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Produced by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith
Written Martin Smith


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, a dangerous place, a critical time--

U.S. MILITARY OFFICER: This ethnic fault line is really going to start to erupt.

ANNOUNCER: --a desperate and divided country.

Iraqi Businessman: If the Americans were to pull out, everybody'd be fighting everybody else. It'd be Sunni against the Shi'ite, the Muslims against the Christians. It's going to be a catastrophe.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith crosses Iraq. The people have survived Saddam, he finds. But can they survive themselves?


MARTIN SMITH, FRONTLINE Correspondent: [voice-over] Last summer, the top U.S. administrator in Baghdad told me that the press was doing a lousy job of covering the story here. He said we needed to get out of Baghdad.

Now it's mid-November, and we've come back to see how the U.S. plan to turn this country into a showcase for democracy in the Middle East is faring. Today I'm in the northern city of Mosul with General David Petraeus. He's having the kind of success here that Washington had hoped for. This was our first stop on a five-week trip across Iraq. We're attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new free trade zone.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: We welcome all our guests in the new free zone area and--

MARTIN SMITH: Getting business rolling in the midst of constant security threats is no easy matter. But with a combination of money well spent, tough military tactics and what Petraeus will admit is some luck, the general has made steady progress. We've come here to get some sense of how much work there is still to do and how long soldiers like Petraeus will need to be here.

Petraeus and around 18,000 soldiers moved into northwestern Iraq in late April and set up headquarters in Mosul, an ancient city on the western edge of Kurdistan. Petraeus told me the landscape here reminds him of Kansas. Under names like Task Force Johnny Appleseed, Tom Sawyer, Easy Rider and Marcus Welby, Petraeus has launched 4,500 reconstruction projects, making Mosul a showcase for visiting congressmen.

Even before Ambassador Paul Bremer set up shop in Baghdad, Petraeus held Iraq's first post-war election. I followed Petraeus to one city council meeting.

COUNCILMAN: [subtitles] In general, about the searching of mosques--

MARTIN SMITH: They were discussing what right the newly trained Iraqi police had to search mosques for weapons.

COUNCILMAN: [subtitles] They came into the mosque wearing their shoes, and they were smoking cigarettes, openly breaking the rules of Ramadan, contrary to Islam.

Maj. Gen. DAVID PETRAEUS, 101st Airborne Division: If the mosques do not want somebody to go into them, then they should not store mortar baseplates, mortar-aiming circles and mortar-firing triggers in their mosques. And for what it's worth, we will certainly discuss this with the Iraq civil defense corps--

MARTIN SMITH: This council has met over 50 times and approved thousands of projects. The plan is that by June, Iraqis will run it by themselves.

Maj. Gen. DAVID PETRAEUS: In the past two weeks alone, over 670 RPG rounds and 333 RPG launchers were turned over to us by local citizens.

MARTIN SMITH: Meanwhile, security remains the biggest concern. We drove out to the 101st's ammo dump.

[on camera] So they're bringing us out to a base here, where they're collecting all this ammunition that-- every day, they get several truckloads of rockets, SAMs, grenades, explosive material, and they bring it in here to this old base, Iraqi base, and then they blow it up.

[voice-over] In fact, there is so much ammunition that it is piling up faster than the 101st can dispose of it.

MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] Now, some of the IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, are made out of these very things, right?

SOLDIER: Roger, sir.

MARTIN SMITH: So you find these things being put into a road in attempts to kill you guys.


MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] The problem for Petraeus now is that his very success has made him and the 101st an attractive target.

Maj. Gen. DAVID PETRAEUS: About a month or so ago, we saw a sustained spike of enemy activity. We've lost a number of soldiers during that time, had a number of others wounded. If the enemy sees this as an example of success, then, of course, they're going to want to take it on. And they are.

MARTIN SMITH: At the end of our first day, Petraeus joined his general staff for his nightly briefing.

OFFICER: --were trying to gain entry through a non-border crossing location, sir.

MARTIN SMITH: It was a PowerPoint extravaganza. Hundreds of reconstruction projects were reviewed.

Maj. Gen. DAVID PETRAEUS: OK, next slide.

MARTIN SMITH: The 101st, I thought, runs a very tight ship.

Maj. Gen. DAVID PETRAEUS: You betcha. OK, next slide.

MARTIN SMITH: But then came the day's bad news.

