Monday, September 13, 2004

The Bush administration has mishandled the situation in Fallujah

Why you're right:

1. They ordered the Marines in too soon. According to senior U.S. officials in Iraq, The White House pressured Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to order Lt. Gen. James T. Conway to storm Fallujah in April. Conway said he argued that the military should "let the situation settle" in Fallujah before attacking so that it didn't seem like U.S. forces were acting as revenge for contractors who were killed days earlier. He was overruled. (Washington Post, LA Times)

2. They pulled the Marines out before the job was done. The attack was allowed to continue for just three days. Then Sanchez ordered Conway to cease offensive operations. Conway suggested that the hesitancy emboldened the opposition. Conway: "When you order elements of a Marine division to attack a city, you really need to understand what the consequences of that are going to be and not perhaps vacillate in the middle of something like that." (Washington Post)

3. They chose to rely on the all-Iraqi "Fallujah Brigade." With the rug pulled out from under his own forces, Conway was forced to create the "Fallujah Brigade," which consisted of about 1,000 former Iraqi soldiers, to provide security in Fallujah. Members of the Fallujah Brigade ended up assisting the insurgency. In short order, "the 800 AK-47 assault rifles, 27 pickup trucks and 50 radios the Marines gave the brigade wound up in the hands of the insurgents." Now the Fullujah Brigade has collapsed and there is no U.S. presence inside the city. It is a haven for insurgents. (Washington Post)

Why they're wrong:

On Meet the Press this weekend Colin Powell said, "We're confident of what we're doing. We're confident in our strategy. We're confident that we've done the right thing in ...Iraq, and this is not the time to get weak in the knees or faint about it." But recognizing failures is not a sign of weakness. It is essential if there is any hope of getting it right in the future. (Meet the Press)