Another Bloody Civil War In Mideast?

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It took years of fighting before major news organizations started referring to Iraq's sectarian violence as a civil war. But another bloody Middle East conflict is quickly being given that dire designation.

The escalating battle between rival Palestinian factions "is beginning to look increasingly like a civil war," said The New York Times, in its lead story Wednesday.

A front-page story in the Washington Post said the struggle for power between Hamas and Fatah "increasingly bore the hallmarks of civil war," while the Wall Street Journal said the Palestinians "teetered on the edge of a civil war."

More Grim News From Iraq

There are more signs Wednesday that the Iraqi government is falling far short of the benchmarks set by the Bush administration.

The New York Times reports on its front page that three months before a key progress report is due in Washington, the Iraqis have failed to reach agreements on "nearly every law that the Americans have demanded as benchmarks."

And even if one or two of the most crucial laws are approved by the Iraqi Parliament – a new law on oil sharing is given the best shot at passage – "doubts are spreading about whether the current benchmarks can ever halt the cycle of violence gripping Iraq's communities."

The Times says that for the small group of Iraqi leaders with the power to make deals, "the promise of compromise now carries less allure than the possibility for domination."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports that a senior U.S. military commander said a major boost in the size of Iraq's military is needed before U.S. forces can relinquish their dangerous role maintaining the country's security.

Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who led the U.S. military's training effort in Iraq until recently, told Congress that at least 20,000 more Iraqi forces were needed. Even then, Dempsey said, it will be many years before Iraq can take full responsibility for its own security.

Warnings On Campus Killers Ignored

The Virginia Tech massacre wasn't the first time a campus killer struck after college administrators failed to heed warnings about a disturbed student's potential for violence, according to a report in USA Today.

The paper says that about once a year, a campus murder is committed after officials take "insufficient action despite warnings about threats, flawed security or dangerous situations."

USA Today analyzed 110 campus homicides since 1991, and found that in at least 15 cases, the killer "showed signs of being a danger, often with either a criminal or psychotic background, or by making violent threats."

Administrators say they usually can't prevent murders because they can't predict if a particular student will become violent. But safety experts say that may be because colleges often have inadequate systems to identify violent students.

"Many campus murders have been preventable," said S. Daniel Carter, vice president of Security on Campus, a safety-advocacy group.

Editor's Note: This column erroneously reported yesterday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requested the use of a military transport plane to fly her between Washington and her home district in California. That request was made by the House sergeant-at-arms, not Speaker Pelosi. We regret the error.

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  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for