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The War Nerd July 8, 2004
Fallujah I: The Gaza Strip Snap-On Kit
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email

You wouldn't think a big powerful country like the US would go out of our way to make our own version of the Gaza Strip. I mean, even the Israeli rightwingers, some of the mean-craziest people this side of my HS vice principal, are scrambling to find a way to get out of Gaza, which is like all Hell crammed into a beachside slum a few miles square. But that's what we've done in Fallujah.

At least the Israelis have the excuse that Gaza is right next door. What we've done is much weirder: we took this crappy Iraqi town half a world away from America and turned it into a sanctuary for every crazy Jihadi, with hundreds of American troops supplying the entertainment by giving the locals something to shoot at.

By now it's reached the point that we're actually sending fighter-bombers to attack this town that we supposedly took more than a year ago. Yesterday, when I started writing this, the headlines went like, "More than Two Tons of Bombs Dropped on House in Fallujah!" It was like they were celebrating the sheer tonnage or something. Top this, Ariel! You may be zapping cars at every stoplight in Gaza with Hellfire missiles (that you got from us for free in the first place), but hey, we managed to focus 4,000 pounds of HE on one little stucco shack in Fallujah!"

You might wonder how it all happened. I hear you asking, "Gary, I've been thinking of setting up my own little Gaza Strip in the backyard, cause I'm getting bored with video games and all, and I wonder if you could tell me how you turn a sleepy little Arab town into Hell on earth." Why sure. Happy to oblige. Here's what we did to make Fallujah such an interesting war-tourist magnet for all the Zarqawis of the world. The key, remember, is the whipsaw effect: total violence, then lame "pacification," then back to total violence, then another round of "Let's be friends!" Nothing on earth drives people crazier than that schizo flip-flop, and that's been the theme-song of the Fallujah episode. We zoomed into Fallujah way back in April 2003, all fired up -- and ready to smoke anything that moved.

Fallujah was a classic "Sunni Triangle" town, with about 300,000 people. They're usually called "Saddam loyalists" and most of them are, for the simple reason that in a gangland country like Iraq you better stick to your own people. But from what I hear, Fallujah was more like a country town, more old-fashioned than anything. What counted most was family, but not the nuclear family thing, the older version: the clan. You belong to a clan, like a real big family or a small tribe, and you stand up for your clan. If people mess with it, you mess back.

Killing is part of the culture, the way it's part of every culture if people had the guts to face that little fact. In Iraqi culture, just like it was for the Vikings, killing somebody is a commercial matter. It's like the sign in secondhand shops: you break it, you own it. Only it's "You kill my kin, you owe me money."

The invasion was going well back in April 2003, and we were pretty cocky. The 82nd Airborne, which did an outstanding job in the charge to Baghdad, rolled into Fallujah, did a few victory dust donuts in the town square (I hear the Bradley does a pretty good dust donut, too) and decided to make the local schoolhouse our HQ. Well, since Iraq has a birthrate like Mormons on ecstasy, this pissed off the local parents -- millions of kids hanging around the house, no summer camp to send 'em to. So on April 28, 2003 they staged a typical Arab demonstration at US HQ. By all accounts a typical Arab noisefest: a lot of yelling and posing, a lotta shoes being waved and thrown, annoying as Hell. Nothing to be afraid of.

Except somebody in the chain of command wasn't feeling cool, calm & collected that day. Maybe pissed off at not getting enough kills on the Hellride up the river, maybe tired of Arabs yelling -- God knows I can sympathize with that. So we started shooting. And by the time we stopped there were at least 13 locals dead. Turned into 20 dead by the time May 1 rolled around.

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Gary Brecher
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