Nick Douglas at Huffington Post’s Eat the Press does a nice job summing up the wisdom of the media crowd on the use of “civil war” to describe the wars in Iraq.
I think it’s worse than that. “Civil war” implies some order: two sides, usually, fighting each other with a clear goal of taking over the nation. But in Iraq, there are countless sides and motivations — religious, political, economic, historical, familial — all shooting at each other, many without a clear goal except disruption at best, murder at worst. At the Online News Association, Zeyad described neighborhoods at war with neighborhoods. Read the message-board notices he translates: urgent dispatches from war front in neighborhoods in Baghdad. At ONA, Zeyad called it civil war but also pointed out that the government is not in charge of anything, even the Green Zone. There is no order to the disorder.
I would call this something worse and more frightening: anarchy.