Skip to comments.A city in ruins, sky thick with smoke: 'let's kick ass ... the American way'
Posted on 11/14/2004 7:57:55 PM PST by crushelits
In the huge, muddy field which serves as a forward base, Major-General Richard Natonski prepared his troops for the battle ahead. 'We're goin' in to raise the Eye-raqi flag above Falluja - to give it back to the Fallujans,' he shouted, the eyes of the entire 1st Marine Division on him.
Pausing to remember the marine corps who fought in Vietnam, Korea and the two world wars, they then stood to attention and launched into the marine hymn.
'Only two songs send a shiver up my spine,' said one marine, his face scored with the pockmarks and confidence of youth. 'The marine hymn, and that song by Toby Keith after 9/11 which says "we're gonna kick you up the ass - that's the American way".'
Then the unit was on its way to war. Twenty-five behemoths - tanks and amphibious assault vehicles - lumbered through the desert towards the small, poor, dusty city which has become the symbol of America's failure in Iraq. The idea that Falluja will one day rank as a military victory to rival Hue City, Vietnam, may at present seem ludicrous - but such is the significance the Americans place on this battle.
They need to wrest back Falluja not simply to quell the insurgency but also to show the 'hajis' - as they call the rebels - that they cannot match the mighty US Army.
'After we take Falluja, the terrorists will have no sanctuary, nowhere to hide,' said Major General Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division.
No soldier can fight unless he hates the enemy - which makes the message that this is all for the Iraqi people difficult to absorb.
'I guess there are some good people - it's jus' that we don' have nothin' to do with them,' mused a marine as he and his colleagues sorted their kit and cleaned their M16 assault rifles. 'I see the little kids in the cars and I feel sorry for them, but when they turn 16 they're evil.'
On Sunday night they slept in the desert - infantry under the skies, trackers in vehicles. By the time they woke on Monday, other units had seized the hospital and installations on the west of the Euphrates. But the main assault east of the river was still to come.
As they advanced on the city's north-western outskirts, black smoke from earlier artillery and bombing barrages smeared the horizon. On entering Falluja, marines burst into an apartment building, evacuating residents. A huddle of women and children were shepherded away, the women pulling their headscarves tighter, the children staring wide-eyed at the huge, muddy green juggernauts standing outside their home.
At a railway, the column came to a halt. The road bridge beneath could be booby trapped; or there could be an ambush lying in wait. Explosives were laid across the rails and two holes were blown in the breach - one as a feint, one for real. Engines roaring, the huge vehicles then rolled up and over the railway embankment and into a cemetery, where they parked up until dawn.
The following day, the real fighting began. Over the week, the two units I'm accompanying have lost at least two marines and seen several injured in the push through the Jolan district, a rebel stronghold. Captain Brian Chontosh says about a dozen men have been captured and a similar number killed. 'The resistance is in pockets,' he adds. 'There's nowhere for them to go now but jail or Allah.'
The resistance is heard but not seen. On the first day, every time a helicopter gunship flew over, it would meet a barrage of AK-47 fire as the insurgents took wild pot shots. The fire simply alerted the Americans to their positions. By the second day, airpower was scarcely used at all. It was the turn of the foot soldiers, amphibious vehicles providing covering fire.
Marines went house to house, knocking down doors, searching for insurgents and arms. Jolan is deserted. It's possible that insurgents forced people from their houses weeks ago.
One man said they had forced him to keep arms in his house, threatening to take him to the rebel leader Omar Hadid to have his throat slit if he refused. He knelt blindfolded against a wall, waiting for the marines to take him for interrogation by the omi nously-named 'exploitation teams'. Intelligence from prisoners has been vital in locating arms stores.
The amphibious vehicles push down walls, and street stalls and cars go up in spectacular explosions. The attitude is that overwhelming force is necessary.
In one house, marines came across the bodies of five Iraqi men, shot in the back of the head. Their story will probably never be known. Much of Falluja is now in ruins. Every day, the marines open up with mortars, mini grenade launchers, machine guns and tank rounds, aiming to kill anyone hiding behind a wall or in a house.
On Friday, in the debris, they found a family: mother, father and five children. Alive. 'We heard on the radio it would be safer to stay at home,' said Usil Abdul, nursing her baby. The children sat on a sofa in a house marines had taken as a base. They accepted sweets and drinks and chatted to soldiers, seemingly unfazed by four days of bombing and mortar fire.
Other residents may be less sanguine when they return to see the wreckage. Marines lounge in the armchairs of Falluja's elite, blowing smoke rings and eating snacks. One stuck a paper flower behind his ear and posed for the camera before changing his mind - 'I don't want people to think I'm gay!'
Walls have been destroyed to clear lines of fire and terraces are littered with spent cartridge cases, rubble and half-eaten ready-to-eat meals. While some may blame the insurgents for bringing this upon the city, many will point to the Americans.
Despite reports of 'heavy fighting', the overwhelming majority of the firing has been one way. Twenty four US soldiers have died and more than 200 injured. An unknown number of Iraqi soldiers have also died. But the resistance in Falluja was sporadic. Insurgent leaders probably fled several weeks before the onslaught. The marines will claim this as a major triumph in the war on terror but if the insurgency merely shifts elsewhere, they may find Falluja is an empty victory.
(They got Toby's lyric wrong. It's "We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.")
Boot ? I thought it was bullet are you sure?
The Guardian. What is it the "guardian" of?
Islam is a shame to Allah.
I think it's "boot". Makes sense, I picture a big a$$ combat boot every time I hear that song. Besides, it's easy to dance to.
It's definitely "boot."
--Big TK fan. :-)
Limey doesn't know the difference between Army and THE US MARINE CORPS.
However, there are Army units in the fight, so maybe he is just trying to simplify it for the left wing "intelligencia" who read his paper.
And the blogs have noted an article where the helicopters, instead of blaring out "the ride of the Valkaries" from their loudspeakers are now blaring out "American F... Yeah" from Team America...
do you have a source for this humanitarian disaster info?