Friday, September 30, 2005

The Fight for Fallujah

When the Marines blasted their way through Fallujah twice last year, I was extremely critical of the effort that may have killed over 600 Iraqi civilians during the first attack in April. The siege was in response to the brutal murder of four U.S. contractors -- their burnt remains hung from a bridge in celebration. Yet, the U.S. response was also brutal and disproportionate as reports had U.S. snipers shooting at ambulances. That said, Fallujah was an epi-center of jihadist activity, intimidation and violence and something did have to be done to purge those nasty elements. That something was another attack on Fallujah in November 2004. Not to beat the Slate drum to death today, but Bing West's Return to Fallujah is required reading. According to West, last November's raid found:
[I]nside 17 houses...cell blocks, chains screwed into ceilings, blood-splattered walls, the flags and propaganda pamphlets of al-Qaida, and mutilated corpses. There was a torture house somewhere on just about every major street—one torture chamber for every 20,000 residents. The Jolan district in the northeast, where the 2nd Iraqi Battalion was working, had the highest incidence of intimidation and killings.
Torture is 99.9% wrong all the time(I don't trade in absolutes), yet while I hear all the time about the U.S., U.K. torture centers, I've never heard about Al-Qaeda's or the resistance's own centers. And I don't think I'm being an apologist for our depraved practices to say I'd rather be tortured at Abu Ghraib than in a dank cellar underneath Fallujah.

The rest of West's dispatch demonstrates the courage of the Iraqi Lt. Col. Suleiman, who was murdered by insurgents, and two local sheik who have had enough of the "resistance," and want U.S. permission to arm themselves legally. The basic rationale behind West's essay is that Fallujah needs another Suleiman to hold back the insurgents or it will be hard for U.S. soldiers to leave. Will another courageous Iraqi patriot stand up against the reactionary forces of Fallujah?

I'm betting on it.