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:

Rumsfeld Says Fallujah Attack Won’t Go Halfway (WaPo)

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.

Urban Warfare Deals Harsh Challenge to Troops [RSS] (NYT)

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.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Media, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. LJD says:

    IF the world was at peace, the economy was strong, world hunger was ended, cures were found for AIDS and cancer,… somehow the media would find a dark side to report. Go figure.

    So what’s the issue here- that the media reported the comments made by the soldier, OR that people see it as somehow wrong?

    My personal opinion- there is absolutely nothing wrong with killing bad guys. Better him than me. If the adrenaline rush at the time makes me smile and say something similar, whose place is it to criticize? Killing bad guys is a good thing, period.

    Maybe if he just sent them a basket of flowers with a thoughtful card attached….?

  2. M. Murcek says:

    The people who get upset at this are moral relativists at their worst, which is to say, they think, relatively speaking, the Americans are “the bad guys.”

  3. Anjin-San says:

    Guess no one is stopping to think that some of the “bad guys” are everyday Iraqi men who are pissed because their Mother was killed by an American bomb, or perhaps because a GI pointed an M-16 at his wife and kids while clearing an area.

    Our troops are brave men doing a difficult job. I direct no blame at them. However, we are an occupation force in a country that did not attack us or declar war on us. A lot of them don’t seem to want us there.

    Does that make them “bad guys”? How would any guy in America respond to forign troops in our country? With gunfire, I think it is safe to say.

    When we were kids, we played bad guys vs. good guys. The real world is a lot more complicated.

  4. zz says:

    Actually, the country has been attacking our pilots for over a decade now even as they protect citizens of that country. The people who we are fighting and those who command them are those who are responsible for the atrocities which made Iraq under Saddam a pariah state, a danger to the majority of its own people, and to the region. Moreover, if we hadn’t been containing Iraq, we probably wouldn’t have seen terror attacks like 9/11. Of course, if we hadn’t been containing him Saddam would have restarted his weapons programs and invaded Kuwait as soon as he had his nuclear shield. A classic catch-22.

    I don’t know whether we can say if Saddam provided assistance to al Qaeda or not definitively. If he did it would be likely limited to covert financial assistance. Why would he do that? Well if you look at al Qaeda’s demands, there are several demands that would benefit him more than anyone else, namely removal US troops from the region and ending of sanctions. Saddam is a smart man. He knows he can’t directly attack the US without facing a severe reprisal. He knows he won’t be let off the hook as long as the US isn’t directly threatened. Successful attacks by a third party just might make the US cry uncle at let him get out of containment. Perhaps that is why he had all those 9/11 murals put up around Iraq.

    Unfortunately, tracking financial aid to terrorist organizations is virtually impossible because of the relative ease by which a courier can deliver cash by hand to terror groups. We will never be able to identify all the sources of money that were used to fund al Qaeda. We can never be sure whether Saddam has not funded al Qaeda. But given the fact that the stalemate with Saddam had gotten over 3000 Americans killed and has led to huge financial losses, we ought to be able and willing to bear the burden of removing Saddam and stabilizing Iraq. If we aren’t then we should abandon all of our collective security agreements because they will only endanger us.

  5. Anjin-San says:


    The president said we went to war because they had WMD. I don’t recall firing on our aircraft as part of the reason. While I have no doubt Saddam loyalists & imported terrorists are amongst those who are fighting our troops, to think that there are no legitimate insurgents who are simply Iraqis who don’t want us there seems, well, a bit misguided.

    I am not sure by what logic you come to the conclusion that the “stalemate” with Iraq led to 9-11. Even Rumsfeld admits that that is not the case, to say nothing of the 9-11 commission.

    Bush did well in forcing Saddam to readmit the inspectors. Certainly the threat of force was justified. But for the president to say he attacked Iraq as a “last resort” is a joke. Iraq was contained, they were caving in on the inspections, they had no WMD.

    Given the low dollar amount Al-Queda expended on the 9-11 attacks, bin laden could certainly afford to finance similar future operatons out of his personal fortune. He does not need money from Saddam or any goverment to be a threat.

    Of couse we need to try and disrupt funding of terrorists, but if Sadam did in fact fund bin laden, I have sure not heard about it.

