Fallujah standoff

Don’t hold your breath waiting on “overwhelming force”

ACE’s great analysis of the Fallujah situation continues. He writes

The attempt by the CPA spokesman to say Fallujah is a special case by itself is also nuancing. There are other problem cities, as the CS Monitor article points out, and if the US military looks weak in its response to this, people in those cities may be emboldened to do the same, and resistance could spread like wildfire throughout the country.

This is a very important point. Mosul, also, has seen a recent increase in attacks. I don’t think things are as bad as they might seem today, just as I didn’t think they were as good as they seemed in February. I thought then and I still think now that insurgent elements were gathering what strength they had for a coordinated effort coinciding with the anniversary of the invasion. If that’s the case, the strength of their initial “push” is probably about spent, and the attacks will fall off as April progresses.

Fallujah will remain a hot spot, as it’s never really cooled down. It’s probably going to remain a simmering cauldron of dissent for years. We cannot let the actions of the past few days go unpunished, with both a show of force and with actual apprehension or destruction of some of the individuals involved. The citizens of the city seem to be fully supportive of the insurgents, but that would probably change some after a few defeats. They were all worked up after those US civilians were killed, but I’ve got to think that a lot of that was playing up for the camera.

Many inevitable comparisons to Mogadishu have been made, and the pictures of the bodies and the celebration of the locals does seem to fit nicely with those events in Somalia. Of course, the similarities pretty much end there, as these were civilians on a reconstruction mission and those were Special Forces soldiers on a military mission. If we do nothing more in Fallujah, if we pick up our bags and move on, THEN this will be like Mogadishu. Mogadishu was a defeat, not because we were beaten (though we DID suffer tremendously) but because we CHOSE to resign.

Unless we show similar weakness now, which would invite others to pick up weapons and strike, I think this may be the high-water point of the spring for the insurgents. We cannot just firebomb Fallujah like I’ve heard a lot of people suggest, but neither can we just sit around the edge of the city and let them carry on like they are. This is actually a slightly crucial moment, and our actions over the next two or three days might determine the events of the next three or four months.

Despite setbacks and unexpected (rightly or otherwise) difficulties, we’ve done so well in Iraq over the past twelve months. We cannot falter now.

UPDATE: Belmont Club has some great observations about the pace of the response.

UPDATE: Finally! I had been waiting for someone to pull the old “but they weren’t really civilians” line. A reader comments

“Civilians” is a bit of a stretch. The people killed in Fallujah were military veterans working for a private military company providing security services. At least a couple were former special forces. In a word, they were mercenaries and they were getting paid about $30,000 a month for the same work that GIs in MP and support units get far less compensation for, mostly coming from the $87 billion that the U.S. is spending on the Iraq mission.

This doesn’t make killing them right. But, to compare killing them, who are quasi-combatants, to killing true civilians, doesn’t ring true.

I have been seeing this all over today.

The reader is right that these guys weren’t “Ward and June Cleaver out for a Sunday drive with Wally and the Beave” civilians, but they were definitely civilians. When more details started coming out, I planned to note their backgrounds and their status.

However, a lot of folks in the media and the blogosphere seem to be making too much out of this. Some of my fellow bloggers have even complained that the Pentagon isn’t counting these guys in its death toll. That’s out of line.

These men, REGARDLESS OF THEIR PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT, were the employees of a private corporation. Yes, their company had been hired by the US government, but that really doesn’t make any difference.

If a former Navy sailor begins working for Boeing after he leaves the service, is he a civilian? Of course he is. What if the assembly plant builds jet fighters for the US Air Force? Still a civilian. What if he’s killed by an enemy attack on the plant? Still a civilian, despite the fact that the assembly line is really a legit target in a war. Were all of those German factory worker we bombed in WW2 civilians? Yes, they were. We didn’t target them, specifically, but they were definitely in the line of fire. It’s not the same as bombing a farmhouse and killing the Waltons for no good reason, but civilians they are.

These guys were providing security for a reconstruction company. The reason that they were attacked is more understandable than if they had been hunted down in Newark, New Jersey, but it doesn’t change their status or the fact that their treatment is an outrage.

Comments

  1. Civilians’ is a bit of a stretch. The people killed in Fallujah were military veterans working for a private military company providing security services. At least a couple were former special forces. In a word, they were mercenaries and they were getting paid about $30,000 a month for the same work that GIs in MP and support units get far less compensation for, mostly coming from the $87 billion that the U.S. is spending on the Iraq mission. This doesn’t make killing them right. But, to compare killing them, who are quasi-combatants, to killing true civilians, doesn’t ring true.

  2. oh willeke, you are the one stretching definitions. Look up ‘civilian’ in the dictionary. Those who are not in the military or police are civilians.

  3. Per my observation, this is a big test of our resolve over there. If we don’t respond in a decisive way, we’re in trouble. We will respond tho……..and I expect it to be strong, hard, and given the chaos over there, relatively fair.

  4. I think the fact that we didn’t go rushing headlong into the city on a ‘rescue’ mission indicates that the Marines have a plan. All of history indicates you don’t want to be on the receiving end when the US Marines have a plan.