Finishing Fallujah: War, Politics, and the Media
Ralph Peters has some blunt words about the operations currently underway in Fallujah.
The most decisive battle since the fall of Baghdad has begun. Thousands of U.S. Marines, Army units and Iraqi government forces have moved into Fallujah. Now we need to finish the job swiftly, no matter the cost in death and destruction, before the will of our civilian leaders weakens again. Stopping even one building short of the annihilation of the terrorists and insurgents would be a defeat. Al-Jazeera will pull out the propaganda stops, inventing American atrocities. The BBC will pressure Tony Blair to rein in our president. Iraqi faction leaders will press Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to accept a cease-fire for “talks.”
It’s up to President Bush not to let them down. No matter what happens, no matter who complains or balks, no matter the false accusations from Al-Jazeera and the BBC, our president needs to stand firm until the job is done. By quitting in April, we created the terrorist city-state of Fallujah. Now we need to shut it down for good.
Agreed. Winning this one is crucial to the the outcome of the whole Iraq War. Toppling Saddam will be of little value if we don’t replace him with a stable, elected government. The first step in doing that is providing security. The first step to that is Fallujah.
Apparently, the Powers that Be are aboard as well:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared yesterday that the military assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah would be carried through to completion, unlike the U.S. Marine operation in April that was aborted after several days. “I cannot imagine that it would stop without being completed,” Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference. Pressed on the possibility that interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi might halt the offensive, Rumsfeld said he would be “amazed” if that happened. He said the Iraqi leader had been involved in extensive discussions on whether to proceed. “The decision to go included the decision to finish and to finish together,” Rumsfeld said.
The U.S. military’s previous attempt to clear Fallujah of insurgents has become a source of some contention within the Pentagon. The operation ended abruptly amid reports that hundreds of Iraqi civilians had been killed. Control was turned over to a security force made up of former Iraqi soldiers, who then failed to combat the militants.
Peters makes a rather cynical prediction:
Meanwhile, be prepared for media monkey business. No matter how well things go, we’ll hear self-righteous gasps over the inevitable U.S. casualties. The first time a rifle company consolidates a position long enough to bring up ammunition, we’ll hear that the attack has bogged down. If commanders on the ground decide to shift forces from one axis of advance to another, we’ll be told that our troops couldn’t make progress against “dug-in terrorists.” If four Iraqi units out of five perform well in battle, but one outfit fails or flees, we’ll be bombarded with reports insisting that our training program hasn’t worked, that the Iraqis aren’t really with us, that the interim government has no grass-roots support (sort of what the Dems said about George W. Bush). And if Operation Phantom Fury goes miraculously well, we’ll be criticized for waiting too long to go in, for exaggerating the threat and for knocking over a stop sign with a tank.
Sadly, there’s little doubt that this is true. Indeed, it’s already starting.
The two marines were pinned down on a roof on Monday, pressing themselves against a low, crumbling wall as insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at them from a building near the middle of town. Hours before, they had clambered over a railroad embankment – a berm, to the engineering-minded – and started their advance into this rebel-held city. Commanders called in artillery fire on the building where the grenades were emerging, their tails spitting and glowing like sparklers across the sky. But the artillery only flattened the building next door to the one occupied by the insurgents. “This is crazy,” one of the marines said. “Yeah,” his buddy said, “and we’ve only taken one house.”
This is urban warfare, where the technological advantages of the American military can be nullified, at least for a few terrifying hours, by a few determined fighters in a warehouse or an abandoned home.
I seem to recall similar stories as our troops were preparing to move into Baghdad during the major combat operations phase. In reality, urban warfare is something our forces–especially the Marines and Army Rangers–are incredibly good at.
Even worse is nonsense like this:
‘I Got My Kills … I Just Love My Job’ (London Daily Telegraph)
After seven months in Iraq’s Sunni triangle, for many American soldiers the opportunity to avenge dead friends by taking a life was a moment of sheer exhilaration. As they approached their “holding position”, from where hours later they would advance into the city, they picked off insurgents on the rooftops and in windows. “I got myself a real juicy target,” shouted Sgt James Anyett, peering through the thermal sight of a Long Range Acquisition System (LRAS) mounted on one of Phantom’s Humvees. “Prepare to copy that 89089226. Direction 202 degrees. Range 950 metres. I got five motherf****** in a building with weapons.”
Capt Kirk Mayfield, commander of the Phantoms, called for fire from his task force’s mortar team. But Sgt Anyett didn’t want to wait. “Dude, give me the sniper rifle. I can take them out – I’m from Alabama.”
Two minutes tick by. “They’re moving deep,” shouted Sgt Anyett with disappointment. A dozen loud booms rattle the sky and smoke rose as mortars rained down on the co-ordinates the sergeant had given. “Yeah,” he yelled. “Battle Damage Assessment – nothing. Building’s gone. I got my kills, I’m coming down. I just love my job.”
Professional journalism at its finest.