[Marxism] Owning Fallujah (washingtonpost.com, 1 May 2004)

Lee Hall leehall at sprynet.com
Sun May 2 22:32:17 MDT 2004


Apologies for posting this whole article but already it seems they have
removed it from the Internet, and some subscribers might wish to see it all
in context.  Here is a significant excerpt:



A senior U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity,
said the Marine command was not alarmed by the gleeful reaction in the city.
Of more significance, the official said, is whether the militiamen will
succeed in restoring security to a level sufficient enough for U.S. troops
to enter the city without being attacked.
"If we can drive into town shoulder to shoulder with legitimate Iraqi
authorities and we can go down and start delivering humanitarian aid . . .
to a city that has been left in the cold for the last year, that's our
victory," the official said. "Owning a rubbled city gets us nowhere."



'We Won': Fallujah Rejoices in Withdrawal
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By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Naseer Nouri, Washington Post Foreign Service
FALLUJAH, Iraq (news - web sites), May 1 -- Covering their faces with
checkered head scarves, militiamen loyal to a former Iraqi army general
jubilantly took to the streets of this battle-scarred city Saturday to
celebrate what they called a triumph over withdrawing U.S. Marines.

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As the militiamen drove through Fallujah in trucks and congregated on
deserted street corners, residents flashed V-for-victory signs and mosques
broadcast celebratory messages proclaiming triumph over the Americans.
Although the militiamen were scheduled to take over checkpoints and patrol
duties from Marine units Friday, many of those tasks appeared to go
unfulfilled Saturday. Several of the militiamen, clad in street clothes and
toting battered AK-47 rifles, said they were still waiting for orders from
their commanders. But as they waited, many said their first priority was to
rejoice.
"We won," said one of the militiamen, a former soldier who gave his name
only as Abu Abdullah, meaning the father of Abdullah. "We didn't want the
Americans to enter the city and we succeeded."
A few miles away at the headquarters of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force,
Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the top Marine commander in Iraq, also praised the
turn of events in Fallujah. He told reporters that the new Iraqi force,
which he authorized in an effort to quell insurgent activity, "marked the
formation of a military partnership that has the potential to bring a
lasting, durable climate of peace and stability."
A senior U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity,
said the Marine command was not alarmed by the gleeful reaction in the city.
Of more significance, the official said, is whether the militiamen will
succeed in restoring security to a level sufficient enough for U.S. troops
to enter the city without being attacked.
"If we can drive into town shoulder to shoulder with legitimate Iraqi
authorities and we can go down and start delivering humanitarian aid . . .
to a city that has been left in the cold for the last year, that's our
victory," the official said. "Owning a rubbled city gets us nowhere."
In Baghdad, the chief spokesman for the U.S. military command in Iraq, Army
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, told the Agence France-Presse news service that the
U.S. occupation authority and the Iraqi Defense Ministry had not endorsed
the Iraqi general selected by Conway to lead the force in Fallujah. Kimmitt
said Conway's choice, former Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, would undergo
a full background check.
Saleh, who is from Fallujah but had been living in Baghdad, served as the
commanding general of the Iraqi army's 38th Infantry Division before the
U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, dissolved the Iraqi army almost
a year ago. Earlier in his military career, Saleh served in the Republican
Guard, an elite branch of the army used at times to suppress internal
dissent by former president Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).
"I would suspect that the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force doesn't have access
to all the background information on General Saleh or any of the other
leadership" of the new force in Fallujah, Kimmitt told Agence France-Presse.
"It will be important for all of the leaders to go through a vetting and
approval process conducted by the ministry of defense and the coalition."
Conway said his staff had already vetted the leaders of the new force, which
the Marines are calling the 1st Battalion of the Fallujah Brigade. The
senior military official said the Marines "ran their names though
databases -- both military and nonmilitary services of the U.S. government
and nothing detrimental came up."
"Most of these guys may not be squeaky clean, but they're pretty clean,"
Conway said.
Saleh's force is supposed to grow to as many as 1,100 men by midweek. Conway
said Saleh has already assembled 300 men and intended to double that figure
by Monday. But members of the force said that only 160 participants had been
selected, all of them officers.
Several participants said other members would be chosen by the officers and
would consist largely of people from the officers' neighborhoods. It was not
clear whether participants would be required to be former Iraqi soldiers, as
Marine commanders have said. It also appeared unlikely that individual
members would be screened by the Marine command, which has the names of only
a half-dozen leaders of the force.
Conway acknowledged that some of the participants would be people who fought
against his Marines over the past month. "We think that some of them were
inside the city and prepared to defend the city," he said.
But Conway said he would not allow in anyone with "blood on their hands,"
nor would he "make any deals with hard-core elements inside the city,"
including foreign fighters. He said the new force would pursue the foreign
fighters.
"They understand our view that these people must be killed or captured," he
said.

