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The fog of war, of course.
Expect everything you read everywhere about Fallujah for the next few days to be wrong. It's certainly not true - some things will inevitably (and inevitably accidentally) be right - but start with that basic premise of wrong and you'll have a good understanding of the very fluid situation there. (Spare me the links to web sites of experts - I've seen them. Thanks.)
That said, the past weekend was an ugly one, as insurgents launched rather feeble yet deadly attacks outside Fallujah, ostensibly to draw off the impending assault. These accomplished nothing of any tactical military value but did give sympathetic reporters the ability to publish sentiments similar to this: "Widespread lethal attacks prove that even as coalition forces mass for the inevitable battle in Fallujah, control of the broader situation remains elusive for the Americans and their allies". The attacks have no other purpose save to provide those lines to the media, without whose support the insurgency in Iraq would fall.
That same media tends to ignore the insurgent attacks that fail; witness this CENTCOM news release:
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq ? An Army unit assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force, discovered and defused an explosive-laden youth center in Ramadi Nov. 4, which was rigged by insurgents to detonate and potentially kill dozens of Iraqi children. They also discovered more than two tons of explosives hidden in a mosque.
The discoveries were made during a sweep of the city looking for improvised explosive devices.
After a thorough investigation of the youth center, the Soldiers discovered that the explosives were rigged to detonate three ways: through a light switch, a remote control and by wiring that ran from the youth center to the nearby Al-Haq Mosque, where the unit discovered the firing mechanism.
At another mosque, a search yielded the discovery of more than two tons of ammunition, explosives, mortar systems and RPGs. Artillery rounds; assault rifles and various IED-making materials were found, as well. Fifty suspected insurgents were also detained during the sweep.
Mosques are granted protective status due to their religious and cultural significance. However, when insurgents violate the sanctity of the mosque by using the structure for military purposes, the site loses its protective status.
Great care is taken by the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of I Marine Expeditionary Force, who are committed to assisting Iraqi Interim Government in providing security to Iraqi people.
A Marine officer near Fallujah describes similar atrocities in an email home:
The enemy inside the town have come to fight and kill Americans. Nothing will sate their bloodlust and hatred other than to kill everyone of us or at least die trying. It is hard to fathom as a Westerner as rational thought would dictate that we will only be here for a relatively short blip in their history and while we are here, billions of dollars in investments will pour in and opportunity that is beyond comprehension will open up for anyone willing to work. This is not Kansas and this enemy does not think like that.
If we build a school or clinic, they destroy it. They would rather deny medical care or education for the children of the citizens who live nearby than to have any symbol of the West in general and America specifically among them. It is hard to comprehend. Frankly, we are done trying.
For eight months, we have been on our chain. The enemy has fooled itself misinterpreting our humanity and restraint for lack of will and courage. For eight months, we have watched Marines, Soldiers and Sailors maimed and killed by invisible cowards hiding behind some wall or in a canal as he detonates another IED. For eight months, we have been witness to suicidal sociopaths driving vehicles laden with explosives into crowds of Iraqis and into our own convoys.
Every day, the enemy takes more hostages, assassinates developing Iraqi leaders and savagely beats suspected collaborators. I will give you just one recent example that happened last week. One of our patrols was moving down a street when they saw what looked like a fight. The Marines closed with the scene. It was a family that had come to Iraq on religious pilgrimage that was taken hostage and was being taken into Fallujah. The muj stopped for some reason and the father began fighting. The Marines interdicted and captured two of the kidnappers. Two more ran and the Marines could not get a shot without fear of killing/wounding others.
Every day, insurgents from inside Fallujah drive out and wait for Iraqis that work on our bases. Once the Iraqis leave they are stopped. The lucky ones are savagely beaten. The unfortunate ones are killed.
A family that had fled Fallujah in order to get away from the fighting recently tried to return. When they got to their home, they found it taken over by terrorists (very common). When the patriarch showed the muj his deed in order to prove that the house was his, they took the old man out into the street and beat him senseless in front of his family.
Summary executions are common. Think about that. Summary executions inside Fallujah happen with sobering frequency. We have been witness to the scene on a number of occasions. Three men are taken from the trunk of a car and are made to walk to a ditch where they are shot. Bodies are found in the Euphrates without heads washed downstream from Fallujah. To date we have been allowed to do nothing.
