In a move that was inevitable, NBC has now started to call the civil war in Iraq a civil war. On NBC News’ ”The Daily Nightly” Brian Williams writes, “We will also reference our decision today (after much consultation over the weekend with our colleagues, fellow journalists, historians, analysts and members of the military, both present and former) to describe the fighting in Iraq as a Civil War. We believe it is a more accurate reflection of what is happening there, and there was a fair amount of reaction to the decision today... even though a number of news organizations have already made a similar call.”
Monday night’s edition of NBC Nightly News lead with the story of even more violence in Iraq. Brian Williams started the newscast by saying, “Good evening. Tonight there are moving parts on several fronts, all related to the fighting in Iraq. This begins what may be a crucial week in determining future U.S. Involvement in what has become a civil war in that country.”
A report from NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Andrea Mitchell featured the following:
While Washington looks for answers, the violence in Iraq is out of control. NBC News joined other news organizations in calling it a civil war.
Michael Beschloss (NBC News Presidential Historian): If you define a civil war as a country where a lot of groups are struggling for power, Iraq is in a civil war.
Mitchell: Today the administration objected strongly to news organizations calling it a civil war. Many experts say the white house has a huge incentive to avoid that term.
It could further erode public support for keeping U.S. Troops in Iraq.
Moments later Brian Williams spoke with Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory:
David, the traveling White House is not as interested in what to call the conflict as they are leading up to Wednesday's talks.
Gregory: That's right, the National Security Advisor to the President said whether it is a civil war or not, there are certainly a great deal of awareness in the United States and beyond that the sectarian violence is out of control, that there is not enough progress quickly enough for the President's satisfaction. He called it a new phase where the violence has sparked and reached new heights in Iraq. A new phase of that violence the President wants to address.
Kudos for NBC for finally calling civil war what it is. This represents a seed change in the national broadcast media's coverage. It isn’t quite Lyndon Johnson’s "If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost the country" quite yet, but it could be the beginning of the end. Since it is television, we can expect the other networks to follow shortly.