Ha! I’ve got a very expensive connection here at our hotel in Damascus.
Last night we took a really interesting quick tour of the Old City etc by car, then had dinner at a place high up on Jebel Kassioun overlooking the twinkling lights of the city. Our host talked a bit about how anguished most Syrians, especially those in the northeast of the country, feel about the events in Fallujah.
Ilana Ozemoy has a very sobering piece of reporting from Falluj-ozny in today’s US News & World Report…
- Once the sky stopped raining fire and the smoke from the tank cannons vanished, it was time to pick up the pieces. But where to start? What had been houses were now piles of brick and glass, demolished by 500-pound bombs. Whole city blocks were leveled, the rubble and mangled carcasses of cars pushed to the sides of the streets by the force of Abrams tanks. In crushing the Sunni insurgents who had laid claim to the streets, U.S. and Iraqi forces left Fallujah looking like a city ripped asunder by a hurricane. “It’s in bad shape. I don’t know what they [residents] have to come back to,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Ryan of the 1st Infantry’s Division Task Force 2-2…
Rooting out a thousand or so insurgents in Fallujah required American commanders to commit some 10,000 troops, reinforced by punishing air power. The Army’s 1st Infantry Division, lacking the number of soldiers necessary to search every house, employed its tanks, blasting heavy cannon rounds in answer to snipers’ gun-and mortar fire to minimize time–and U.S. casualties. “You never want to destroy someone’s city like this. These people have worked hard for what they have,” said Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, of Task Force 2-2’s Alpha Company. “But this was the only way to eliminate those fanatics.”
… While some houses survived with little damage, whole swaths of the city were made virtually unlivable. On the eastern side of Fallujah, which suffered some of the heaviest fighting, the front of one house looked as if it had been sliced off with a bread knife. The upstairs bedroom remained intact, a small vase of plastic roses sitting undisturbed above a perfectly made bed while the guts of the house spilled into the front yard, burying a man caked with blood and dust.
…with weeks to go before the electricity is turned on and serious reconstruction work begins, Fallujah risks becoming a sequel to the battle for Baghdad–a quick, effective military operation, followed by a slow and problematic reconstruction effort. What Iraqis have seen so far are the images of scorched neighborhoods and wounded civilians looped on Arab satellite TV newscasts, and those who survived the fighting angrily condemned the military tactics. “There was no food, no water, no electricity–just the smell of gunpowder,” recalled Muhsan Fuad, 30, who fled his house in Fallujah’s Jolan neighborhood a few days after the offensive began, transporting the remains of a cousin killed by mortar fire. “It’s a war for freedom and democracy where there is no mercy, no law, no difference between men, women, and children. This is the American way of democracy?”
By the way, the piece is titled “Destroying it to save it?”.