Personally, despite the disconcerting level of violence that is going on in the Sunni-triangle area of Iraq, I don't think that it's accurate to call what's going on a civil war. I don't think a civil war where there are militias or armies battling each other -- as opposed to the terrorist attacks on civilians -- isn't possible when the U.S. has 100,000+ troops in the country. Again, the two sides in this civil war (if there are only two, there may be more when you start subdividing the Sunni side between Baathists, al Qaeda and other assorted foreign fighters) aren't battling each other -- they're carrying out terrorist attacks on their opponent's civilians.
The closest comparison to Iraq that I can think of -- and it was less violent than what we've got going in Iraq today -- was the conflict in Northern Ireland between the IRA and the Brits.
Did the media ever characterize that conflict as a civil war?
I think that some of the media criticism is right -- that the old media has decided that we need to get out of Iraq, and they're attempting to frame what's going on in Iraq in the worst possible way in order to create the political conditions for a U.S. defeat.
The old media's hand was tipped Sunday night when CBS News' Lara Logan on "60 Minutes" asked Gen. John Abizad the following "question:" [follow link for video]
We hear very little about victory in Iraq these days. We hear a lot about how to manage the defeat.
Frankly, I hadn't heard that particular formulation -- "manage the defeat" -- before Logan tried to sell it on CBS. I'd be curious if someone with access to the Lexis/Nexis database could fire that phrase into the search box and tell me just how many times prior to Sunday night's "60 Minutes" episode it had been used. I've got a feeling the number is quite small.