Friday, July 15, 2005
NY Times rediscovers Fallujah
In a startling report for the Friday edition of The New York Times, based at least partly on an unnamed Iraqi employee, reporter Edward Wong describes a Falluja where "the insurgency is rising from the rubble.... eight months after the American military killed as many as 1,500 Iraqis in a costly invasion."
Much of the city is still in ruins, even with the return of 140,000 former residents, but at least four suicide bombs have exploded in recent weeks, one of them killing six American troops. Two of five new police forts have been firebombed. Three members of the city council have suddenly quit. "Just as disturbing, even Falluja residents who favored purging the streets of insurgents last November are beginning to chafe under the occupation," Wong writes.
He quotes Abdul Jabbar Kadhim al-Alwani, 40, the owner of an automotive repair shop, as expressing a widely held sentiment: "Some preferred the city quiet, purified of the gunmen and any militant aspect. But after the unfairness and injustice with which the city's residents have been treated by the American and Iraqi forces, they now prefer the resistance, just so they won't be humiliated."
Falluja, thus, is approaching a turning point, American officials acknowledge, "precariously balanced between rebuilding or degenerating into the urban battlefield it once was," Wong relates.
The Times report quoted by E&P mirrors what I wrote a month ago—
Transformed into a police state after last winter's siege, this should be the safest city in all of Iraq.
Thousands of American and Iraqi troops live in crumbling buildings here and patrol streets laced with concertina wire. Any Iraqi entering the city must show a badge and undergo a search at one of six checkpoints. There is a 10 p.m. curfew.
But the insurgency is rising from the rubble nevertheless, eight months after the American military killed as many as 1,500 Iraqis in a costly invasion that fanned anti-American passions across Iraq and the Arab world.
And to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here they go again—
As the level of violence has increased, marines and Iraqi soldiers are stepping up patrols and house raids. That is further alienating residents. The problem is compounded by sectarian tensions between the Shiite soldiers and Sunni residents. Virtually all of the Iraqi soldiers here are from the south, because previous militias of local residents turned out to be disloyal or fell apart when confronted by insurgents.
American officials say the plan is to draw down the American and Iraqi troop presence in the city as a 1,200-man Iraqi police force is installed by December; one-third of its members are to come from Falluja.
"The Iraqi Army is not trained," Sheik Thaier Diyab al-Arsan, 30, a thin man wearing a red headdress, angrily told Colonel Miles at the meeting downtown. "They're killing people. They're shooting people in the head. You're not in the street. You don't see what's happening."
Fallujah pacified? Not quite (updated) (6/18/05)