Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fallujah Follies

The Fallujah city council chairman, a critic of al-Qaida who took the job after his three predecessors were assassinated, was killed on Saturday, the latest blow in a violent internal Sunni struggle for control of an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

In the capital, U.S. and Iraqi officials defended plans to build a barrier around a Sunni enclave to protect its inhabitants from surrounding Shiite areas, while residents expressed concern it would isolate the community.

Basically, the U.S. Military decided to build a "protective" wall around a Sunni neighborhood that none of the residents want.

Some residents and local officials in the neighborhood complained that they had not been consulted in advance about the barrier.

"This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Azamiyah," said Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a 41-year-old engineer who lives in the area. "They are going to punish all of us because of a few terrorists here and there."

The U.S. insists, however, that the wall is designed for the Sunnis own protection.

The military insisted its aim was only to protect the area and this was one of many measures being undertaken as part of a U.S.-Iraqi security plan to pacify the capital, which began on Feb. 14.

"The intent is not to divide the city along sectarian lines," said Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, the deputy commander of American forces in Baghdad.

"The intent is to provide a more secured neighborhood for people who live in selected neighborhoods. Some of the people who I've talked to have had favorable comments about it, and they want us to build some of them faster."

Who to believe? Is the wall a punishment, or is the motivation purely about the local's security and protection?

As I see it, there are only three possibilities.

(1) The US military is lying. The wall is a futile attempt to contain an enemy that continually alludes them, like when Sylvester the Cat slams down an upside-down glass on top of Tweety bird, only to lift the glass and discover that his prey has magically escaped. In fact, if the military wants a cool name for this stage of the Surge, I'd eagerly recommend "Operation: Sufferin' Succotash!" The Iraqis are protesting the wall because they know it won't work and resent being penned like criminals.

(2) These Iraqis are so terrified of the American military, they oppose even attempts to secure their neighborhoods if Americans are involved. In other words, the Sunnis prefer the threat of insurgents and their explosives over our soldiers. NOT GOOD!

(3) This reporter is lying and the US military is telling the truth. Most Sunnis in the area support the wall but the liberal reporter focused on the one or two bad apple locals who automatically oppose anything that Americans suggest, without regard to their own personal safety, on principle.

Honestly, I can't decide between #1 and #2. They're both possible. I could definitely see how locals think this is just a stupid idea. I think it's kind of a stupid idea, though I admit I don't fully understand the specifics of the situation in a random neighborhood in Fallujah. However, I am also ready to believe that Iraqis fear an endless American occupation. They have every reason to! And walling off a certain segment of the population is never going to make you seem like a friendly, benevolent occupying empire. It reeks of "pogrom."

Again, I'm not saying that's definitely what the military is up to. Perhaps they're simply woefully incompetant!

Granted, #3 is a remote possibility. Normally, I would say that kind of comment is just knee-jerk right-wing partisanship, an insistence that Bush must be correct in all cases, even if it means the entire rest of the world is full of shit.

But this occured to me while I was reading the article, and I'm not exactly a pro-war reactionary. How many locals did the reporter speak with? He's basically presented us with two 180 opposite arguments. An Iraqi says, "We weren't consulted about this wall, and if we had been, we would have opposed it." An American says, "The Iraqis want the wall. I have spoken with them and they have expressed their support."

I still don't think the third possibility is very likely. But it's the obvious right-wing spin on this kind of story, and there's not enough concrete information in the article to thoroughly refute this line of reasoning.

It would seem to me that the article's not finished until the reporter resolves this discrepancy. Otherwise, I'm left having to theorize about the actual answers, which isn't really productive. No?

1 comment:

Peter L. Winkler said...


Eludes. Don't get mad. Just trying to be helpful.