Kidnappings Shake Iraqi Confidence

In the battle for Iraq at least 53 people were killed across the country Saturday as the hunt continued for the American military contractors kidnapped Thursday. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that these recent kidnappings are further undermining public confidence in the embattled Iraqi government.

For kidnappers who know Iraq, there are thousands of places to hide their victims — whether they're the five contractors abducted Thursday in the south of Iraq or the 150 Iraqis snatched in broad daylight two days earlier in Baghdad.

It's widely believed that militiamen loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, were responsible for the audacious mass kidnapping.

All of this has reinforced the conviction among ordinary Iraqis that Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government is weak — and growing weaker.

"The entire government is doing nothing," said one Iraqi man. "We need a tough non-sectarian leader to disband the militias."

Iraqis everywhere are starting to say that former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, must come back.

"We need a strong forceful leader to end our troubles," said one Iraqi woman. "We need a strong leader like Allawi who loves Iraq."

Allawi told CBS News the police force is so corrupted that ambushes and kidnappings are sure to increase.

"We need to bring back law and order. And law and order needs to be brought back by using force," he said.

On the streets of Iraq the sight of a uniformed policeman, who might actually be an insurgent, has spread fear.

"We have no respect for uniforms," says an Iraqi. "No trust, how can we believe in them, perhaps the uniform is a fake."

Allawi insists that means starting all over again — dismantling the police, arresting senior officers, and re-screening recruits. And soon, because the rot has already begun to spread.

"The army is passing through the same phase as the police did a while ago," says Allawi.

If the army goes the way of the police, Iraq will surely descend into the violent, ungovernable chaos, that everyone has been dreading.