11 January 2005
As usual, it was an inside job. Brigadier Amer Ali Nayef, the deputy head of the Baghdad police, and his son, Police Lieutenant Khaled Amer, were driving to work in an unmarked civilian car, hoping to move through the streets of Dora without being noticed.
But the two cars, full of gunmen, that approached from behind knew the car, its registration number and its occupants. They blazed away with Kalashnikovs until Brigadier Nayef was dead at the wheel. Every day now brings its sinister evidence that the Iraqi security forces - supposedly screened by American military officers - have been infiltrated by the insurgents.
As Mr Nayef and his son were shot dead at close range, a suicide bomber - and there are perhaps 10 suicide bombers immolating themselves every week now in Iraq - blew himself up several miles away, outside the Zafarniyah police station in Baghdad, killing four policemen and wounding 10 others.
The police were changing shifts at the time - as the bomber must have known, thereby increasing the casualties - and the killer was driving his explosives in a real police car.
Last week, gunmen assassinated the governor of Baghdad, Ali al-Haidari, who was taking a pre-arranged security route to his office. Six of his bodyguards were also shot dead. The route that his convoy took was supposedly known only to the police. Mr Haidari even had a second route ready in case his bodyguards chose to change his journey at the last moment. Residents living close to the scene of the ambush reported that insurgents had even planted a bomb on the secondary road in case Mr Haidari took the other option.
And all this, as every Baghdadi knows, is because the ever-growing army of insurgents across Iraq intends to prevent the holding of the elections on 30 January. In the West, it probably makes sense: men dedicated to the overthrow of any possible democracy in Iraq want to destroy the country's first free election. To the citizens of Baghdad who are paying the cost of this Western enthusiasm with their lives, it can seem as if the poll is being held more for the benefit of foreign agendas - not least those of Messrs Blair and Bush - than for the well-being of Iraqis.
As an Iraqi commented ruefully to me yesterday afternoon: "Bush and Blair don't have to live here to suffer the consequences of the democracy they say they want us to enjoy."
American troops - if in far fewer numbers - do suffer those consequences. Yesterday, two more US soldiers were killed when a bomb destroyed their Abrams tank in Baghdad - only four days after another set of explosives killed seven Americans in a supposedly impregnable Bradley fighting vehicle. Hitherto, American soldiers were most vulnerable in their often soft-skinned Humvee vehicles but now the insurgents are succeeding in destroying state-of-the-art US armour. The bombs - in effect, large amounts of shells and explosives wrapped up to create landmines - demonstrate all too clearly that America's opponents have large and near- unlimited supplies of ordnance.
A very small amount of the former Iraqi army ammunition - captured by foreign troops in Iraq since the 2003 invasion - exploded yesterday at a dump south of Baghdad, killing seven Ukrainian soldiers and a member of Kazakhstan's small military contingent in Iraq.
Their deaths were declared "accidental", although such "accidents" often turn out, on investigation, to be part of the insurgency. And in a Vietnam-style world in which statistics are increasingly more important than reality - the figures themselves can never be checked - it must be recorded the American-appointed Iraqi "interim" government claimed yesterday that 147 "suspected" [sic] insurgents had been captured in the previous 24 hours and that among its prisoners were 335 "foreigners", including 56 Syrians, 59 Saudis and 61 Egyptians.
Is this a success story? The election is just 19 days away.