AAM: "One of Zarqawi's great, enduring legacies"

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Length: 3:28

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, whether you call it raging sectarian violence or plain old civil war, the violence in Iraq is unrelenting, and increasingly it bears the hallmarks of vengeance and retribution. Nearly every morning authorities awaken to a grim harvest of bodies bound, bearing signs of torture.

Joining us now from Baghdad is our CNN correspondent there, Michael Ware.

Michael, first of all, it seems as if the number of bodies being discovered and with clear signs of torture is on the increase. Is that so?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a matter of great debate. What is beyond question is that the number still remains beyond any kind of figure that is acceptable.

I mean, on a good month, there are 1,500 tortured and executed bodies showing up on Baghdad's morning streets. Other months, there's over 3,000. And so far, despite everything that the U.S. military and its Iraqi partners have attempted to do, nothing has been able to prevent it, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Is the best guess that this is mostly Shia versus Sunni that we're seeing here, or is al-Qaeda in the mix on this as well?

WARE: Oh, al-Qaeda is very much in the mix of this. In fact, this is one of Zarqawi's great, enduring legacies, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader assassinated by U.S. forces back in June.

It was his plan from the beginning, spelled out two years ago, to start this very thing, this sectarian conflict. S, what we're seeing is both Sunni death squads -- some al-Qaeda, some otherwise seem to be defending their Sunni constituency -- against Shia death squads. Many of them arriving and operating with the relative impunity that comes with being within the police or the Ministry of Interior, paramilitary forces, or the Iraqi army itself, all of whom are American partners.

So, in one sense, the irony is that a U.S.-backed government has its own death squads, Miles.

O'BRIEN: So, essentially, Shias who are a part of the police and army are using that as a cover to engage in death squad activity, and by virtue of that the United States becomes less than a neutral player?

WARE: Very much so. In fact, U.S. military intelligence, the U.S. ambassador here, has pointed to this problem time and time again.

Indeed, the U.S. military has raided Ministry of Interior police stations or facilities and found on one occasion not far from where I used to live more than 100 torture victims chained in blackened dungeons beneath. So, these men are showing up in the middle of the night, in legitimate police or military or paramilitary uniforms, presenting legitimate identification, and hauling people from their homes.

They then show up dead a couple of days later. And if it's not them, it's their militia partners who are doing it with the government's acquiescence.

You need to remember that the building blocks of this government are the militias. Essentially, these groups carve up power. And as the U.S. military and the ambassador has pointed to time and time again, these very militias are backed by Iran -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad. Thank you.