The PJ Tatler

Insurgency Supporters, Agence-France Presse Celebrate US Withdrawal in Fallujah

Among the things I learned on the streets of Baghdad in 2007 was that many in the press were behaving as if they were public affairs officers for the insurgency. Much of the Associated Press’ reporting, in particular, amounted to passing off the reportage of Sunni stringers who were at least sympathetic to the insurgency as if it were fact.

That in mind, AFP runs a story today to juxtapose with the images of President Obama officially announcing the US troop withdrawal from Iraq. See if you can discern a point of view in the piece.

Hundreds of Iraqis set alight U.S. and Israeli flags on Wednesday as they celebrated the impending pullout of American forces from the country in the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah.

Shouting slogans in support of the “resistance,” the demonstrators held up banners and placards inscribed with phrases like, “Now we are free” and “Fallujah is the flame of the resistance.”

Surrounded by the Iraqi army, demonstrators carried posters bearing photos of apparent insurgents, faces covered and carrying weapons.

They also held up pictures of U.S. soldiers killed and military vehicles destroyed in the two major offensives against the city in 2004.

“We are proud to have driven the occupier out of Iraq, at the cost of enormous sacrifice,” said Khalid al-Alwa, the local leader of the Islamic Party, a Sunni Muslim grouping.

When AFP gets around to detailing the two battles for Fallujah, it gets the history wrong.

Fallujah, a city of about half a million people 60 kilometres west of Baghdad, was home to some of the earliest anti-U.S. protests in the aftermath of the March 2003 invasion.

At the time, Fallujah residents were content to throw only their shoes at US soldiers. But in March 2004, four American employees of the U.S. private security firm Blackwater, since renamed Xe, were brutally killed in the city.

That year, the U.S. military launched two massive offensives against Fallujah, signs of which are still visible today in collapsed buildings and bullet holes in walls.

The first offensive in April aimed to quell the burgeoning Sunni insurgency but was a failure — Fallujah became a fiefdom of Al-Qaeda and its allies, who essentially controlled the city.

As Victor Davis Hanson writes at NRO, the first battle wasn’t a “failure,” at least not in the field. If it was a failure, then the politicians in the Iraqi government are mostly to blame for halting the battle just as the Marines were about to win.

In November, a second campaign was launched, just months before legislative elections in January 2005. Around 2,000 civilians and 140 Americans died, and the battle is considered one of the fiercest for the U.S. since the Vietnam war.

That should finish with “And the Marines won decisively.”

AFP would do well to note that Al Qaeda in Iraq never really recovered from that defeat. It should also add that after the victory in Fallujah, the Marines uncovered slaughterhouses all over the city, houses that al Qaeda used to torture and murder its local opponents. That’s how they “essentially controlled the city,” as the AFP phrases it. The MSM hasn’t wanted to discuss those slaughterhouses for seven years now.

President Obama, claiming victory again today, derided the war as a senator and opposed the 2007 surge that eventually won it. Those demonstrators would not be free today, even to denounce their liberators, if Barack Obama had gotten his way. And now, he may be withdrawing American forces from Iraq in a way and at a time in Middle Eastern history that turns the military victory into political defeat. Fallujah’s demonstrators, perhaps a part of Time’s Person of the Year cadre, suggest that possibility.

Mission accomplished, Mr. President?