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Making Sense of Fallujah

At today’s press conference, Coalition spokesman Dan Senor stated that "[i]f the peaceful track does not play out [in Fallujah] . . . major hostilities will resume on short notice." While he refused to answer questions at this point about the progress of the terms of the cease-fire--specifically whether individuals were turning in their illegal weapons--this statement was a none-too-veiled threat that if progress is not sufficient, the gloves will come back off.

The situation in Fallujah has been a difficult one for the military. The Marines have been aggressive, but have acted in a humanitarian fashion. They have used limited air support and limited heavy artillery in order to avoid non-combatant casualties. But those who they fought do not care about non-combatant casualties. Therefore, the insurgents took advantage of the American humanitarian impulse by making sure the battles were in the city, near where women and children might congregate. They sought to increase these innocent casualties, and then encouraged the media to ravage the Americans for being barbaric. While the purported killing of women and children in Iraq has had a profoundly negative effect Coalition sentiment among Iraqis, the Coalition has an even more perplexing problem: while the Iraqis are angry when their women and children are killed, they do not respect the military ethic which respects life. At yesterday’s press conference, it is notable that it was an Iraqi woman who questioned how it is that Fallujah could have kept the most powerful army in the world at bay. Some of this kind of sentiment is based on an overestimation of American technology. At times, Iraqis believe that we are so powerful that we should be able to kill just the bad guys and none of the good guys. But in part this is a function of having lived for years under one of the most brutal tyrants on earth. The most graphic images of death to come from the war look weak by comparison to what they saw under Saddam. Similarly, American restraint for humanitarian purposes may be mistaken by some Iraqis as American weakness.

Given this no-win situation, and the anxiety expressed by the governing council, the Coalition acceded to pursuing diplomatic channels. While they did not require the leaders to turn over all those who participated in anti-Coalition violence, they did require that all illegal weapons be turned over. It is very unlikely that this request will be met. Even if a large amount of weapons comes in--large enough to justify the continued cessation of offensive operations--there will be continued skirmishes as the second major requirement--regular patrols--are implemented. All this is to say, Fallujah will likely be a source of conflict for some time to come.

Discussions - 5 Comments

Given this no-win situation, and the anxiety expressed by the governing council, the Coalition acceded to pursuing diplomatic channels. While they did not require the leaders to turn over all those who participated in anti-Coalition violence, they did require that all illegal weapons be turned over.

What troubles me about the Fallujah negotiation is that it’s a tactic that does not seem to support the strategy. Will running out the clock reduce the amount of disorder in Fallujah or coming from Fallujah? I doubt that this is a response from the officers on the scene--it sounds like a response from the general officers. Okay, so what’s the strategy? I still can’t figure it out.

I don’t claim to fully understand it, but my cynical read is that they pursued the "diplomatic" approach for the sake of appeasing friendly elements in Iraq who were discontent with the images coming back from the military campaign. I don’t think that the military harbored illusions that the bad guys would actually put down their weapons and sing Kumbaya. Rather, this is an attempt to show good will. Essentially, we tried; we were reasonable. They would not even turn over the weapons. Now they have forced our hands to disarm them. Again, this is armchair pontification, but I think it is in the ballpark.

The odd thing about women and children is that in centres of population they are everywhere. Cant seem to seperate them from the male of the specie.

Is Mr Alt serious ? Al Jazeera effect ??

The Americans people appear to believe that they were welcomed as liberators in Iraq. As one grief filled Iraqi woman said as she cradled her baby with its head shot away ... If the Americans are coming here and posing as liberators of the Iraqi people .... then think again, the rest of the world can see you for what you are ... Murderers !!

All the double speak in the world cannot alter the truth. Everybody knows who the real axis of evil are and they know a freedom fighter when they see one.

Mr Alt needs to get a grip on reality and understand that the rest of the world does not want American style democracy and freedom .... America has a long history of invasion, killing and destabiisation .. usually of small nations.

The rest of the world can see the American hell hole in Cuba ... the rest of the world can see that America has no respect for human rights or freedom unless it comes out of the barrel of an American gun.

What we are seeing all over the Middle East is not the Al Jezeera effect but rather the go home and stay home America effect.

My big complaint is that we entered this stupid cease fire in the first place- if we had finished the op a week ago it would have become a footnote. Now Fallujah is the Anti American Alamo. We Keep making mistakes by creating the Enemy’s heroes for them we will lose this thing for sure.

Mr. Hughes insightful commentary is no doubt shared by the more the families of the more than 300,000 Iraqis who buried in mass graves by Saddam. By the men I recently met who had their hands cut off (and the procedure videotaped) for having the audacity to engage in currency trade, which they should have known was reserved for Saddam’s cronies. His opinion is no doubt shared by the Supreme Court Justice I met who was tortured for the crime of having a relative married to a Brit. And I’m sure his opinion is shared by the victims of the rape rooms. Yes, Mr. Hughes, we came to liberate.

Murderers? Mr. Hughes, if you do not understand the legal and moral import of words, I suggest that you refrain in the future from using them.

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