[Marxism] Ramadi, city of resistance: US aims to destroy city center, declare victory

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Jul 5 03:17:13 MDT 2006


www.nytimes.com
July 5, 2006
Insurgency Hotbed
In Ramadi, Fetid Quarters and Unrelenting Battles 
By DEXTER FILKINS
RAMADI, Iraq, July 4 - The Government Center in the middle of this
devastated town resembles a fortress on the wild edge of some frontier:
it is sandbagged, barricaded, full of men ready to shoot, surrounded by
rubble and enemies eager to get inside. 

The American marines here live eight to a room, rarely shower for lack
of running water and defecate in bags that are taken outside and burned.

The threat of snipers is ever present; the marines start running the
moment they step outside. Daytime temperatures hover around 120 degrees;
most foot patrols have been canceled because of the risk of heatstroke. 

The food is tasteless, the windows boarded up. The place reeks of urine
and too many bodies pressed too close together for too long.

"Hey, can you get somebody to clean the toilet on the second floor?" one
marine yelled to another from his office. "I can smell it down here." 

And the casualties are heavy. Asked about the wounded under his command,
Capt. Andrew Del Gaudio, 30, of the Bronx, rattled off a few.

"Let's see, Lance Corporal Tussey, shot in the thigh. 

"Lance Corporal Zimmerman, shot in the leg. 

"Lance Corporal Sardinas, shrapnel, hit in the face.

"Lance Corporal Wilson, shrapnel in the throat." 

"That's all I can think of right now," the captain said. 

So it goes in Ramadi, the epicenter of the Iraqi insurgency and the
focus of a grinding struggle between the American forces and the
guerrillas. 

In three years here the Marine Corps and the Army have tried nearly
everything to bring this provincial capital of 400,000 under control.
Nothing has worked. 

Now American commanders are trying something new. 

Instead of continuing to fight for the downtown, or rebuild it, they are
going to get rid of it, or at least a very large part of it. 

They say they are planning to bulldoze about three blocks in the middle
of the city, part of which has been reduced to ruins by the fighting,
and convert them into a Green Zone, a version of the fortified and
largely stable area that houses the Iraqi and American leadership in
Baghdad. 

The idea is to break the bloody stalemate in the city by ending the
struggle over the battle-scarred provincial headquarters that the
insurgents assault nearly every day. The Government Center will remain,
but the empty space around it will deny the guerrillas cover to attack.
"We'll turn it into a park," said Col. Sean MacFarland. 

Ramadi, a largely Sunni Arab city, is regarded by American commanders as
the key to securing Anbar Province, now the single deadliest place for
American soldiers in Iraq. Many neighborhoods here are only nominally
controlled by the Americans, offering sanctuaries for guerrillas. 

While the focus in Baghdad and other large Iraqi cities may be
reconciliation or the political process, here it is still war. Sometimes
the Government Center is assaulted by as many as 100 insurgents at a
time. 

Last week a midnight gun battle between a group of insurgents and
American marines lasted two hours and ended only when the Americans
dropped a laser-guided bomb on an already half-destroyed building
downtown. Six marines were wounded; it was unclear what happened to the
insurgents. 

"We go out and kill these people," said Captain Del Gaudio, the
commander here. "I define success as continuing to kill the enemy to
allow the government to work and for the Iraqi Army to take over." 

Government Mostly in Name

That day seems a long way off. The Iraqi government exists here in
little more than name. Last week about $7 million disappeared from the
Rafidain Bank - most of the bank's deposits - right under the nose of an
American observation post next door. An Iraqi police officer was shot in
the face and dumped in the road, his American ID card stuck between his
fingers. 

The governor of the province, Mamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani, still goes
to work here under an American military escort. But many of the
province's senior officials deserted him after the kidnapping and
beheading of his secretary in May. 

The previous governor was assassinated, as was the chairman of the
provincial council, Khidir Abdel Jabar Abbas, in April. At a meeting of
the provincial cabinet last week, only six of 36 senior officials showed
up. 

"The terrorists want to keep Anbar people out of the government," said
Taha Hameed Mokhlef, the director general for highways, who went into
hiding last month when his face appeared on an American-backed
television station here showing him in his job. He has since re-emerged.
"My friends told me that the terrorists were planning to kill me, so I
went to Jordan for a while," he said.

The Iraqi police patrol the streets in only a handful of neighborhoods,
the ones closest to the American base. In the slow-motion offensive that
has been unfolding, in which the Americans have been gradually clearing
individual neighborhoods, nearly all of the fighting has been done by
American marines and soldiers, not the Iraqi Army.

The 800-member Third Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, which until
recently was responsible for holding most of the city on its own, has
lost 11 marines since arriving in March. Commanders declined to disclose
the number of wounded. Over all in Iraq the number of American wounded
in action is roughly seven times the number killed.

[snip] 





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