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Friday, December 1, 2006

Dana Priest and Downie On Why 'Wash Post' Won't Call Iraq Conflict a 'Civil War'

Editor & Publisher
Nov. 27, 2006

Dana Priest and Downie On Why 'Wash Post' Won't Call Iraq
Conflict a 'Civil War'

By E&P Staff
Published: November 27, 2006 12:05 AM ET

NEW YORK The Los Angeles Times and, starting Monday, NBC and
MSNBC, have adopted the phrase "civil war" to describe the
conflict in Iraq. Most other media outlets, including The
Washington Post, still prefer phrases such as "sectarian
violence." Appearing on MSNBC's "Hardball" with Chris Matthews
Monday night, Dana Priest, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter
for the Post, said that it sure looks like a civil war to her.

Earlier Monday, E&P's Joe Strupp had asked Leonard Downie, Jr.,
the Post's executive editor, about that. Downie said, "We just
describe what goes on everyday. We don't have a policy about it.
We are not making judgments one way or another. The language in
the stories is very precise when dealing with it. At various
times people say it is 'close to a civil war,' but we don't have
a policy about it."

Matthews asked Priest about this issue on Hardball. "It seems to
me," he said, "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 replied: "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 that -- 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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