Outside The Wire

Recalling the U.S. sacrifice in Fallujah as al-Qaeda captures it

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, second from left, reviews Iraqi troops at a training facility in Taji, Iraq in June 2004. (Jim Krane / The Associated Press)

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, second from left, reviews Iraqi troops at a training facility in Taji, Iraq in June 2004. (Jim Krane / The Associated Press)

The headlines about Fallujah spell gloom and doom for the Iraqi city recently taken over by al-Qaeda affiliates, raising tough questions about Iraq’s overall stability, whether the same will happen in Afghanistan after the U.S. leaves and, well, what the heck was it all for?

In a case of curious timing, the homepage of the Combat Studies Institute calls to mind a triumphant time in Fallujah: November 2004. CSI offers a four-hour virtual tour about the one-time, ahem, two-time insurgent stronghold that examines the U.S.-led coalition operation to take the city. (The tour is available by request because perhaps it contains classified material.)

ABC News describes the efforts of Marines who who fought al Qaeda-backed insurgents in two battles in 2004. “They finally eliminated the al Qaeda forces in a house by house, alleyway by alleyway battle in which Marines had to contend with booby traps, roadside bombs and insurgents who fought with near suicidal determination.”

Dozens of Marines died in the effort. In 2004, insurgents in Fallujah killed four American security contractors, hanging their burned bodies from a bridge.

“It was all for naught,” Ross Ducati, a former Marine who fought in the second battle for the city told ABC News. “Americans fought and died there — my friends died there — for the purposes of regime change and furthering business interests friendly to the Bush administration… [Now] Iraqis will die there to further the interests of [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s government.”

“If you think Fallujah’s fall suddenly means your Iraq service was in vain, then you’ve been oblivious for 11 years,” Brandon Friedman, who served there as an infantry officer and wrote a book about the experience, was quoted by Time. “It was always pointless.”

Maj. Charleston Malkemus, a member of the Marines’ First Battalion, the first division deployed to the city, told ABC that then, as now, al-Qaeda fighters “flocked to the city and inserted themselves to take control.”

“We can’t sustain fighting from 3,000 miles away forever,” Malkemus said. “At some point we had to turn things over to the Iraqis. Unfortunately, the Iraqi Army is struggling and needs to engage with the terrorists again in Fallujah.

The current violence evolved from a year-long, largely peaceful Sunni revolt against Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government that drew inspiration from the Arab Spring demonstrations elsewhere in the region, the Washington Post reports. But it was rooted in the sectarian disputes left unresolved when U.S. troops withdrew and inflamed by the escalating conflict in neighboring Syria.

Elsewhere in the western province of Anbar, al-Qaeda fighters have taken control of most parts of the provincial capital of Ramadi.

Unlike 2004, there will be no American boots on the ground. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the United States will support Iraq’s fight against al-Qaeda-linked militants who have overrun two cities, but won’t send in American troops.

Kerry said, “this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq, so we are not obviously contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. … We will help them in their fight, but this fight, in the end, they will have to win and I am confident they can.”

This morning, he urged residents and local tribes to “expel” al-Qaeda militants to avoid an all-out battle — remarks that may signal an imminent military move to retake the former insurgent stronghold.

Tribal fighters in Anbar Province have been battling al-Qaeda, but it is unclear whether they support Maliki’s government.

Most residents of Fallujah do not support the al-Qaeda fighters, a journalist there told the Washington Post, but they also lack the means to oppose them, and they also oppose the Iraqi government.

“It is sad, because we are going back to the days of the past,” he said. “Everyone is remembering the battles of 2004 when the Marines came in, and now we are revisiting history.”

Comments

  1. Michael Gayer Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    While I did not serve in Iraq I did serve in ‘Nam! Democrat run wars for dollars are the most heart breaking fullishness ever.
    They care not for those that serve or those that have parished, except to politize their loses.
    Obama is Muslim and the Muslim Brotherhood whom he put in key Government jobs are Al Qaeda opporatives. We have been sold to doom and slavery by a fraud.

  2. Joe Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    I have always held the view and also today thought that no- this was not in vain and was a worthy cause and that many times in this earthly life some give their lives that others may live and this is similar to the self-sacrifice of Christ for us and that many gave their last devotion for my freedom, for Iraqi Freedom and we must not forget or let anyone say this was in vain.

    Many marines and soldiers have been wounded and died serving and the thing they know in their heart is that a better , lasting life, will come and that today,our life on this earth, is temporary and not our final destiny.
    It is this faith, to know that what we can lose here —Christ has already won.

    A marine and soldier’s resolve to be willing to give their life for a friend or a people is a sacrifice that may be rewarded in this life possibly but surely in the life to come that will never end.

    “Because You redeem, I know what’s to come
    Everything I could lose here, You’ve already won” (Downhere – A Better Way)

    John 15:13
    Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
    THANKFUL for the service of our sons and daughters

  3. charles campbell Says:
    January 9th, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    This war was a waste of time resources and lives I been deployed to Iraq twice and it was it was an epic failure with a lot of civilians getting rich and Soldiers being killed. I didn’t fight for “Iraqi freedom” I fought for the guys to my left and to my right. It would be bullshit if we had to go over there again the same time they are cutting our benefits.

  4. Harry Says:
    January 10th, 2014 at 11:50 am

    For all the talk about Fallujah and how the ‘Marines won the Battle in Fallujah’ in Nov-Dec 04, why do we not hear anything about 2BCT, 2ID who was there also? 1-9 INF had deployed from Korea, to Iraq and was OPCON to both 1st and 2nd MEF while serving a year in Ar Ramadi; they were also called on to help with the Battle of Fallujah in Nov 2004. This was not a Marine only fight, yet everytime I read anything about it there is never any mention of the Army’s involvement.

  5. Bob Says:
    January 10th, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Guys wake up! I proudly served in the military and as a veteran I can truthfully say that the war in Iraq was not in vain. It served its purpose – Bush got re-elected. That’s all that mattered to a president who avoided war during ‘Nam but didn’t hesitate to send someone else’s sons and daughters off to save his own job.

    When it started to look like Bush would become another Jimmy Carter for not finding Bin Laden, he pulled a play out of the Reagan play book. He attacked Iraq – who had nothing to do with 9/11 – the way Reagan invaded Grenada when soldiers and marines got blown up in Beirut. This is nothing new. Politicians will do what’s needed to save their jobs. So what if that means sacrificing a few soldiers? Wake up.

    BTW, don’t think Obama is a closet Muslim. Obama was raised by his mother and her family who I’m sure were Christians. Oh, that probably doesn’t mean a thing if we can’t find an original copy of his birth certificate – maybe he wasn’t born. He always looked like an alien to me; take a look at those ears (definitely not humanoid).

    Bob DaBilda

  6. John Says:
    January 15th, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I was there in November 2004 with 2-7 CAV; this is no surprise. We lost a lot of good people in Fallujah. God Bless their families.

  7. Jean E. Howard Says:
    January 20th, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    The Fallujah conflict and similar events were inevitable. The only surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner. It is very sad that differences cannot be resolved peaceably but human nature does not change.