Baghdad is becoming a city almost completely at the mercy of savage militias and gunmen who have taken the law into their own hands. Kidnappings and assassinations take place at a scale never before seen, and both American and Iraqi troops are practically powerless to restore any semblance of order, anywhere in the city.

International journalists, confined to heavily protected hotels, homes or apartments, can hardly cope with the burden of reporting major bombing attacks or deaths of U.S. Marines. In fact most of the carnage in the city goes unreported, and the world sees only a fraction of the daily atrocities. Even the kidnapping of senior officials no longer grabs headlines, as has been the case of Lameh Omar, an adviser to the Ministry of Defense. Omar was kidnapped and his body found riddled with bullets shortly after his abduction.

In another recent attack, marauding gunmen attacked the Doura district, stormed several homes, and snatched every young male. Their mutilated bodies were later found in an open space in the same district.

Every one of the nearly six million people of Baghdad has a horrendous story to tell. Shiites kill Sunnis, rebels kill Americans and Iraqi troops, U.S. and Iraqi troops kill rebels and civilians, and so on. Baghdad has become a killing field to such an extent that no one in the city can be sure of returning home safely from even a short shopping trip.

Reports of killings, kidnappings and bullet-riddled bodies dumped in public places are pouring into newspapers. If all were published, they would easily fill the pages of Azzaman every day.

And while there is no shortage of police officers, American Marines or Iraqi forces in the city, when entire neighborhoods turn on one another, there is no force in the world that can contain them.

Every day, conditions are worse than the day before. Amid the unprecedented surge in violence, the city's inhabitants have had to cope with chronic shortages of power, fuel, water and other basic amenities.

But even amidst the chaos, many continue to work, since they need to earn enough to survive.

Moreover, ethnic cleansing of an unheard of scale is underway. Entire neighborhoods are being emptied of members of opposing sects. Some families are abused; some are killed and there are reports of a few being burned alive. These forced evacuations have resulted in the transfer of hundreds of thousands of people from one neighborhood to another or outside Baghdad. They leave behind their homes, careers and even personal belongings.

And still there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Baghdad's hapless inhabitants are more pessimistic about the future than ever before.