BBC RADIO: Two helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division were flying over a suburban area of Mosul shortly after nightfall when the crash happened. Eyewitness accounts speak of some kind of missile striking one of the Black Hawks, which then collided with the second-- two Black Hawks down, and the worst single loss of life for the American military since the start of the war.

MARTIN SMITH: Seventeen soldiers were dead. A visit of U.S. congressmen scheduled for the following day was canceled.

Until recently, Mosul had not seen much violence, compared to Baghdad. And it has still not experienced much in the way of ethnic tension, though the city contains a volatile mix of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians.

[Editor's Note: A portion of this transcript has been temporarily removed to protect the security of the individual who was interviewed.]

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] General Petraeus told us that if we wanted to understand ethnic tensions in Iraq, we should drive to Kirkuk. Traditionally a city of Kurds and Turkomen, on the southwestern edge of Kurdistan, Kirkuk fell prey to Saddam's brutal Arabization program in the 1980s. Today the city is claimed equally by Arabs, Turkomen and Kurds, and the job of sorting out those claims has fallen largely to the U.S. Army.

We linked up with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, commanded by Colonel Bill Mayville.

Col. WILLIAM MAYVILLE, 173rd Airborne Brigade: This is a place that could unravel Iraq. This is a place that could begin a spiral, a downward spiral. Civil unrest is right here. It's at the surface.

MARTIN SMITH: Several times in the last few months, Kurds and Arabs have clashed in the streets. In August, Turkomen also rioted. Turkomen and Arabs both fear that their city is being sold out from underneath them to the Kurds.

[on camera] How well does Washington, or even Baghdad, understand what you're facing here in Kirkuk?

Col. WILLIAM MAYVILLE: First off, let me say no one can-- no one can possibly hope to appreciate the complexity of Kirkuk until you've been here and you've spent as much time as we have had the privilege of spending here. My concern, at this point, is that one community sees itself being outmaneuvered by the other, takes steps to make sure it's not outmaneuvered. And then we create this momentum that consumes that city at a rate and a pace that upsets the other community.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] While we were in Kirkuk, we ran into a demonstration of Shia Arabs. These people were angry about the make-up of the city council and the Kirkuk police force. Both were dominated by Kurds. We followed the demonstration to this mosque and spoke to the chief imam, Abdul Fattah al Musawi.

ABDUL FATTAH AL MUSAWI: [subtitles] This demonstration is to tell the world that the provisional government in Kirkuk is illegitimate. Everyone here is opposed to the current government, opposed to its governors, to its councils, everything.

MARTIN SMITH: Musawi has signed a petition demanding the city council be dissolved and seats reapportioned to reflect the fact that Arabs now make up a large proportion of the city. They live mostly in housing projects on the south side of town. The Kurds call them "10,000 dinar Arabs," a reference to the incentive money they received from Saddam to relocate from the south. Most of them have been here for more than a decade.

1st ARAB: [subtitles] I live in Kirkuk because it's a beautiful area and it has nice people. The location and the climate are better than in Basra. My father didn't have enough money to buy a home in Basra, so we came here. They gave us an apartment and money.

TRANSLATOR: The government, Saddam's government, gave us money and houses. That's why we came here.

MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] What's your opinion about the fact that the Kurds, some of them, believe that this should be a Kurdish city and that you, many of you, should go back to the south of Iraq?

2nd ARAB: [subtitles] We're all Arabs here, and we won't leave this area. Some Kurds live in Baghdad. Should we ask them to move? There is only one Iraq. If they want to divide Iraq, it will only create problems!

TRANSLATOR: One Iraq, all the same.

[ More on Iraq's ethnic landscape]

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Under Saddam's Arabization policy, close to a million Kurds were forced out of their homes. Now they've been coming back to cities like Kirkuk and settling in refugee camps on the city's east side.

[on camera] What motivates you to come back here?

1st KURD: [subtitles] Because we are from Kirkuk. And now that it is liberated, we feel that we don't belong anywhere else. It is our homeland. We belong here. We dream of Kirkuk in our sleep.

MARTIN SMITH: But is this-- is this for you a better life here now?

2nd KURD: Yes. Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: But you live here in tents, in what is essentially a refugee camp.

2nd KURD: [subtitles] Yes, but we prefer to die here than live somewhere else.

