Friday, April 02, 2004

Tipping point in Fallujah: Last straw or outlaw city?

There's been a great deal of discussion about Fallujah and the events (CSM) that happened recently.

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The simple question on everyone's lips is "why?" - why do Fallujah and its environs remain the most dangerous place for US forces in Iraq?

As with everything in Iraq these days, the answer depends on whom you ask. US Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the bloodshed in Fallujah was a symptom of a town "that just doesn't get it," and of a people determined to turn back the clock...

But to Iraqi experts on the deeply clannish tribal networks of much of the Sunni Triangle, the horrifying killings and mutilation of four US security contractors Wednesday were more about a people obsessed with personal honor and revenge than evidence of nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

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Newsweek's article also rejects the idea that Fallujah is an exception to how things work in Iraq.

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It's tempting to try to explain away the horror of the corpse-kicking crowd in Fallujah. The town is a special case, says this reasoning. A longtime Baathist stronghold, during Saddam's regime it was a sort of company town for his Mukhabarat, the secret police, in which young men served apprenticeships in torturing, snitching and assassinating. And during the opening days of the war, a misplaced bomb destroyed the family home of a prominent tribal leader, killing him and 16 members of his family. Some claim Sheik Malik had been a secret friend of the Americans, but now his huge tribe, the Yarba, are sworn to revenge...

So it would be tempting to say that Fallujah hardly typifies this war, but it would be wrong. Certainly there are few communities where anti-American sentiment is as widespread as in Fallujah. But the savagery and utter abandonment of any sort of civilized conduct, so amply demonstrated on the streets of the city Wednesday, is actually pretty typical of the way the opposition has chosen to fight its war against American occupation everywhere else, as well. Wednesday's attack itself was hardly the worst thing we've seen; in fact, since the victims had been armed, attacking them was arguably within the rules of war...

So we should really not be too surprised at what happened in the streets of Fallujah; it's perfectly in character. In other places, the opposition doesn't have the numbers and widespread support they do in Fallujah; but they have the same vicious streak...

Coaliltion spokesmen tried to depict that as the work of a small minority, even in Fallujah. "The cowards and ghouls who acted yesterday represent the worst of society," said Coalition spokesman Dan Senor today. Unfortunately, in Fallujah, they represent most of the society...

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Juan Cole agrees and speculates that the deaths may be retaliation and doubts that promises of pacification will be kept. Here is someone from Iraq commenting on the killings. Iraqi Clerics in Iraq have condemned the mutilation as against Islam, however the clerics did not condemn the initial killing.

Meanwhile it turns out that the Iraqi police and security forces were hiding behind a barred door during the mob rampage. The people in Fallujah meanwhile complain about the provocations of the US military in justifying such attacks.

Meanwhile Brad Delong digs up more evidence that David Kay is an okay guy. Initially the oldman thought that David Kay had sold out his scientific integrity to exaggerate evidence of WMD, but in the end he quit and called openly for the Bush Administration to admit there never had been WMD. This took some degree of integrity so the oldman is pleased to say that he was wrong about Kay, and that Kay in the end did the right thing.

So things don't look so good, and the military pronouncements about 'dead-enders' and 'foreign fighters' begins to look increasingly out of touch. I'd be much more optimistic about the potential outcome of things in Iraq, if the military would just own up to the real challenges rather than making me try to guess whether or not this is a bad remake of "Catch-22".

Looks ominious folks. A bad situation all around. Smells like yea olde lake of gasoline waiting for a match. My offer to take over the administration of Iraq for the White House stands, but they'd better hurry up because it seems with each passing day they're botching it ever more badly (Needlenose).

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