    Bottom line is, Bush wanted the war, he got the war.

    16 more of our brave soldiers & marines dead in Iraq today.

  6. LJD says:

    First of all, any one in the town of Fallujah, holding weapons and fighting the coalition (yes, coalition, including Iraqi National troops) are the enemy. Period. They deserve to die.

    I don’t care what they think, or you assume, some one did to their family. No matter how you rationalize it, they have chosen to take up arms against the liberation of their country. You have no evidence that any of them are victims. Your ASSUMPTIONS are only spreading pointless, inflammatory hypotheticals and heresay.

    It is also abundantly clear you only “recall” what is convenient. The full case for war was made in congress and at the U.N. It bothers me that daily firing on our aircraft does not constitute an act of war to you.

    And what the hell is a “legitimate insurgent”? The best way for us to leave Iraq is for the ENEMY to lay down their weapons and assemble a peaceful government. That’s not the way they do things: they like to chop off heads and blow up school children.

    How convenienet for you to keep referring to the lack of a tie between Saddam and 9/11. You also conveniently forget that Saddam did fund terror in his own country, and in Israel. Whether proven or not, given the opportunity to support Al Qaeda, versus for instance, the U.S., where do you think he would turn his resources? (Resources he wasn’t even supposed to have under oil-for-food, while his people starved and suffered disease).

    Congress was FOR war, hence the American people were FOR war. The same ones who voted FOR the President to win the war in a second term. The world community (that was not implicated in violating sanctions, and profitting from Saddam’s back-door deals), was FOR the war.

    Keep on pressing the casualty numbers. The “insurgents” and Al Qaeda love the support. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. I hope you have enough respect to shut your cock-holster for at least one day. By the way, you’re welcome for your freesom of speech, use it wisely.

  7. LJD says:

    Oh yeah, don’t forget to check out my response to your last post under “Just a Thought” in reference to Michael Moore.

    It seems you are either missing my point, unable to consider ideas different than yours, or intentionally twisting my comments to further your whacky crusade. Maybe all three.

    I am wide open to considering your viewpoints, however, I have yet to see anything that can be substantiated.

  8. LJD says:

    …and check out James’ latest post
    “Hostage Slaughterhouses found in Fallujah”

  9. Anjin-San says:

    Guess LJD is not old enough to remember vietnam. The marines will drive the insurgents out of Fallujah. They will pop up in other ratholes, and in a month the cousins & little brothers of those who are killed will be shooting at our forces. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to “lay down their arms”.

    Perhaps people who actually live in Iraq feel they have more right then Americans to define what “liberating” thier country means.

    LJD when are you enlisting & voulenteering for combat duty in this war you so support? Or are you just another old man cheering in his armchair while young men do the bleeding?

    This war is the greatest recruting tool al-queda ever had. bin laden & the mullahs in Iraq must be laughing their asses off.

  10. LJD says:

    You’re all too predictable. When James posts a topic, you spew forth liberal jibberish. When I refute your points, and clarify your misunderstandings, you chage the subject and speak in hypotheticals.

    This is the second time you have brought up Vietnam, which is nothing at all like Iraq. Too bad the left has not realized its lessons: tying the hands of our soldiers with political in-fighting, anti-war protestors criticizing their actions (either directly or indirectly), leaving business unfinished when the going gets tough, anti-war activists like John Kerry and Jane Fonda getting in bed with the enemy…

    So you go off on more Iraq hypotheticals… Perhaps they know what liberation is… The U.S. is there as long as the provisional government wants us, until they hold their own elections and form their own government. The timetable for this is extremely aggressive, specifically to reduce our time in that country. Your impatience and short-sightedness ignores the unprecedented success of this effort. Consider the length of time it took to restore order after WW2. Your negativity certainly doesn’t help matters.

    So then (I use the word correctly), you attack me personally, and my service to this country. I answered this charge in a previous post. You failed to remember, just as you fail to acknowlege reality. The facts could be biting you in the ass and you would think it was a hemmorhoid.

    I served in a combat unit of the active army. I am currently in the Ready Reserve. If and when I am called up, I will serve with pride, although your attitude makes me wonder about 48% of those I represent.

