Michael Ubaldi, October 13, 2004.
The first thing to know about Fallujah is that the city was made a rough, lawless smuggler's crossroads by Saddam decades before it became a blockhouse for Ba'athists and terrorists in postwar Iraq. It's not unreasonable to imagine pacified Fallujah as a troubled, economically depressed, run-down city for years to come, watching as the rest of Iraq quickly develops into a 21st-Century industrialized democracy. Those who suggested Fallujah was not an outlier but a wide-open gate to Islamism were premature to dismiss the instability of alliances between the exclusory. As I said two weeks ago of persistent amputations of terrorist leadership in Fallujah, "since strongmen are never in league because of mutual trust, a significant loss of power in leading factions could introduce an irresistable opportunity for power seizure."
It looks as if that is happening before our eyes:
Local insurgents in the city of Fallujah are turning against the foreign fighters who have been their allies in the rebellion that has held the U.S. military at bay in parts of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, according to Fallujah residents, insurgent leaders and Iraqi and U.S. officials. Relations are deteriorating as local fighters negotiate to avoid a U.S.-led military offensive against Fallujah, while foreign fighters press to attack Americans and their Iraqi supporters. The disputes have spilled over into harsh words and sporadic violence, with Fallujans killing at least five foreign Arabs in recent weeks, according to witnesses.
...[A]attitudes toward the foreign fighters have changed dramatically since they poured into Fallujah after the Marines' siege ended in April. "We were deceived by them," [Adnan, a taxi driver,] said. "We welcomed them first because we thought they came to support us, but now everything is clear."
...Residents said the overwhelming majority of Fallujah's people also have been repulsed by the atrocities that Zarqawi and other extremists have made commonplace in Iraq.
There is a "local resistance" that is shocked, shocked to have been associated with the inhuman brutality of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Almost comically, they have offered to mediate a withdrawal of foreign terrorists so Ba'athist remnants can keep Saddam Hussein's legacy alive properly — not to be confused with those without legitimate claim over the bodies and souls of Iraqis. American and Iraqi forces, meanwhile, have begun to chew up insurgents along the roads from Baghdad to Fallujah, prompting Saddamites to concede and concede again:
A delegation of six prominent Fallujans began negotiating with Iraq's interim government late last month. But senior government officials said it was only after the Oct. 1 assault on Samarra that the Fallujah delegation approached the task with new zeal.
Authoritarians do not follow faith but strength; when that ebbs leadership comes under contest and the blood spurts. There is more than enough legitimate criticism of the Iraq-American decision to have treated Fallujah carefully, even gingerly; but the most compelling reason for doing so was to, as Glenn Reynolds advises this morning, win ideologically. It is very much in Iraq's interest for malcontents in the Sunni Triangle to exhaust themselves fighting against foreign terrorists to the point of disgust and resignation — leaving a weakened cultural and paramilitary force to be swept up by Americans and Iraqis. Via IP:
Although the details are secret, American and Iraqi troops are on the offensive against Sunni Arab and terrorist gangs. Over a year of effort in building up an intelligence network among the population has paid off. Even in the Sunni Arab areas, many people are fed up with the lawlessness and violence created where the gangs operate. So information comes in about who is who and is doing what. ...The process of clearing out these areas has apparently been underway for two weeks. Not a lot of publicity for this effort, as keeping the opposition guessing is a powerful weapon.
In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, the newly damned Faust is taken by Mephistopheles to a Leipzig barroom where four coarse drunkards are given their carnal wish — wine flowing freely from holes bored into the tables — before the devil makes short, painful work of blindly selfish fools (with apologies to Wretchard, who sews classics into his work as a matter of occupation):
All [while they pull out the stoppers and the wine desired runs
into each one's glass]. O beauteous fountain flowing at our will!
Mephistopheles. But watch, I say, that not a drop you spill!
[They drink repeatedly.]
We're just as happy as cannibals,
As if we were five hundred swine!
Mephistopheles. Behold how happy is this folk - it's free!
Faust. I think now I would like to go away.
Mephistopheles. But first give heed to a display
Of glorious bestiality.
Siebel [drinks carelessly; the wine is spilt upon the ground and
turns into flame]. Help! Hell's on fire! It's burning me!
Mephistopheles [conjuring the flame]. Be quiet, friendly element!
[To the young men.]
This time 'twas but a flame that Purgatory sent.
Siebel. What's that? Just wait! For that you will pay dear.
You don't know who we are, that's clear.
Frosch. Don't try that game a second time, I say!
Altmayer. I think we'd better bid him gently go away.
Siebel. What, sir! You venture to provoke us
And carry on your hocus-pocus?
Mephistopheles. Silence, old wine-butt!
Siebel. Broomstick, you!
Will you insult me to my nose?
Brander. Just wait a bit, 'twill soon be raining blows!
Altmayer [draws a stopper out of the table; fire leaps out at him].
I burn! I burn!
Siebel. It's sorcery!
The rogue's an outlaw! Come, thrust home with me!
[They draw their knives and rush at Mephistopheles.]
Mephistopheles [with solemn gestures].
False form and word appear,
Change place and sense's sphere!
Be there and here!
[They stand amazed and look at each other.]
Altmayer. Where am I? What a lovely land!
Frosch. Vineyards! Do I see right?
Siebel. Grape clusters close at hand!
Brander. Here underneath this foliage green,
See, what a bunch! What grapes are to be seen!
[He seizes SIEBEL by the nose. The others do the same, one to the
other, and raise their knives.]
Mephistopheles [as before]. Error, loose from their eyes the band!
And mark you how the Devil's jesting goes.
Our enemies worship death, and death they get.
JUST SAY 'NO' TO WITCHCRAFT: More on Faust.