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Tre shia-politi blir filmet og tatt bilde av under tortur, like før de skal dø. De som gjør dette mot dem er Ansar al-Sunnah. Det er krig mellom sunnier og shiaer i Irak. Ansar al-Sunnah la ut bildene like etter at Abu Musab al-Zarqawi var drept. De skulle vise muskler.

Men denne historien er ikke enestående. Nir Rosen er en amerikansk journalist som har tilbrakt mye tid i Irak. Hans story i Washington Post er noe av det mest hårreisende jeg har lest fra Irak. Artikkelen kunne like gjerne vært kalt: «Veien til Haditha», for når man leser Rosens beskrivelse av situasjonen, og hvordan amerikanernes suges inn, forstår man at Haditha er noe som skjer underveis.

Rosen har noen viktige innsikter: Amerikanerne er blitt som en milits blant mange. De har ikke lenger noe voldsmonopol. Det er ingen topdog, alle beskytter sin turf, og gjengjelder. Ingen holder orden. Det er ingen forskjell på poliitet og militsene. De går over i hverandre.

Dette er farlig.

Tidligere så man amerikanere i gatene hver eneste dag. Nå kan det gå dagevis mellom hver gang man ser en amerikansk soldat, skriver Rosen.

Det er i år volden mellom shiaer og sunnier virkelig har eksplodert. Nå er det farlig å hete Omar i Bagdad, for alle vet at du er sunni.

I have spent nearly two of the three years since Baghdad fell in Iraq. On my last trip, a few weeks back, I flew out of the city overcome with fatalism. Over the course of six weeks, I worked with three different drivers; at various times each had to take a day off because a neighbor or relative had been killed. One morning 14 bodies were found, all with ID cards in their front pockets, all called Omar. Omar is a Sunni name. In Baghdad these days, nobody is more insecure than men called Omar. On another day a group of bodies was found with hands folded on their abdomens, right hand over left, the way Sunnis pray. It was a message. These days many Sunnis are obtaining false papers with neutral names. Sunni militias are retaliating, stopping buses and demanding the jinsiya , or ID cards, of all passengers. Individuals belonging to Shiite tribes are executed.

Mangel på en sterk ordensmakt gjør at frykten råder. Alle må beskytte seg selv, og klynger seg til gruppen. Amerikanerne har blitt smittet av voldskulturen. Rosen forteller om én aksjon. Det er forferdelige bilder som manes frem. Hvis dette er hyppig, forråer det soldatene, og moralen bryter sammen.

Last fall I visited the home of a Sunni man called Sabah in the western Baghdad suburb of Radwaniya, where the Sunni resistance had long had a presence, and where a U.S. soldier had recently been killed. On Friday night a few days before I came, his family told me, American soldiers surrounded the home where Sabah lived with his brothers, Walid and Hussein, and their families and broke down the door. The women and children were herded outside, walking past Sabah, whose nose was broken, and Walid, who had the barrel of a soldier’s machine gun in his mouth. The soldiers beat the men with rifle butts, while the Shiite Iraqi translator accompanying the troops exhorted the Americans to execute the Sunnis.

As the terrified family waited outside, they heard three shots from inside. It then sounded to them as though there was a scuffle inside, with the soldiers shouting at each other. Thirty minutes later the translator emerged with a picture of Sabah. «Who is Sabah’s wife?» he asked. «Your husband was killed by the Americans, and he deserved to die,» he told her. At that he tore the picture before her face.

Walid was then taken away, and inside the house the family found Sabah dead. His bloody shirt showed three bullet holes that went through his chest; two of the bullets had come out of his back and lodged in the wall behind him. Three U.S.-made bullet casings were on the floor. Sofas and beds had been overturned and torn apart; tables, closets, vases of plastic flowers, all were broken and tossed around. Even the cars had been destroyed. Photographs of Sabah had been torn up and his ID card confiscated. One photograph remained on his wife’s bureau: Sabah standing proudly in front of his Mercedes.

I later asked Hussein if they wanted revenge. «We are Muslim, praise God,» he said, «and we do not want revenge. He was innocent and he was killed, so he is a martyr.»

Bush sine ord om at «as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down» klinger hule når en leser om hva slags irakere som står frem: det er militser, og det er umulig å skille dem fra politiet.

In Baghdad and most of Iraq, the police are the Mahdi Army and the Mahdi Army is the police. The same holds for the actual Iraqi army, posted throughout the country.

The sectarian tensions have overtaken far more than Iraq’s security forces and its streets. Militias now routinely enter hospitals to hunt down or arrest those who have survived their raids. And many Iraqi government ministries are now filled with the banners and slogans of Shiite religious groups, which now exert total control over these key agencies. If you are not with them, you are gone.

Så snart Saddam var borte, dukket motsetningene mellom shia og sunnier opp. Det var uunngåelig. Da shiaenes valgseier var en realitet, befestet det motviljen og motsetningene. Selv motstanden mot amerikanerne greide ikke forene dem. Nå rettes volden mot hverandre, mer enn amerikanerne. Men det er en smal trøst, for shiaer og sunnier river landet i filler.

Det er en borgerkrig som pågår, og hvis Rosens beskrivelse stemmer, og det tror jeg den gjør, vil denne krigen får store konsekvenser utenfor Irak på forholdet mellom shiaer og sunnier. Slik broderstrid er alltid blodig og setter dype spor.

Iraq Is the Republic of Fear

Nir Rosen is a fellow at the New America Foundation and author of «In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq» (Free Press).