Monday, December 06, 2004

Freedom's On The March

Our military will have their hands full re-admitting 300,000 Fallujans--and no insurgents--to the city in time for the January elections.

Some highlights: Fallujans will be herded through suburban "Citizen Processing Centers" where we'll take DNA samples and retina scans, and issue them ID badges they must wear at all times. Then buses will take them into the city, where cars will be banned. And, if one US faction has its way, the men will report for forced labor. I'm not kidding.

"You have to say, 'Here are the rules,' and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability," said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during the US assault and expects to be based downtown for some time.

Bellon asserted that previous attempts to win trust from Iraqis suspicious of US intentions had telegraphed weakness by asking, " 'What are your needs? What are your emotional needs?' All this Oprah [stuff]," he said. "They want to figure out who the dominant tribe is and say, 'I'm with you.' We need to be the benevolent, dominant tribe.

"They're never going to like us," he added, echoing other Marine commanders who cautioned against raising hopes that Fallujans would warmly welcome troops when they return to ruined houses and rubble-strewn streets. The goal, Bellon said, is "mutual respect."

Most Fallujans have not heard about the US plans. But for some people in a city that has long opposed the occupation, any presence of the Americans, and the restrictions they bring, feels threatening.

"When the insurgents were here, we felt safe," said Ammar Ahmed, 19, a biology student at Anbar University. "At least I could move freely in the city; now I cannot."
The whole story's at the Boston Globe, via Atrios.

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