I have no idea the numbers of beheadings that have occurred in Fallujah since I have been here. I have no idea the number of hostages that have ended up in Fallujah since we have been here. I just don't know that Americans would be able to comprehend the number anyway. Unfortunately, the situation has only gotten worse. There is no hope for any type of reasoned solution with an enemy like this.
Once again, we are being asked by citizens who have fled the city to go in and take the city back. They are willing for us to literally rubble the place in order to kill the terrorists within. Don't get me wrong, there are still many inside the town that support the terrorists and we cannot expect to be thanked publicly if we do take the city. There is a sense of de ja vu with the refugees telling us where their houses are and asking us to bomb them because the muj have taken them over. We heard the same thing in April only to end up letting the people down. Some no doubt have paid with their lives. The "good" people who may ultimately buy into a peaceful and prosperous Iraq are again asking us to do what we know must be done.
Iraqi troops backed by U.S. Marines have seized Falluja's main hospital, the first objective in a push to retake the city from insurgents, hours after Iraq's interim prime minister declared a 60-day state of emergency across most of the nation.
Gunfire and artillery echoed across the town overnight Sunday, but it remained unclear when the bulk of the U.S.-led force outside Falluja would begin moving.
The hospital -- on the western edge of the city -- was taken by the 36th Iraqi Commando Battalion with only minor resistance late Sunday, according to a pool reporter.
U.S. military officials said the hospital needed to be secured so hospital workers could attend to casualties without facing intimidation by insurgents, and to end its use as a source of anti-U.S. propaganda.
In the past, hospital officials have said U.S. airstrikes killed only innocent civilians, a claim the American military disputed.
Expect a different sort of backlash and outcry to result from that action.
Meanwhile, far from Iraq, Kofi Annan times his actions to match the opening shots in the long-anticipated campaign:
Annan's warning, contained in a letter sent Sunday, has angered some officials here.
"This is an issue for the government of Iraq," said British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry. "It's easy for those not in Iraq to underestimate the overwhelming concern the Iraqis have for security. There cannot be an area as big as Fallouja which is allowed to be a base for terrorism."
Some diplomats said Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was "furious" when he received the letter. Iraq's new U.N. ambassador immediately sought to meet with Annan to argue that the U.N. was interfering. Allawi recently criticized Annan for not doing enough to help Iraq prepare for elections. The world body's officials say Iraq is not secure enough for more U.N. workers to help organize the nationwide vote.
Here's Lt. Col. David G. Bellon again, explaining Fallujah from the view of one US Marine on the ground, on the scene:
Now, their own ignorance and arrogance will be their undoing. They believe that they can hold Fallujah. In fact, they have come from all over to be part of its glorious defense. I cannot describe the atmosphere that exists in the Regiment right now. Of course the men are nervous but I think they are more nervous that we will not be allowed to clean the rats nest out and instead will be forced to continue operating as is.
Its as if a window of opportunity has opened and everyone just wants to get on with it before it closes. The Marines know the enemy has massed and has temporarily decided to stay and fight. For the first time, the men feel as though we may be allowed to do what needs to be done. If the enemy wants to sit in his citadel and try to defend it against the Marine Corps and some very hard Soldiers... then the men want to execute before the enemy sobers up and flees.
Annan's motives remain unclear.
I had a difficult time sleeping last night, this battle on my mind. My thoughts are prayers are with our men and women and those of the coalition.
May victory be swift and complete.
It's time.Posted by Tammi at November 8, 2004 01:35 PM
The "roach motel" is full; time to dispose of the contents.
My prayers are for our noble soldiers and the innocent.Posted by Rootless Cosmo at November 8, 2004 09:39 PM
Thanks for the "boots on the ground" report.Rest assured those of us who voted for BUSH are with you & know the real story. It ain't gonna be pretty or without cost. Keep your head on a swivel & good luck (hunting).Posted by ThomasAgee at November 9, 2004 02:27 AM
I am kind of curious how you are able to have regular internet access. More specifically, what you're doing while you're there. My nephew just returned to Iraq after a 2 week leave and he told us that troops are lucky to get emails (in bulk) once a week. He's a 12 Bravo, just as I was, and I know he's at, or at least was at, an FOB near Fallujah preparing for the initial breach. So, again, just curious what your duties are while you're there.Posted by red right and blue at November 9, 2004 03:09 AM
May God protect our troops and any innocents. This must be done. The kidnapping of PM Allawis
family members threatening beheading if the attack not called off and all prisoners released is surely a test of his will. He is one brave man to stand for Iraq before family concerns.