Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Ceasefire Begins

When the Marines began encircling Fallujah the Belmont Club remarked that the the last historical parallel was the the showdown between Blackjack Pershing and the Moros at Bud Bagsak. That analogy may be appropriate in more ways than one. One overlooked aspect of Pershing's Bud Bagsak campaign was that it included the Philippine Scouts, a unit consisting of both Filipinos and Americans in the engagement. If one looks at this painting commemorating Bud Bagsak (ironically available from the an Islamic terrorist website) one will see the depiction of a Filipino Scout in khaki bayonet fighting a kris-wielding Jihadi beside an American who fires his .45 automatic in one of its first combat employments. Those with a taste for history will recall that Scouts, whose motto was "Anywhere, Anytime" would go on to win the Medal of Honor against the Moros and the formation would fight alongside US divisions in Bataan, where they held out against the Imperial Japanese Army for nearly six months when pure British formations in Malaya collapsed in weeks. Three would win the Medal of Honor there, including Jose Calugas.

The Boston Globe is reporting that US Marines will begin joint patrols with Iraqis in Fallujah as part of a new ceasefire attempt in that city. More likely, it will be the first instance of US and Iraqi troops going into combat together.

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- As US officials grappled with whether to attack this insurgent stronghold, US and Iraqi negotiations announced yesterday that US Marines will start joint patrols with Iraqi police and civil defense forces in Fallujah on Tuesday morning. ... After Tuesday, anyone carrying a weapon openly ''will be considered hostile and will be dealt with accordingly," Ambassador Richard Jones, the second-highest US civilian official in Iraq, said after the negotiations at the Marine base here.

The new "ceasefire", coming after consultations by the President, and the command decision to start the patrols involving Abizaid, Sanchez and Bremer, indicates a willingness to clean up Fallujah despite any consequences in conjunction with Iraqi forces.

The joint police patrols seemed a riskier strategy, designed to put an Iraqi face on security. It is unclear whether Fallujah residents will be any more welcoming this week to police than in the past, when police have been routinely attacked. That's one reason for the rule against carrying guns, said Jones, but another is to reassure Iraqis whose biggest concern is security.

He said he hoped the ban on carrying weapons would soon apply across Iraq, where nearly every family has a weapon. ''I don't care if they have them in their houses," he said. ''The problem is carrying them in the streets." About 500 police and members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps have reported for duty in the past week, US officials said. About half the police are from Ramadi, the provincial capital and a traditional political rival of Fallujah's.

It's unclear whether the recruits have any experience, Coleman said. ''I didn't ask that question very hard. I just said, 'Bring people with good character.' " Jones added, ''We'll see how many show up."

It atmospherically recalls Pershing, greeting newly arrived officers and sizing them up for toughness, before putting them on a steam launch to Jolo with a month's pay, a detachment of Scouts and the promise that the launch would be back to collect whoever survived. The Marines snipers may now have open season on any armed men in the Fallujah streets, where Americans and Iraqis of  'good character' will find it tested as never before. The Iraqi nation will be born or fail in Fallujah, but if they succeed, the words "Anywhere, Anytime" will be translated into Arabic.