9 years, 1 month ago
In The Pacification of Fallujah: Is it Fake?, I responded to claims that the pacification of Fallujah occurred at the expense of viability of the city. I responded in the negative. I have been waiting on Bill Ardolino’s first post from Fallujah, and it comes entitled We Like You! where he discusses the ‘astounding’ changes that have occurred since his last visit to Fallujah.
The surreality of the change can be summed up by this afternoon. I sat chit-chatting in a downtown precinct with Iraqi cops and newly-minted neighborhood watchmen, junior security officials drawn from the same labor pool that previously drove the insurgency. As was the case last visit, the Iraqis assume that I’m an Arab when they first see me, and express amused fascination when they discover I’m American. Apparently I look like a member of a tribe that lives northwest of the city, whose members sport full beards, lighter brown skin and light eyes. I always respond that there are plenty of Americans who look just like them, because America welcomes all races. Coupled with my prominent camera and status as “a journalist,” I rate somewhere between a bemusing curiosity and a very minor celebrity.
Through a local interpreter, we talked about their changing opinion of Americans, Iraq’s prospects, the misery of living under al Qaeda, the joys of kabob and favorite soccer teams. Their open and friendly nature is hard to reconcile with the violent history of American-Iraqi interaction in Fallujah, and many of them charitably chalk it up to a “misunderstanding.”
Towards the end of a long conversation with one group, I said, “Well, I wish you luck. And I want you to know, besides the marines and soldiers that you meet here in the city, there are many civilians back in America who hope for Fallujah’s success.”
The afternoon’s joking died down as the interpreter translated and each of them earnestly told me “shukran” (“thank you”). And one young guy blurted out in halting English, “We like you!”
Backatcha, buddy. Now I’m off to hit that kabob.
Bill is a first-rate reporter and I look forward to more posts on his embed with the Marines. Read the whole article. Repeating from before, there may be bumps in the road in the future, especially with the plan to lift the ban on vehicle traffic. After all, it is still a counterinsurgency. But the counterinsurgency operation by the Marines in Anbar, and more particularly, Fallujah, will go down as one of the greatest, with remarkable progress accomplished in the compressed time frame in which they work.