Col. WILLIAM MAYVILLE: The Kurds believe that the war really was about their repatriation to lands that they had lost during the Arabization process of Saddam Hussein. They believe that we will underwrite their return to this province.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] We followed Mayville to a meeting with Kurdish leaders.

KURDISH LEADER: [subtitles] We hope you will cooperate with us in defining Kirkuk as part of Kurdistan. We believe this is our legitimate right. We've never said Arabs, Turkomen and Assyrians can't be in Kirkuk. The only problem is those Arabs who, through the Arabization program, settled in Kirkuk.

Col. WILLIAM MAYVILLE: If they want to leave, fine. But if we're not-- you know, if what we're doing is forcing them to leave, don't we look a lot like the regime we've just overthrown?

KURDISH LEADER: [subtitles] Those Arabs came here to change our demographics. They came as a tool of ethnic cleansing. The Kurds are the owners. The others are occupiers.

Col. WILLIAM MAYVILLE: If you don't recognize that the Shia, the Kurds, Turkomen and the Arabs are all victims, then you are going to be fighting one fight after another. Your children will be fighting. And you will see the same cycle of fighting that this land has always known because you are going down a road-- you're going down a road with this ultimatum that will be your undoing.

I am really worried about what happens here. And to be fair to the communities that are here, I don't think they have the capacity to solve this problem themselves. They do need outside help. We don't even have the rules of law yet to arbitrate, mediate or even discuss compensation packages. And we don't-- we just-- what we have is historical forces at play here.

MARTIN SMITH: This month, Colonel Mayville and his unit will rotate out of Iraq. The work he started here will fall to another coalition commander.

That night, our hotel in Kirkuk was attacked.

[on camera] Somebody apparently drove by and threw a grenade right in the front of our hotel. We were just upstairs. He threw a grenade, right?

[voice-over] Three members of the hotel staff were wounded by glass and shrapnel. The staff assumed it was Ba'ath loyalists targeting a hotel that catered to Westerners. When police arrived, hotel security accused them of failing to adequately patrol the neighborhood. The police tried to prevent us from filming. Then a fight broke out. When we kept filming, one policeman fired three rounds at the windows directly above our heads to push us back.

The other part of Colonel Mayville's job is running military operations against the resistance. On this night, Mayville had received intelligence that a Ba'athist cell was operating from a town 40 miles south of Kirkuk.

Col. WILLIAM MAYVILLE: It is an area where there are constant attacks against the coalition forces-- mortar rounds, IEDs, the improvised explosive devices that hit our vehicles. What we're doing is coming in with a large force to let everybody know, one, to the bad guys, we're going to find you, because we're going to get a bunch of them tonight. And I think that you're going to see this kind of an operation going on throughout Iraq, back and forth, until finally everyone gets to realize that there's a new order in place.

[ Read Col. Mayville's interview]

MARTIN SMITH: We arrived in the town, Hawijah, at dawn. Downtown, we saw many posters of Saddam and a partially restored mural.

SOLDIER: Back up and pump the gas. Hell, yeah! That's what I'm talking about.

MARTIN SMITH: One thousand soldiers spread out across town with instructions to move cautiously. Colonel Mayville said the objective was to capture enemies, not create them. A tip brought them to this house, where they found eight tubes of C4 explosives, dozens of blasting caps--

SOLDIER: Battery and a switch. That's all you need.

MARTIN SMITH: --several AK-47s and a banner proclaiming loyalty to Saddam.

SOLDIER: It says that, "All the people are with you and we will defend you with everything we've got. We are ready to defend the great Iraq."

MARTIN SMITH: The homeowners said the explosives, guns and banner belonged to their son.

SOLDIER: This is getting extremely serious because if he's harboring terrorists, he's going to lose his house.

MARTIN SMITH: But they wouldn't talk until soldiers brought in a bulldozer and began to destroy the house. The mother then said her son was plowing a nearby field. He was arrested that day, along with 25 other men.

Col. WILLIAM MAYVILLE: A really good job on your part, your soldiers' part, and in terms of precision--

I'm realistic about success. I think we Americans want very much to earn the respect, to earn a partnership here and a friendship. I think there's enough of an idealist in me that I would hope that we could do something like that.

MARTIN SMITH: After Kirkuk, we pushed south deeper into the Sunni Arab lands of central Iraq. The roads between here and Baghdad are notoriously unsafe. A civilian contractor had disappeared on this stretch a few weeks earlier. [Our driver] told us there would be no stopping for filming. Ambushes are commonplace. [Editor's Note: The name of the driver has been removed for security purposes.]

