From Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad:
A cruel and bloody civil war has started in Iraq, a country that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to free from fear and establish democracy. I have been visiting Iraq since 1978, but for the first time, I am becoming convinced that the country will not survive.
I have been covering the war in Iraq ever since it began three years ago and I have never seen the situation so grim. More than a week ago, I was in the northern city of Mosul, protected by 3,000 Kurdish soldiers, but even so it was considered too dangerous to send out patrols in daytime. It is safer at night because of a curfew.
In March alone, the U.S. military said 1,313 people were killed in sectarian attacks. Many bodies, buried in pits or thrown in the rivers, are never found.
The real figure is probably twice as high. All over the country people are on the move as Sunnis and Shiites flee each other's areas.
I was in Lebanon at the start of the civil war in 1975. Baghdad today resembles Beirut then. People are being murdered solely because of their religious identity.
Bush and Blair have for the past three years continually understated the gravity of what is taking place. It has been frustrating as a journalist to hear them claim that much of Iraq is peaceful when we could not prove them wrong without being killed or kidnapped. The capture of Saddam in 2003, the handover of sovereignty in 2004, the elections and new constitution in 2005 have all been oversold to the outside world as signs of progress.
One Iraqi official remarked that the three main communities -- Sunni, Shiite and Kurds -- do not hate one another because they do not have a government, but rather they do not have a government because they already hate one another.
Three years ago, when Saddam's statue was toppled, Iraqis were promised their lives would get better. Instead Iraq has become the most dangerous place in the world.