Notebook: Baghdad's Darkest Days

This reporter's notebook was written by CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan.



It's hard to imagine, but the last week in and around Baghdad has been relatively quiet, at least by the macabre standards that apply here. That said, since Monday night, suicide bombers, IEDs and car bombs have left more than 40 people dead - all of them civilians.

You can hear gunfire on the streets every night. Random shootouts don't even make headlines anymore — they're not big enough. But you hear of them anyway. A string of people selling gas on the streets, a harmless innovative way to make money these days, were shot and killed. The reason? No one really knows. Their gas cans weren't stolen; they were left full next to their victims.

In the last four days, the Ministry of Health says more than 260 bodies have poured into the city's morgues. That doesn't include the number of civilians who have been kidnapped or dumped somewhere to be dragged away by dogs.

But despite the carnage, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Tuesday night that he does not believe Iraq has fallen into civil war. "Seventy percent of the deaths are civilians," he admitted. "But the other 30 percent are coalition forces."

No one doubts a war is still on. On average, two U.S. servicemen die every day here — sometimes brutally so. The military says the bodies of the two U.S. soldiers who were kidnapped and killed last week were found bound together with an IED armed and ready to explode — placed gingerly between one of the soldier's legs.

If the last week is any indication, the new government's security crackdown has worked to limit the violence, but at what cost? The days that have been the least violent here are when residents have been locked in their homes during curfews that sometimes last nearly the entire day. It's the equivalent of putting an entire city under house arrest.

"It's going to take some time," Caldwell said. "We see a slight decrease in violence, but not of the degree we would like to see at this point."

If hundreds of Iraqis are dying every day at the hands of other Iraqis, just what will historians label some of the darkest days Baghdad has ever seen?
  • Jessica Goldman

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