I get a call the other night. They've found four more bodies in western Baghdad. Three of them are in a car. They're bound, hands and feet. They're blindfolded. They've been shot in the head. Their bodies bear wounds from beatings, electrical burns, and someone has used a drill on their flesh. The fourth is the same, the only difference being that his body was tossed onto a sidewalk. That's just one phone call. I get a few more. Every night, it seems, dozens of bodies turn up, often killed in the same fashion, both Shi'ite and Sunni.
We spoke with a journalist recently for a piece we're doing. He works for an Iraqi television station. For the last nine days he's been sleeping at the office. He's been threatened with death because of his work, and he doesn't want to bring the danger home to his parents and six sisters. He told the Ministry of the Interior about the threat, they told him to get a gun.
"Death is the simplest thing now in Iraq. A bullet in the head is nothing, especially against journalists. So crying and sadness are the norm," he said to us. Later, he added, "I have been in love for the last 4 years but my conditions don't allow me to marry, not because of money but because of how things are going on. There is no stability and you never know when a civil war will breakout."
People here are more terrified than I have ever seen them.
Neighborhoods are self-segregating as one either Shi'ites or Sunnis flee out of fear for their lives. Neighbors are getting together and forming their own militias, vowing to fight the death squads that slaughter people here nightly.Link to more on NPR's Mixed Signals blog.
A friend of mine tells me today he's bought weapons for his family, and is teaching his wife, who hates to even hold a knife, to fire a gun.
He has a daughter around two. In his neighborhood he saw a few families pack up and leave. Why? They are poor Shi'ites, usually from the south, or Sadr city, who moved to his neighborhood to work as housekeepers. The day before yesterday Sunni insugents burst into one family's home. They were a young couple, maybe 24 or 25. The husband was killed, and then they set his body on fire. They didn't bother killing the wife and four children first. They burned them alive.
My friend tells me this story and says, "I can understand someone who gets killed. I can understand beheadings. I can't understand burning someone alive." I find myself stunned. Both by his story and by the fact that killings and beheadings are understandable. Burning people alive apparently goes violates some behavioral norm that says chopping people's heads off is okay.
It is becoming very clear to me that war can shatter a society and what it becomes as it puts itself back together can become a warped malefic grotesquerie. A social organism that eagerly eats itself alive.
At a press conference the other day an American General said he thinks that Iraqis feel more secure. I think that most of the Iraqis I've spoken with since I've been here might have a slightly different perspective.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.