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Fox News Debates: Civil War or Communal War?

Reported by Judy - November 28, 2006 -

For all its talk about "supporting our troops" and staying until the mission is finished, Fox News spends very little time actually talking about what is happening in Iraq. The "Live Desk" on Tuesday (November 28, 2006) was just the latest example.

"Live Desk" anchor Martha MacCallum talked around the war but not really about the war itself Tuesday. Rather than some solid information about what happened in Iraq yesterday and today, she posed the question of whether the war in Iraq is a civil war, first to retired Major Gen. Bob Scales, a Fox News military analyst, and then to her A-List panel of guests.

MacCallum's query was prompted by George Bush's avoidance of the question while making an appearance at the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia. Bush insisted that Al Qaeda is fomenting the sectarian violence in Iraq.

In response to MacCallum's question, Scales defined the Iraq war as a "communal war," meaning one among ethnic or religious subgroups within a nation.

MacCallum's panel splintered along partisan lines: a Republican strategist insisted it was not a civil war; a Democratic strategist said the country is a mess no matter what it is called, and Lis Wiehl, a Fox News legal analyst, said it's a civil war as demonstrated by Bush's refusal to answer the question directly.

Fox News spends a lot of time with talking heads debating issues surrounding the war in Iraq like this one -- questions such as do the Democrats have a plan for Iraq; should the Democrats have a plan for Iraq; should troop levels be increased, and so on.

Fox News' viewers would be better able to form an opinion on these abstract questions if the "news" channel would provide them with some raw data from Iraq itself, beyond the cryptic reports that flow across the bottom of the screen or the brief summaries delivered during the news breaks.

In other words, how about some actual news from Iraq once in a while, something like all those live reports that were filed from Israel during its conflict with Hezbollah last summer? How about some people-on-the-street interviews with people who live in Baghdad asking their opinions of who's behind the violence and if they would describe it as a civil war? Or a day-in-the-life of the Baghdad city morgue for an up-close and personal version of the death toll? How about a round-up of what Baghdad newspapers are saying about the conflict -- if there are any newspapers that haven't been shut down by the U.S.-supported "democratic" government of Iraq. Or how about an in-depth report on health conditions in Iraq, or how well the educational system is doing? Maybe economic development in Iraq would be worth a story. Surely some of the American Republicans who like the war so much and believe it's going so well have invested their own money to open hotels, factories, or other facilities in Baghdad that would make a great feature.

I mean, if Fox News likes the war in Iraq so much, why doesn't it report on it a little more?