April 15, 2005


Jeanne tries to piece together what's going on in Fallujah of late—given that media reports have been nearly non-existent—and finds very, very little to cheer about. Reconstruction is slow, very slow. Sewage dripping through taps, electricity still non-functional, refugees still homeless. Food shortages. And before anyone retorts that at least the place is now the "safest city in Iraq," do note that when Robert Zoellick came to visit, he had to be zoomed through in an armored car.

The worst of it is, it's not at all clear how the U.S. expects to keep the city out of insurgent hands once the "lockdown" gets lifted. The operating theory here seems to be that once upon a time, a bunch of jihadists from outside Fallujah—i.e. foreigners like Zarqawi—took over the city and thugged it up, so now it's just a question of preventing those bad dudes from returning to the city, and everything will be just dandy.

But that's certainly not how it works at all. As at least one military analyst who spent considerable time in the city told me last fall, the bulk of the insurgency was made up of men from the Jumaila, Albuaisa and other local tribes, large and powerful ruling families that altogether comprise around a fourth of the city. Many of those tribesmen were killed during the firefights in April and November. Fine; but they all have brothers, or cousins, or uncles willing to take up arms and fight. Those people all live in Fallujah. And they all know where to get guns. There's literally no way to prevent them from returning and picking up where they left off last November. I just don't see how this ever ends. Saddam Hussein himself could barely bribe these folks into keeping the peace; so why, pray tell, does anyone expect that a cocked-up American reconstruction job will do the trick? And how does the new Iraqi government, whose Speaker of the Assembly condoned the invasion of Fallujah, expect to earn the city's trust?
-- Brad Plumer 4:17 AM || ||