This is the so-called Sunni triangle. Sunni Arabs have long dominated Iraqi politics, but now they have been stripped of their power. And being only one fifth of the overall population of Iraq, they worry about how they will fare in a democracy, nowhere more than in Tikrit, birthplace of Saddam. This is not a place that welcomes outsiders. Even filming is difficult. We've been warned to watch our backs. At a downtown restaurant where I had lunch, Saddam's picture hung on the wall. And that very day, two coalition contractors were murdered a few blocks away.

Nearby is Saddam's water palace. We've come to ask the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, now headquartered here, about the prospect of winning the loyalty of the people in the Sunni triangle.

Maj. Gen. RAYMOND ODIERNO, 4th Infantry Division: Some of the problem is they expect the United States to come in and they would throw billions of dollars, and in six months, this country would be like Germany is today. You know, it's an unrealistic expectation.

MARTIN SMITH: We had come here at a critical time. It has not been widely reported, but in October, reconstruction money, so important to winning hearts and minds, dried up.

Maj. Gen. RAYMOND ODIERNO: We were just beginning to see people reacting to the successes we were having with the water treatment projects, with the school projects, with the sewage projects, with the police buildings and the courthouses being developed. We were really starting to see some positive response to all that.

MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] You had momentum.

Maj. Gen. RAYMOND ODIERNO: We had momentum. And so we've somewhat lost that a little bit. We can regain it, but it's frustrating.

MARTIN SMITH: Why did nobody see that coming?

Maj. Gen. RAYMOND ODIERNO: We didn't see it coming. I can't tell you why it happened. I don't know. So we just got to-- it's done. It's water under the bridge. We got to move forward. I think that's my comment on that.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] It appeared to have serious consequences. As reconstruction slowed, anti-coalition violence increased. November, the month we were in Iraq, turned out to be the most deadly since the war was declared over in May.

This is Baqubah, 75 miles south of Tikrit, another hard-hit town. I went to talk to the local U.S. commander.

[on camera] Hi there.

Lt. SUSAN GREIG, 4th Infantry Division: Hello.

MARTIN SMITH: Hi. Martin Smith. How are you?

Lt. SUSAN GREIG: Hi. Lieutenant Greig.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Lieutenant Susan Greig says she ran out of money while trying to set up a police force.

Lt. SUSAN GREIG: What happened was, initially when we arrived here, I mean, we used coalition money. And then, you know, at some point, you know, that ran down. And honestly, for a few months, I mean, we were really at a standstill. I couldn't get weapons. I couldn't get uniforms, patrol cars. I have a couple police stations that only had one patrol car.

MARTIN SMITH: To make matters worse, Baqubah is among the most dangerous police posts in all of Iraq. Two days before we got here, suicide bombers struck two local police stations. Eleven policemen and five civilians were killed. Many more were injured. We talked to one of the victims at his home.

INJURED MAN: [subtitles] We were standing by the door of the police station. Then, in a split second, the car exploded.

MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] And how badly injured were you?

INJURED MAN: [subtitles] A deep injury, into the bone. A screw this big.

FATHER: [subtitles] On top of it all, no one took him to the hospital. And he hasn't been paid.

TRANSLATOR: [subtitles] How long?

FATHER: [subtitles] Two months without pay. Not a single dinar. They say it hasn't been approved.

MARTIN SMITH: Will you return to being a policeman after you are healed?

INJURED MAN: [subtitles] Yes, I will.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] He may return, but many others haven't. Immediately after the bombing, around 40 police officers in Baqubah province resigned. Greig told us that in early December, she'd been assured that money was on its way. But she says she lost valuable time.

Lt. SUSAN GREIG: We cannot really work on public works if we don't have the security to protect the workers that are there. We can ask all the contractors in the world to come out and build a sewage line and everything else, but you know what? Someone can come right behind him, throw a couple RPGs at it, and what do you have? We need the security first, in order to allow these civilian contractors to get out to do their job.

MARTIN SMITH: It's a stubborn problem. The more active the resistance, the slower the reconstruction.

There are security problems throughout the Sunni Triangle. The worst are in Falluja. Less than an hour west of Baghdad, it is the epicenter of the resistance. On the way there, we saw two U.S. Army supply trucks that had just been attacked.

As we entered the town, there was anti-American graffiti everywhere.

[subtitles] "Long live Saddam. Death to American spies and cooperators." "Falluja will be a graveyard for the Americans." "It is lawful to steal from the Americans, even to kill them."

MARTIN SMITH: More than 40 American GIs have been killed in this area since April.

1st IRAQI: [subtitles] Americans came here for the oil. The American government lied to its people and the entire world with its claims about weapons of mass destruction. Where are they? Now they've occupied Iraq for seven months. Where are the weapons?

MARTIN SMITH: Throughout central Iraq, it's easy to find people that complain on the streets, but the people of Falluja were especially blunt.

2nd IRAQI: [subtitles] None of us have seen any good from the Americans. I will tell you, on television, I am ready to take on the Americans!

MARTIN SMITH: Even the mayor, who says he is pro-American, is critical.

MAYOR: [subtitles] Most of the Americans have a military mindset. They don't bother to know or learn about our culture or customs. They have a misinterpretation of Iraqis. When somebody kicks down a door to search a house, does he expect to be loved?

[ Read the producer's Falluja dispatch]

MARTIN SMITH: There's been tension in Falluja since the end of the war. On several occasions, American troops have mistakenly shot and killed civilians and Iraqi policemen. The people have not forgotten, and soldiers remain tense.

Just a few days before we got here, a warehouse had been raided by soldiers looking for explosives.

IRAQI: [subtitles] There were more than 50 soldiers. They took our weapons and held us against the wall with their guns. They broke the locks. They just kicked the doors in and smashed the glass.

TRANSLATOR: Yeah, they kicked the doors open and they smashed--

MARTIN SMITH: As I was listening to the guard, I heard gunshots. It was a wedding party.

We asked to go inside the warehouse and talk with the owner.

SHEIKH GAZI AL ESSAWI: [subtitles] Somebody told them I supported the resistance, that I had weapons, invited Saddam to my house, et cetera. They believed those false informers and confronted me.

MARTIN SMITH: He is Sheikh Gazi al Essawi, the leader of the Bu Essa tribe, one of the largest and most powerful in the country.

SHEIKH GAZI AL ESSAWI: [subtitles] Why did they do this to me? I'm not upset that they searched my house or my company. What upsets me is that they vandalized my company. Do the Americans want to turn me into a friend or an enemy? Falluja is a tribal society. The way things work here, if one man slaps another, it's a big deal. It could lead to a bigger confrontation. It could lead to killing.

MARTIN SMITH: When we asked the Americans about the raid, they admitted that they might have overreacted and are investigating the incident. We spoke to the local U.S. Army commander, Lt. Colonel Brian Drinkwine.

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE, 82nd Airborne Division: Sheikh Gazi is rumored to be one of the third or fourth richest sheikhs in Iraq. He's a man of great political influence.

MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] But you were suspicious of Gazi.

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: No, I would not say we're suspicious of any one sheikh, in particular.

MARTIN SMITH: One of your captains says, "I don't like him because he wants to kill me."

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: Well, we've had a few threats from different people. I don't think that-- you know, Sheikh Gazi is in a position that he can be a future leader of this city in Iraq. It should not only be the coalition and CPA providing resources to Falluja. There are Iraqis with money that can do great good for this city.

MARTIN SMITH: But he wants U.S. coalition forces out.

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: Yeah. Some sheikhs will say that, but to a man, they will tell you if we did leave and pick up and stack arms and go tomorrow, there will be a tribal war with more bloodshed than this place has ever seen. You have to develop a representative government that can stand on its own.

MARTIN SMITH: How long is it going to take?

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: I don't want to put a timetable to it. I think it's the conditions that you look for.

MARTIN SMITH: When are Iraqis on the streets of Falluja going to tell me that things are better?

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: Hopefully, tomorrow they'll tell you it's a little better.

MARTIN SMITH: The people that I've spoken to in the streets, they like to gesture up and down the main boulevard there and say, "Look, where do you see any improvements? Where is it?" They don't-- they don't see it. And frankly, it's not-- it doesn't jump out at you when you drive through Falluja that there's a lot of reconstruction going on.

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: It's-- it will take time.

SOLDIER: I'm sorry to interrupt, sir.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] We were interrupted. A helicopter had been shot down.

SOLDIER: They say they took small arms fire and they say there's two guys maneuvering on them now, so--

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: OK. Let me stop--

MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] Has there been an ambush?

Lt. Col. BRIAN DRINKWINE: It's an incident with another unit. There's a-- so if you could give me a minute, we could stop rolling, I be right back.

MARTIN SMITH: Yeah. Of course. I understand.

[voice-over] Of the 10 American helicopters shot down over Iraq, 4 came down near Falluja. This time, the Americans were lucky. There were no serious injuries.

Before we headed south, [our driver] told me we needed to fill our gas tank. Everywhere we went there were lines. Many of them of went on and on and on. There was a shortage of gasoline in Iraq due to decayed pipelines and frequent attacks on oil industry infrastructure. The people on this line have been here for much of the night and all morning. We've been told that on average, the wait is about six hours. [Editor's Note: The name of the driver has been removed for security purposes.]

Our trip would have been impossible if we hadn't found an alternative source on the black market. This enterprising seller buys it from the gas station and sells it to us at six times the market price. In a country where unemployment ranges as high as 70 percent, few Iraqis can afford the mark-up.

On a full tank, we resumed our trip south. We would have met with U.S. military commanders in the south, but there are none. Instead Italians, Poles, British troops and others patrol here.

The south is home to the Shia, traditionally the poorest, most oppressed and marginalized of Iraq's people. Today the Shia are experiencing a revival. Shia pilgrims from Iran and elsewhere -- long prevented from coming here by Saddam -- are flooding in, to the sacred cities of Najaf, Karbala and Kufa. Commerce is booming, and contributions to the local mosques are filling their coffers, making the clerics who control them rich and powerful.

The Shia also know that they have a lot to gain in a democracy. By some counts, they represent 60 percent of Iraq's population. The preeminent Shia leader in Iraq, whose followers number in the millions, is the Grand Ayatollah Ali Huseini al Sistani. Sistani has challenged Ambassador Bremer's complex formula for the selection of a national assembly, calling instead for direct popular elections.

[on camera] I just want to ask him some questions. You translate for me, OK?

[voice-over] We tried to talk to him on an earlier trip to Najaf in August.

MARTIN SMITH: Who can we ask? Who's the secretary? Is this where Sistani works?

TRANSLATOR: Yeah, he works [unintelligible]

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] His spokesman refused to appear on camera.

[on camera] We hope to be able to speak to Ayatollah Sistani

SPOKESPERSON: [subtitles] The ayatollah doesn't receive anybody from any television channel or any press. He only accepts written questions. That is his way. Paul Bremer asked to meet with him. The assistant to Rumsfeld [Wolfowitz] asked to meet with him. He does not talk to Americans.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Another of Iraq's five living grand ayatollahs, Muhammad al Modarresi, is much more approachable. Like Sistani, he is considered a moderate. But he warns if the Americans don't yield to Sistani's demands for direct elections, they risk disaster.

Grand Ayatollah MUHAMMAD TAQI AL MODARRESI: [subtitles] The absence of elections in Iraq could lead to civil war not only between the Sunnis and Shi'ites or between the Kurds and Arabs, but also within each group. Iraq is a country with many well-armed people. Iraqis are not afraid of death. They are brave.

[ Read the interview with Modarresi]

MARTIN SMITH: Meeting with a group of pilgrims from eastern Iraq, the ayatollah insists on their moving closer. He counsels patience.

Grand Ayatollah MUHAMMAD TAQI AL MODARRESI: [subtitles] It takes three months to build a small room. But if you want to build a skyscraper, it could take you two to three years. We want to build an Iraq that lasts. Those that are now preaching that in a short period of time, all your wishes will be fulfilled, they are either ignorant or they are pretending to be ignorant.

MARTIN SMITH: The man moderate Shia leaders fear most is Moqtada al Sadr. He derives his power from the prominence of his late father, a much-revered grand ayatollah.

DEMONSTRATORS: [subtitles] Long live Sadr! Moqtada is winning!

MOQTADA SADR: [subtitles] The occupation forces are aggressing the oppressed Iraqi people. They are being unjust and hateful!

MARTIN SMITH: The most fervent of Sadr's flock wear a green banner that reads "God's Army." They are the activist paramilitary wing of his religious movement. They have stormed mosques, thrown out moderate clerics and reportedly threatened the lives of Sistani and other moderate ayatollahs. U.S. military intelligence believes they have also organized violence against occupation forces. The army's size is unknown, but it is active across the country.

IRAQI: We Army Mehdi.

MARTIN SMITH: "We are God's Army," he says. Another member is the young imam we met in Kirkuk, Abdul Musawi. We ran into him in Najaf after he had come from a meeting with Sadr.

ABDUL FATTAH AL MUSAWI: [subtitles] So what is the question you wanted to ask?

MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] Oh, have you met today with Moqtada Sadr?

ABDUL FATTAH AL MUSAWI: [subtitles] Every soldier must remain connected to his commander.

MARTIN SMITH: You use military language.

ABDUL FATTAH AL MUSAWI: [subtitles] Leadership is not confined to the military. Everyone can have leaders.

MARTIN SMITH: But you consider you're a soldier in an army of Moqtada's.

ABDUL FATTAH AL MUSAWI: [subtitles] I'm a soldier in God's Army.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Many Iraqis are wary of Sadr and his followers. Adnan Pachachi is a secular Sunni member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council in Baghdad.

[on camera] Is it a concern of yours that a person like Moqtada al Sadr can stir up trouble for Iraq?

ADNAN PACHACHI, Iraqi Governing Council: He's a-- have you met him, by any chance?

MARTIN SMITH: No. I've been to his Friday prayers. I hope to meet him.

ADNAN PACHACHI: Well, from what I hear, you know, he's rather unpredictable, shall I say.

MARTIN SMITH: He's young?

ADNAN PACHACHI: Yes, he is. [laughs]

MARTIN SMITH: What constituency does Moqtada Sadr represent?

ABDUL AZIZ AL HAKIM: [subtitles] There is no general difference in the points of view that we adopt.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Abdul Aziz al Hakim is also a member of the Governing Council. But as the political face of Iraqi Shia, he refuses to admit any differences with Sadr.

[on camera] I ask again, what does Moqtada Sadr represent? Who are his followers?

ABDUL AZIZ AL HAKIM: [subtitles] His followers are those who followed his father before him.

MARTIN SMITH: I spoke with Abdul Aziz al Hakim about Sadr, and he was reluctant to even mention his name.

ADNAN PACHACHI: Yes. They-- they-- they--

MARTIN SMITH: They don't want to recognize him.

ADNAN PACHACHI: No. They dislike him. He's challenging the established authority.

[ More on Iraq's Shia community]

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] For now, Sadr is not openly advocating a break with Sistani. He, too, wants direct elections. If democracy is coming to Iraq, the Shia must get their due.

ABDUL AZIZ AL HAKIM: [subtitles] This is the true meaning of democracy. We expect America to deliver. The voice of the people is the foundation of the future of Iraq.

MARTIN SMITH: Distrust of Americans runs deep in the south. In 1991, after the first Gulf war, when Shia rose against Saddam, they were at first encouraged by the U.S. but then abandoned. Thousands were slaughtered by Saddam and buried in mass graves.

Today we've been invited to a memorial service in the town of Shatrah for fallen Shia martyrs. A veteran of the '91 revolt tells me their fight against the Ba'athists is not over.

[on camera] There have been some killings of Ba'athists in the area recently, in the south near Basra.

VETERAN: [subtitles] Ba'athists everywhere are under attack. What they did to us cannot be underestimated, and the mass graves are evidence of this.

MARTIN SMITH: And who is responsible for these killings now of the Ba'athists?

VETERAN: [subtitles] We chase the Ba'athists everywhere. For us oppressed Iraqis, we have the right to track the Ba'athists everywhere.

MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Inside, we attend the memorial service for martyrs of the 15th of Shaban movement, a militant Shia Islamist group. Its leader, Hamza al Mousawi, complains that decades-old sacrifices are not being recognized by the Americans.

HAMZA Al MOUSAWI: [subtitles] Clearly, the Americans aren't looking out for the stability of the Iraqis but are looking out for themselves. If you listen to the American statements, they are using Iraq as a base to fight terrorism.

MARTIN SMITH: Mousawi says he doesn't support violence, but there are reports that his own 15th of Shaban movement has been involved in vigilante justice, terrorizing Sunnis, forcing them off their lands.

Our journey had brought us far south, to the marshlands. Here the great rivers of Iraq, the Tigris and Euphrates, merge. This is the land of the Marsh Arabs. Some people believe that this was the biblical Garden of Eden. For centuries, the marshes were impenetrable, beyond the control of outsiders. During the 1980s, they provided a hideout for deserters from the Iran-Iraq war. And after the failed '91 uprising, Shia rebel groups used the area to organize fresh attacks on the regime.

Saddam retaliated by draining the marshes, forcing up to 200,000 Shia to flee, many to Iran, others north to towns like Kirkuk. Ninety percent of the marshes are now destroyed. We saw abandoned villages, and where there once water, desert. Camel trains now cross the dry land from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

I traveled with 15th Shaban rebels, who took me to an old hideout.

REBEL: [subtitles] We hid over there. This was where we lived. This was also a battleground. We remained in the hideout and fought from there.

MARTIN SMITH: In a nearby village, they introduced us to the tribesmen who helped protect them. The chief of the tribe, Hussein al Jabiri, was himself jailed and tortured by Saddam. His old cellmate had come today to visit him.

All these men have scores to settle. I talked to the chief over coffee.

HUSSEIN AL JABIRI: [subtitles] I was imprisoned for 15 years. I was fined. My son was imprisoned with me. All my family and brothers were in prison. Our homes were destroyed by Saddam. We know where all the Ba'athists live. Give us the weapons we need. We will fight the Ba'athists until they die or we die.

MARTIN SMITH: It will be a long time before the killing stops, before the cycles of revenge wind down. There is too much history here.

Traveling across the country for the past five weeks, we've been shadowed by that history. Many powers have confronted it: Ottoman Turks, British colonialists, Hashemite kings, Saddam Hussein, and now the Americans.

On our last day, as we headed south through Nasiriya, we ran across history's path again.

STREET VENDOR: Saddam Hussein! Saddam Hussein!

MARCELA GAVIRIA, Producer: What happened? They grabbed him, yeah?

MARTIN SMITH: Saddam had just been captured.

[on camera] This was all just-- spontaneously broke out right after the Governing Council made the official confirmation that Saddam was taken in Tikrit alive today.

[voice-over] A year ago, this was the prize-- the reason we came here, the just ending. Now it seems like only another stop on the road, a long road. That afternoon, we drove out of Iraq.



Martin Smith

Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith

Ben Gold

Scott Anger

Margarita Dragon

Askold Buk and Miranda Hentoff

Meredith Lucio

Michael H. Amundson

Christopher Durrance
Laszlo Kubinyi

Jim Sullivan

Dogan News Agency

Deborah Amos
Jon Lee Anderson
Dempsey Springfield, MD



Tim Mangini

Missy Frederick

Steve Audette

Michael H. Amundson
John MacGibbon

Chris Fournelle

Chetin Chabuk

Mason Daring
Martin Brody

Erin Martin Kane

Christopher Kelly

Jessica Smith

Jennifer McCauley

Dennis O'Reilly

Jenna Lowe

Jessica Cashdan

Robert Chung

Danielle Gillis

Lisa Palone-Clarke

Eric Brass
Jay Fialkov

Adrienne Armor

Mary Sullivan

Tobee Phipps

Kate Cohen
Justin Grotelueschen

Sarah Moughty

Sam Bailey

Wen Stephenson

Catherine Wright

Robin Parmelee

Ken Dornstein

Karen O'Connor

Sharon Tiller

Michael Sullivan

Marrie Campbell

Jim Bracciale

Louis Wiley Jr.

David Fanning

A FRONTLINE coproduction with RAINmedia

(c) 2004

FRONTLINE is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.


ANNOUNCER: This report continues on our Web site, where you'll find producers Martin Smith's and Marcela Gaviria's Web-exclusive dispatches from Iraq while filming this documentary, an interactive map of Iraq's major ethnic and religious fault lines, FRONTLINE's extended interviews with U.S. commanders in Mosul, Kirkuk and Falluja, and with Iraqi leaders Adnan Pachachi, Abdul Aziz al Hakim and others. Plus, watch the full program again on line. Then join the discussion at


Next time on FRONTLINE, the client.

I trusted one of the largest accounting firms in the world.

ANNOUNCER: The pitch.

They told me this was a bulletproof deal.

ANNOUNCER: The firm.

The penalties paled in comparison to the revenues that would be generated by this tax shelter.

ANNOUNCER: The payoff.

They can create these products for thousands of dollars and sell them for millions.

ANNOUNCER: The problem.

Corporations save billions in taxes, and the rest of us are picking up the tab for it.

ANNOUNCER: Tax Me If You Can next time on FRONTLINE.


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posted february 16, 2004; updated august 11, 2004

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