Yesterday, with considerable ruffles and flourishes, 'Today' announced, as noted here, that NBC News would henceforth be referring to the situation in Iraq as a "civil war." Those curious as to why NBC would devote so much attention to what amounts to little more than an argument over semantics got their answer this morning. By shaping the language, NBC apparently seeks also to shape US policy.
In a segment narrated by NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, we heard first from presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who declared:
"The Bush administration has a huge incentive to keep people from calling this a civil war. They know once this war is branded that way, Americans will essentially say that's not what we do, let's get out."
In introducing the succeeding clip, of retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, Mitchell claimed that "military experts also say if it is a civil war, US options are limited." Jacobs obligingly opined:
"Backing one side or the other is a recipe for disaster. Our objective ought to be to train essential government forces with police and military, and extract ourselves."
View video of Beschloss and Jacobs here.
The NBC game-plan becomes clear. As per Beschloss, make sure the conflict is "branded" a civil war. In so doing, ensure that US options are "limited" to the one suggested by Jacobs - "extract ourselves."
In sum, it appears that NBC News' trumpeted decision to label the situation in Iraq a "civil war" was no mere exercise in semantics. It reflects NBC's calculated attempt to influence public opinion and US policy on the most serious national security issue of the day. Such is the role that the MSM has arrogated to itself.
Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq. Contact him at email@example.com