The US 1st Marine Division sent a small convoy
into Fallujah today in order to meet with the mayor and show cooperation with
the Iraqi Police (IP) and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC). But the supposed
show of force was a pre-arranged exercise. Immediately following the Marines'
departure, the embattled city erupted into what could only be described as a
huge victory celebration over the US military.Residents were joined by fully
armed resistance fighters who intermingled freely with uniformed IP and ICDC
At roughly 11:00 this morning, several American Humvees and Stryker vehicles
entered the downtown area of Fallujah, accompanied by pick-up trucks full of
members of both the IP and ICDC, who traveled in front of, beside, and behind
the military convoy. The small convoy slowly made its way inside the heavily
blockaded Tribal Council compound.
A 1st Marine Division press release about the exercise says Marines "traveled
into Fallujah today to exercise freedom of movement and meet with city officials."
Abdul Rahman, a captain in the ICDC, explained the Marines' exercise as a negotiated
concession. "There were negotiations between the people of Fallujah and
the occupation forces," Captain Rahman said. "The plan is for the
Americans to pull all of their troops out of the city after they get this one
After pausing to look at the military vehicles inside the compound, Rahman
added, "We want them out of our country."
Nervous residents of the recently besieged city watched quietly from sidewalks
as the vehicles sat for about 30 minutes inside the Tribal Council complex,
behind concrete barriers some eight feet high. The scores of Iraqi Police and
Iraqi Civil Defense Core members who had accompanied that patrol now guarded
In the Marines' press release, 1st Lieutenant Eric Knapp, the Public Affairs
Officer for the 1st Marine Division, states, "Cooperation between Coalition
and Iraqi Forces in Fallujah is symbolic of the solidarity between all who share
a vision of a secure and prosperous Iraq."
But at least some members of those Iraqi forces saw the situation differently.
Just outside the compound walls, Alla Hamdalide, a member of the ICDC forces
said his unit was required to protect the Marines. "We brought the Americans
from the bridge into the city," he said. "They couldn't even come
in here alone. The victory for Fallujah remains."
Despite the extremely tense and somber atmosphere outside, Major General James
Mattis met with the mayor of Fallujah inside the compound where they reportedly
discussed plans to rebuild the city.
After only half an hour inside the compound, again with scores of IP and ICDC
riding in pick-up trucks and surrounding the Marines' vehicles, the patrol slowly
made its way back out of the city. No gunfire was reported during the event.
Immediately after the patrol left the area, spontaneous celebrations erupted
as crowds of residents gathered in the street and began chanting and waving
banners. Members of both the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps joined
in the celebration, waving their guns in the air and flashing the two-fingered
An elderly Fallujah resident riding in the back of a truck, waving a traditional
Iraqi flag, yelled, "Today is the first day of the war against the Americans!
This is a victory for us over the Americans!"
Resistance fighters, called mujahideen ("freedom fighters") by locals,
mixed in with the crowd of unarmed civilians, police and Iraqi soldiers. Brandishing
rocket propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), Kalashnikov assault rifles and hand
grenades, they paraded on trucks as thousands of residents began to move up
and down the main street in an impromptu victory parade.
US military officials have admitted that among the Iraqi forces making up the
Fallujah Brigade, which they say will be relied upon to maintain security in
the city, are an unknown number of guerillas who confronted US Marines just
last month at the peak of fighting here. The new brigade is led in part by Ba'athist
officers who served in the military under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
Ahmed Saadoun Jassin, a uniformed Iraqi Policeman hired and trained by the
US occupation authority, didn't bother containing his joy at seeing the Marines
leave. "I can't describe to you the happiness I feel right now," he
said. "This is a victory for Islam."
When asked about cooperating with the Marines, Jassin explained, "This
was the deal that was negotiated. They couldn't stay in Fallujah for over one
hour, which they didn't."
Shop owners threw handfuls of candy at the passing crowds. Many of the people
celebrating waved old Iraqi flags, while some held up copies of the Qur'an.
Music blared from mosques as vehicles carrying both armed mujahideen and celebrating
residents of Fallujah made their way up and down the main street of the city.
Members of the IP, ICDC and several of the resistance fighters were seen firing
their guns into the air.
The 1st Marine Division made no mention of the agreed restrictions Iraqi police
and soldiers said were placed on the Marines to ensure them safe travel in their
"Fallujans reportedly waved to the Marines as they made their way in and
out of the city... Freedom of movement in Fallujah, like that demonstrated by
today's visit, is a crucial component in the process of setting the conditions
necessary to rebuild and revitalize the city," wrote Lt. Knapp. "This
display of teamwork serves notice to those who violently oppose stability in
Iraq; they are nothing more than unwanted barriers on the road to a truly free
One resistance fighter riding on the roof of a truck while wielding an RPG
stated, "They [the Marines] just made the people of the world laugh at
them. But I think they will come back, because they don't keep their word."