Fallujah Roundup

LA Times: Mosque Targeted In Fallouja Fighting [otbblog/jamesotb]

A fierce battle Monday in a rubble-strewn neighborhood of this Sunni Muslim stronghold left one Marine and at least eight insurgents dead, casting a new shadow over prospects for a peaceful solution to the military standoff here.

During the two-hour midday fight, in which at least eight U.S. troops were wounded, a Marine tank demolished the 150-foot-tall minaret of a mosque, from which machine-gun fire had been raining onto Marines 200 yards away.

At one point, the combatants exchanged rifle fire 30 yards apart.

The insurgents were close enough to hurl grenades on top of a building where Marines were briefly pinned down.

Farther back, on the roof of a U.S. military compound, Marine snipers cranked up the volume on their CD player so they could listen to the music of Metallica as they fired at their foes.

Now, this is some rather odd reporting. It’s rather clear from the story that the mosque was precisely not targeted. This despite the enemy violating the laws of land warfare and illegally using a mosque as a staging area for combat operations. Had the Marines targeted the mosque there’d be no mosque. What they took out was a minaret.

And what’s with the Metallica business? I have no idea why they were playing music during a firefight–I’d guess it was a bit of psychological warfare–but I’m pretty sure amusing themselves while they killed the enemy isn’t the explanation.

The NYT does a much better job of simply reporting the battle: Fierce Battles in Najaf and Falluja Dim Hopes for Accord [RSS]

A protracted firefight between marines and insurgents in a Falluja suburb on Monday culminated in American helicopter gunships and tanks firing at a mosque and toppling its minaret, further dimming hopes for a peaceful resolution to the three-week-old siege.

The American command said the battle had erupted when insurgents breaching a shaky cease-fire in Falluja, 30 miles west of Baghdad, used the mosque to attack Marine positions with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. After two hours, pinned down by fire, the marines called in helicopters and tanks, which directed “suppressing fire” at the mosque, the command said.

I’m not a big fan of scare quotes in this case, as it implies that “suppressing fire” is some sort of euphemism. It isn’t. It’s basically firing designed to keep the enemy’s head down while a movement is going on. It’s usually called “suppressive fire,” though.

The story also contains “before” and “after” aerial photographs at the mosque, letting the readers judge the nature of the damage for themselves.

Buried deep in the story–and not mentioned at all in the LA Times piece above–is this rather important development:

One Najaf resident said some of Mr. Sadr’s militiamen were shedding the black clothing that has been their signature. The same resident said that he knew of two killings of Mahdi Army members on Sunday and that three others had been killed later on Sunday or Monday.

If reports of violence against Mr. Sadr’s followers suggested that the American occupiers might be seeing the beginnings of Iraqis’ taking action of their own to curb the cleric — as L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator, has urged — events in Baghdad on Monday underscored how potent a force Mr. Sadr remains, at least among many young Shiites who have found a release from their impoverishment in the cleric’s anti-American oratory.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jane Galt says:

    Those quotations aren’t only used for euphemisms, or disputed phrases (“pro-life”); they’re also used for phrases with which the readers aren’t expected to be familiar, such as, in the case of the readership of the New York Times, “suppressive fire”. In that case, however, it should have been followed by a definition.

  2. James Joyner says:


    Good point.

  3. delta dave says:

    Well, most likely, since the NYT didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t to the homework to make sure the use of military terms were technically correct, it most likely the reason they didn’t put a defition following “suppressive” fires is because they don’t know what they were talking about.