Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. Let's hope this isn't Iraq War 3.0, but the US has, in fact, begun bombing Sunni extremist targets in northern Iraq.
The extremists in question belong to ISIS, the Islamist state in Iraq, and they're going after anyone who doesn't pledge loyalty to them.
Secretary of State, John Kerry, says ISIS attacks show all the warning signs of genocide. Martin Smith, from our PBS sister program "Frontline," is in Baghdad. He just returned from a trip to a camp for displaced people outside Mosul, and there Martin found Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic groups; more than 5000 people looking for safety and squeezing into UN tents.
Martin Smith: The temperatures there were well above 110. Some complain about not having food, and we were probably about 28 miles from where the strike has now been taking place.
Werman: So tell us a bit about these camps, these settlement camps. I mean, are they basically refugee camps, 'cause people are running from something for their own safety?
Smith: These are people that escaped from Mosul beginning in early June, when Mosul was seized by ISIS, so it consists of those people.
But what was striking was that the road coming in from Mosul was jammed. As far as I could see, there was a lineup of cars. So a lot of these people come to these refugee camps and they can't really afford to go anywhere else; they can't go into Irbil, they can't afford the life there.
I talked to a tailor, a taxi driver, a construction worker, all of these people living in hot tents, just trying to make do with nothing to do all day long. And around that camp was a huge trench to protect the camps from ISIS coming in.
Werman: Yeah, just a trench. So what did these Iraqis in these camps tell you that their biggest fears are?
Smith: Some talked of beheadings and witnessing horrors before they got out of Mosul, and they're also worried that if they have to go back to a so-called proliferated Mosul - to return to the conditions prior to the arrival of ISIS - is not a very attractive option either, because many of them will be seen as having been traitors. They're really trapped.
Werman: As an American, Martin, how safe did you feel?
Smith: I didn't feel especially targeted, I wasn't up against ISIS. I say in Baghdad, it's the randomness of the bombs that go off every day that has you on edge. You just don't know if you might happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I'm not spending time in predominantly Sunni communities outside of Baghdad, where we might be less welcome. But again, there's a great deal of tension. Everybody feels it here in Baghdad.
Werman: Marty, what was the one thing you learned on this trip to northern Iraq that you think really ought to be shared with our listeners?
Smith: Oh, I've learned so much. I think I go back to, you know, the conversations I had with the governor, Athiel al-Nudschafi, of the Nineveh province, who was really the last member of the government to leave Mosul as it was dissolving.
And in that conversation, and in other conversations, it was clear that there was no real battle for Mosul. The army was a shadow of what it was reported to be, so when it came that ISIS was knocking on the door of the town, there was just no army to protect it and ISIS just walked in. That's how you can get 800 guys or so to take over the second largest city in the country.
Werman: Frontline's Martin Smith in Baghdad, just back from visiting a camp for displaced people in Mosul.