Fallujah Update

FALLUJAH UPDATE….This story about military operations in Fallujah by Knight Ridder’s Tom Lasseter is interesting….

American officers and enlisted men assigned to Anbar [province] have stopped talking about winning a military victory in Iraq’s Sunni Muslim heartland. Instead, they’re trying to hold on to a handful of population centers and hit smaller towns in a series of quick-strike operations designed to disrupt insurgent activities temporarily.

…. Military officials now frequently compare the fight in Anbar to the Vietnam War, saying that guerrilla fighters, who blend back into the population, are trying to break the will of the American military ? rather than defeat it outright ? and to erode public support for the war back home.

….but the editor’s note at the end of the story is even more interesting:

Tom Lasseter made regular trips to Fallujah in the summer and winter of 2003, interviewing tribal sheiks and residents there before the town fell to insurgents. He wrote extensively about the brewing unrest in the region, and the misunderstandings and conflicts between residents and the U.S. military units stationed there. During that period he was able to walk freely throughout the town with a translator.

He was last in Fallujah without military escort in early 2004 when insurgents overran the downtown police station. After men repeatedly pointed AK-47s at his chest and face and threatened to shoot him, he decided not to return except with American troops. Insurgents took over the town that April.

He reported on troops in Ramadi last summer, and wrote about the scaling back of patrols there and low morale among troops. He returned to Anbar province in November, when U.S. troops retook Fallujah in the worst urban combat since Vietnam. For this series of stories, Lasseter spent three weeks in the province this month embedded with Marine and Army units in Haqlaniya, Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and Fallujah.

If Lasseter is right ? and he obviously has the street cred to be taken seriously on this ? Anbar is about as bad now as it was before last November’s offensive; no one has much hope that it can be pacified; and the troops themselves now routinely think of Iraq as another Vietnam. If this is the way the military feels, is it any wonder that reporting from Iraq has taken on a distinctly defeatist tone?