Baghdad is now home to an almost unfathomable mix of violence and fear. We imagine as much, watching our daily coverage, but what we have found is startling nonetheless. As ABC News polling director Langer puts it, "essentially no one in Baghdad counts himself or herself as 'very safe,' vs. 32 percent elsewhere." Terry McCarthy and the ABC Baghdad bureau visited Sunni and Shiite "vigilante guards," armed gunmen who now number in the thousands, policing neighborhoods and sometimes carrying out revenge attacks against their sectarian enemies. The situation is moderately better in the south -- where banditry is more common than large-scale bombings. The Kurdish north remained a far brighter spot in these terms -- a place where nearly eight in 10 Iraqis feel "very safe," and where Iraqis are much less likely to have witnessed violence or even to have been indirectly affected by it.
All of this has taken a profound emotional toll. Seven in 10 Iraqis report multiple signs of possible traumatic stress: depression, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and anger. It has also taken a toll on business and commercial traffic. Mohammad Hassin, a Baghdad restaurant owner, estimated that 70 percent of sit-down restaurants in the capital had shut down since 2003. The reasons? Food costs, fuel costs and all those well-heeled customers who have fled the country.
The violence has of course intruded on the work of reporters -- our own Bob Woodruff and CBS News' Kimberly Dozier being the highest-profile examples. And on several occasions the violence intruded on the poll-takers' work.
The good news here, such as it is, involves the hope that the U.S.-led "surge" of forces will improve matters -- and the continued growth of Iraq's security forces. The boost has seen police and army recruiting reach target levels -- though as we have learned from reporting in the last year, there are grave questions about the capability of these forces -- in particular the police, who are known to have been infiltrated by militia. While the Pentagon reports that Iraqi units are increasingly "taking the lead in operations," with 91 battalions now deemed battle-ready, a separate State Department report notes that "continued infiltration of the ISF and Iraqi Police by militia members also contributes to the escalating violence in some parts of the country." (As we write, The New York Times reports the story of a Baghdad district council member who complained that "The government, the Ministry of Interior, the army, all are sectarian." Two days after talking to the paper, the man was shot to death.)
The numbers below speak for themselves: