An Eye For an Eye

As the violence in Iraq grows more shocking and brutal, TIME explores the roots of the murderous rage--and why the U.S. may be powerless to stop it

Civil wars, as a general rule, don't announce themselves when they arrive. But how else to label what Iraqis witnessed in their streets last week? What other term could describe the sight of armed and angry Shi'ite mobs rampaging through Baghdad and other cities, dragging Sunnis into the streets and executing them, looting their homes and burning down their mosques? The proximate cause of the violence was the bombing of al-Askari, the sacred Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, but that attack could only partially account for the hatreds unleashed. A government-imposed curfew briefly interrupted the slaughter; after dark the fighting resumed. Ordinary citizens...

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