of the civil wars of the last half-century.”

Full transcript:

MATTHEWS: It seems to me the President’s afraid that people will begin to think it is a civil war and not the way he wants to define it, which is we gotta fight them there before they fight us here.

PRIEST: Well, I think one of the reasons the President resists that label is because it equates almost with a failure of U.S. policy. I will say for the Washington Post, we have not labeled it a civil war. I have asked around to see why not or see what’s the thinking on thatm and really our reporters have not filed that. We try to avoid the labels, particularly when the elected government itself does not call its situation a civil war. I certainly — and I would agree with General McCaffrey on this — absolutely the level of violence equals a civil war.

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