Basically it was a riff that we would do at sound-checks. Axl came up with a couple of lines at the beginning. And... I went in a peace march, when I was a little kid, with my mom. I was like four years old. For Martin Luther King. And that's when: "Did you wear the black arm band when they shot the man who said: 'Peace could last forever'?" It's just true-life experiences, really.
It quotes a Peruvian militant officer's speech ("We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum, then we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer").
Of all the 30 combined tracks on the Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, "Civil War" (Track #1 on Use Your Illusion II) is the sole track to be recorded featuring original Guns N' Roses drummer, Steven Adler, who was fired shortly after the track's recording in 1990. Adler was replaced by then The Cult drummer, Matt Sorum, the drummer for all other 29 tracks on the two-disc set.
The song was first played at Farm Aid 1990, this was the first and last time the song was played with original drummer Steven Adler. The song was played many times in 1991 and 1992, though after 1992 the song was not performed again until December 4th, 2011 in Nashville TN. As of 2014 the song is played at almost every show.