Still Big News
On July 8 I posted a link to what I thought was a pretty big story: America’s decision in April to pull out of Falluja, thus creating a safe haven for terrorist and insurgents. (Follow this link to read the full article.) Yesterday, after weeks of bloody fighting in Najaf, The Times ran another piece on Falluja, and I’m at a lost to explain why it wasn’t front page news. In all of the sound a fury of the Sunday morning spin fests, shouldn’t someone have been talking about this?
Both of the cities, Falluja and Ramadi, and much of Anbar Province, are now controlled by fundamentalist militias, with American troops confined mainly to heavily protected forts on the desert’s edge. What little influence the Americans have is asserted through wary forays in armored vehicles, and by laser-guided bombs that obliterate enemy safe houses identified by scouts who penetrate militant ranks. Even bombing raids appear to strengthen the fundamentalists, who blame the Americans for scores of civilian deaths.
American efforts to build a government structure around former Baath Party stalwarts – officials of Saddam Hussein’s army, police force and bureaucracy who were willing to work with the United States – have collapsed. Instead, the former Hussein loyalists, under threat of beheadings, kidnappings and humiliation, have mostly resigned or defected to the fundamentalists, or been killed. Enforcers for the old government, including former Republican Guard officers, have put themselves in the service of fundamentalist clerics they once tortured at Abu Ghraib.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman is covering this topic today.