As they conduct those operations, Conway said members of the new force would
have to abide by the same rules of engagement and laws of warfare used by
U.S. troops. But he also said the force would not need to obtain U.S.
approval to conduct missions. Instead, the general said, the force would
operate similarly to military units from other nations, who have significant
autonomy in their areas of responsibility and report directly to regional
commanders such as Conway.
Inside Fallujah, however, members of the new force -- who spoke on the
condition of anonymity because they said they were under orders not to talk
to reporters -- expressed more desire to negotiate with the foreign fighters
than to battle them.
"The resistance will not fight us. They will not shoot at us," said a former
army colonel who stood next to seven other militiamen, their faces covered
by scarves. Instead of confronting them, the former colonel said he expected
many of the foreign fighters to leave Fallujah and conduct operations in
other parts of Iraq. Military officials estimate that there are 200 foreign
fighters in the city.
The senior military official said the migration of foreign militants out of
Fallujah was the top concern of Marine commanders. But he added, "They're
more vulnerable now that you got them on the run."
The former colonel and other members of the new force said the key to
restoring security in the city was not more raids or checkpoints but the
exclusion of U.S. forces. "If the American army doesn't enter the city
nobody will shoot at them," the former colonel said.
But Conway said the pullback of Marine units from positions in the city did
not mean Marines would avoid the city in the future. He said he planned -- 
as a test of the ability of the new forces to restore order -- to have
Marines drive into the city in the coming days.
Two Marine units -- the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and the 2nd
Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment -- withdrew from their positions in the
southern part of Fallujah on Friday. The 1st Battalion had moved back to a
base about five miles from the city, while the 2nd Battalion has moved south
of the city.
Two other battalions remain to the north and east of Fallujah. Their
movement away from city will depend on improvements in security, the
officials said.
Meanwhile, attacks against U.S. soldiers and foreign contractors working for
the occupation authority continued unabated following the bloodiest month
for U.S. forces since President Bush (news - web sites) declared an end to
major combat operations in Iraq a year ago.
One U.S. soldier and two contractors were killed Saturday in separate
attacks near the northern city of Mosul, while another U.S. soldier died of
wounds sustained in a roadside bombing a day earlier. The military also
announced Saturday that two U.S. sailors were killed the day before in an
attack in Anbar province in western Iraq. Sailors are sometimes used for
logistics or hospital work.
In Najaf, the southern shrine city, the standoff between U.S. forces and a
firebrand cleric, Moqtada Sadr, paused while a delegation of tribal leaders
and police arranged a temporary truce.
Sadr, who is wanted by U.S. forces on murder charges, commands a militia
known as the Mahdi Army, which has controlled Najaf and the adjoining city
of Kufa for weeks. U.S. forces encircling the area are seeking to avoid a
military confrontation in a city holy to Iraq's Shiite majority after weeks
of sporadic fighting. The truce, reportedly for three days, will allow talks
to continue.
Correspondents Sewell Chan and Scott Wilson in Baghdad contributed to this
report.






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