Steve and Jen bring you this daily review of the news
Premium Advertiser

News Blog Sponsors

News Links

BBC World Service
The Guardian
Washington Post
Iraq Order of Battle
NY Times
LA Times
ABC News

Blogs We Like

Daily Kos
Digby's Blog
Operation Yellow Elephant
Iraq Casualty Count
Media Matters
Talking Points
Defense Tech
Intel Dump
Soldiers for the Truth
Margaret Cho
Juan Cole
Just a Bump in the Beltway
Baghdad Burning
Howard Stern
Michael Moore
James Wolcott
Cooking for Engineers
There is No Crisis
Whiskey Bar
Rude Pundit
Crooks and Liars
Amazin' Avenue
DC Media Girl
The Server Logs

Blogger Credits

Powered by Blogger

Archives by
Publication Date
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
Comments Credits
Comments by YACCS
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Civil War? Nah, just secterian violence

Just another day in the projects

Redirecting Bullets in Baghdad


I GOT back to Iraq two weeks ago, having been away more than a year. The first story I covered began with a tip that vigilantes had hanged four suspected terrorists from lamp posts in Sadr City, a Shiite slum. The minute I got to the scene, I realized I was stepping into a new Iraq. Another new Iraq, really; maybe even the third Iraq I have seen since I began reporting here in 2003.

Gone were the American tanks that used to guard the intersections. Instead, aggressive teenagers with machine guns and shiny soccer jerseys ruled the streets. They poked their heads into cars and detained whomever they wanted. There were even 8-year-olds running checkpoints, some toting toy pistols, others toting real ones. Whatever they carried, 4-foot-tall militias made me nervous. The streets now had a truly Liberian feel.

The episode was oddly symmetrical with a moment in 2004 when mobs in Falluja swarmed four American contractors and hung the bodies from a bridge. But there were a few big differences. For one, this wasn't Falluja, angry heart of the insurgency. This was Baghdad. And these weren't Americans dangling from rope. They were Sunni Arab Iraqis.

I had thought Iraq might be getting quieter. Fewer mortars were sailing into the Green Zone, where the Americans are based, and fewer suicide bombings were disrupting the morning rush. Even the airport road, the most dreaded strip of asphalt in the world, was doing better. It had been repaved and was flowing with traffic.

But soon I caught on. The violence had not declined. It had just turned inward. No longer was most of it pointed at the Americans, either directly or indirectly, as it had been during the invasion and when the insurgency exploded in 2004. Back then, if G.I.'s were not the targets, their helpers were — the Iraqi police, regional governors, Kurdish leaders, foreign civilians, anyone remotely connected to the "occupiers."

Mass murder used to provoke some form of official reaction, however feeble. I remember seeing the Iraqi police seal off areas after big bomb attacks and poke around for evidence. Now, there are major crimes with no crime scenes. Very few of these mystery killings have been investigated, and it isn't for lack of witnesses. Many of these men were abducted in daylight, in public, in front of crowds.

Of course, the old insurgency hasn't abated. Last week, 200 masked insurgents besieged a jail, killing more than a dozen guards and springing their comrades. A few days ago, one of our translator's uncles was killed when a box of sweets blew up in a tea shop. It seems as if half of our staff has had family murdered.

It is difficult to communicate just how violent Baghdad has become. A DVD was recently circulated in markets showing an imam being dragged behind a pickup truck. There was also a home video of a family of four, including a 10-day-old girl, all of them wrapped in plastic in the morgue.

Everyone has guns. We interviewed an educated woman who rides the bus with a loaded Glock pistol in her lap.

This is not to say life has ground to a halt. Stores are open, though the curfew has cut into business. Children go to school. The other day a mortar shell flew over a swing set and the children kept on swinging, even as a cloud of dust rose behind them.

I recently met a Sunni man who used to be virulently anti-American. He showed me postmortem pictures of his younger brother, who had been kidnapped by death squads and had holes drilled in his face.

"Even the Americans wouldn't do this," he said.

posted by Steve @ 5:19:00 PM

5:19:00 PM

The News Blog home page


Editorial Staff

Add to My AOL

Support The News Blog

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
News Blog Food Blog
Visit the News Blog Food Blog
The News Blog Shops
Operation Yellow Elephant
Enlist, Young Republicans