    Perhaps (I hope)you are not a U.S. citizen at all, rather an english-speaking AL Qaeda stirring things up from an internet cafe in Indonesia somewhere… I don’t know. What I do know is that it truly sickens me how easily you put yourself in the shoes of the enemy. Those who cut off heads, blow up children, hide weapons in schools and mosques, and orchestrate attacks from the same. They not only attack the U.S., but more predominantly the Iraqi people. The ones you say they are fighting for.

    We, on the other hand, take every measure possible to minimize civilian casualties, to protect the innocent, to provide humanitarian aid. If you disagree, you not only disagree with the administration, but also shit on our troops. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tout the “atrocities” and support our troops at the same time. Make your choice, and choose wisely.

    So this is a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda? Do you believe that any good person, regardless of their misfortune, will be more likely to kill innocent people, or blow themselves up? Is this how YOU think? (A question, not an accusation) What would it take for you to do the same? If our actions in Iraq consolidates the enemy, makes them take action against us now, versus waiting for a future opportunity, then I’m all for it. Bring it on. Bring it on. Evil is evil. The enemy is the enemy. When it comes to chopping off heads, torture, rape, indescriminate bombing of civilians, it is absolutely black and white. There is no grey. There is no cause to validate such behavior.

    Please take a day or two and think about it. Please refrain from negativity tomorrow and reflect on your thoughts. It would be a great disrespect to those who have fallen, for you to continue during the day of remebrance.

  11. Anjin-San says:

    OK you are to young to remember vietnam. That explans a lot. Those who refuse to lean from history are indeed doomed to repeat it.

  12. Anjin-San says:

    Speaking of WW2, how many GIs were killed by insurgencies in Germany or Japan after the war? None…

  13. Anjin-San says:

    Interesting reasoning. It is ok for us to turn Iraq into on ongoing firefight, regardless of the price paid by the people of Iraq, in order to draw our enemies into combat, so that we may remain safe & snug here in America.

    BTW LJD, I don’t need a day of rememberance for the fallen. I remember them, their sacrafice and the ongoing suffering of thier families every day.

  14. LJD says:

    It’s pointless to have a discussion with one who does not respond to a direct rebuttal, and who only follows up with generalizations, unrelated quotes, and unsubstantiated tales. Keep dodging the issues…

    I see in your case, age does not discriminate about ignorance. I have learned from history, but you failed to address any of the points I raised about Viet Nam. I am young enough to still serve my country, and old enough to know what’s going on in the world. I have been overseas and have seen life at the end of a barrel.

    We were already at war in Iraq. Maybe if it was your ass getting shot at, or your family member, you would feel differently. I suppose you’re a pacifist or something. Hey, that’s cool if it works for you. But know that people are on the front lines every day to secure your right to be one. They are there whether we are at war or not. There is always a threat, whether you accept it or not.

    I think about my friends in Iraq every day. They believe in what they are doing for the people of Iraq. Who are you to judge from YOUR comfy seat, wherever it is? Have you ever stepped up to the plate to serve the greater good? Have you ever served your country? Or, do you just like to shoot your mouth off? I don’t expect an answer, because you likely don’t have one, or will come up with something unrelated.

    Not sure why I bother wasting my time… If you are an American, your logic is truly frightening. Once again, keep your pie-hole shut tomorrow. I don’t want to hear your bullshit on Veteran’s Day. I have earned that right, have you?

  15. Anjin-San says:


    Kindly kiss my ass. I will speak my mind 365 days a year. This is the right all Americans. American soldiers, including many in my family have bled for this. My uncle fought and bled at frozen chosin before your parents met. I went to the recruting station the day after 9-11, they thanked me and said they did not need 43 year old boots.

    BTW, this is America. I do not have to clear some bar that you set (such as having seved in the armed forces) to comment on the war.

    The threat is Al-Queda… Bin Laden. Thanks to the blundering of the Bush administration, he is still at large.

    Your attempts to cast those who do not share your political views as unamerican or enemy symphathizers would make a commisar in China or North Korea proud.

    Kindly refrain from adressing my posts if you find them offensive. I am looking for intelligent discourse, not dogma. You bore me. Run along junior…

  16. Anjin-San says:

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

    Bertrand Russell

  17. LJD says:

    V-C, uh, I mean A-S

    Go scew yourself.