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April 06, 2004

I don't know what the political fallout will be...

...but the Marines are living up to the standards set by The Battle for Hue.

I don't know if the political/diplomatic corps will steel themselves - but the Marines in Fallujah should be putting to rest any doubts about the fighting quality of Americans in cities. From what I can see - we went to school on the Russian experience in Grozny. And that's a good thing, seeing as how the Chechens handed the Russians their heads there.


U.S. Faces Tough Urban Battle in Fallujah
2 hours, 54 minutes ago

By LOURDES NAVARRO and BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writers

FALLUJAH, Iraq - In a narrow alley, Marines pinned down by a hail of guerrilla fire sent up red smoke in a cry for help. Tanks pounded shell after shell into houses, while troops on the city's edge crawled forward on their bellies, firing on insurgents.

U.S. forces faced a tough urban battle Tuesday in their drive to pacify one of Iraq's most dangerous cities. Block by block, they fought their way into Fallujah, where Iraqi guerrillas killed four American civilians and a mob mutilated their bodies last week.

In case any of you haven't been paying attention for the last year or so - city fighting is the most brutal and dangerous kind. And it's slow. Especially if you are trying to avoid civilian casualties (and your opponent isn't).


...U.S. forces called out a weapon rarely used against the Iraqi guerrillas: the AC-130 gunship, a warplane that circles over a target, laying down a devastating barrage of heavy machine gun fire.

Unlike most air-delivered munitions (though that ratio is rapidly changing) the Spectre *is* a precision weapon.


Tuesday evening, U.S. planes firing rockets destroyed four houses in two neighborhoods, witnesses said. The strike killed 26 Iraqis, including women and children, and wounded 30 others, said Rafie al-Issawi, a doctor at Fallujah General Hospital, where the casualties were taken. The deaths brought the total number of Iraqi dead on Tuesday to 34, according to the hospital's count.

Here's where it gets ugly. Did these people stay there of their own free will? Did they refuse the evacuation order out of defiance, loyalty to the Mullah? And then, whether or not those people invited the militia in or not - when you hang around in the middle of a firefight - Bad Things happen.

...The battle began when a foot patrol that went a few blocks into the city came under fire from a house, said Cpl. Christopher Ebert, of Forest City, N.C., who was on the patrol. He said two Marines were wounded.

Trapped in a narrow alley, unable to see the source of fire, the Marines put up red smoke to summon help, and a tank and an armored Humvee moved in. The tank battered the house with a heavy machine gun, and the patrol was extracted.

But soon afterward, guerrillas opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons on the 2nd Battalion Marines just outside the city, sending the Americans diving into the sand and sparking a battle that lasted into the night.

Good. They're standing and fighting. Makes it easier to kill them and reduce the insurgent population. Just as happened to the Viet Cong during Tet. The question now is - will the President do a better job explaining to the people what's going on - and will the people accept the situation?

"Insurgents usually fire and run. This time they're digging in, which is the first time we've seen them do that," Ebert said.

It means they're trapped, most likely. And they are trying to make it as painful as possible, hoping for this generation's Walter Cronkite to pass judgement.


The gunmen "use lots of hit-and-run tactics. They ambush a lot and it is more tough for us to fight that way because we don't want to injure civilians," Marine Capt. Kyle Staddard said.

Right out of the Grozny playbook. Swarm fire with RPGs, RPG gunners supported by riflemen and light machine guns. Hopefully the Marines have the gear for detecting tunneling activity. In Grozny, the Chechens tunneled from building to building, and knocked holes in firewalls and between rooms to build a whole new manuever path that wasn't as obvious as using streets, sidewalks, and hallways.

Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, has long been a bastion of the Sunni Muslim guerrillas. Support for the insurgency is strong — and hatred of the U.S.-led occupation is widespread, as evidenced by the cheering Iraqis who dragged the four Americans' burned bodies through the streets a week ago.

In this case, hopefully they will reap the whirlwind. If you can't win their hearts and minds, kill 'em until they get tired of dying. In these people's case, they apparently don't like being an out-of-power minority, instead of an in-power minority - and know that historically that's not a good thing - after all, they know what they did when they were in power, and for some reason, fear that it might happen to them out-of-power. The same seeds of pointless feuding exist here as existed in Bosnia. The Hatfields and McCoys writ large - on a cultural level.


On Fallujah's outskirts, one Iraqi farmer just wanted to be able to reach his gardens, now in an area blocked by U.S. forces.

"The Americans, by coming here, have harmed us," said Ahmad Mashhan. "We are not armed people and we are not terrorists but we are suffering from the siege."

Sorry, Charlie - talk to your friends and neighbors. In fact, if your friends and neighbors would talk instead of shoot - who knows what might happen?

Again - how this ends depends on the political class - for the Marines?

Asked how long it would take to seize the whole city, the Marines' McGolwan replied: "As long as it takes."

They'll just get the job done.