You don't hear much on the news about Fallujah anymore. That's because it's pretty peaceful there.
Between November 2005 and March 2006 I manned an obsveration post hilltop that was about 20 miles from Fallujah. Occasionally we would set up traffic checkpoints on the road near the OP. We tried to get a sense of how things were going for the people, how they were being treated by American soldiers and marines, and whether they had any information that could lead to the capture of insurgents who placed roadside bombs in the area, which captures would make the roads safer for Iraqi civilians and the American military alike.
The most memorable visit we had at one of these checkpoints was with a family from Fallujah. I asked them (through my interpreter, although I understand some Arabic) how the US Military had treated them there, and how things were going in their city now. I'll never forget his answer. The thing that had bothered them from time to time is the perceived arrogance of some of the younger soldiers and marines, but as a general rule that had been treated well. Then he pulled himself up to his full height as if to emphasize the importance of his next comment "In all my life, Fallujah has never been so good." He explained how the criminal element over the years had always had the upper hand in Fallujah, but now it seemed like there was beginning to be more freedom there. He thanked me for our presence in their country, "for helping us to make a better country." The heads of several of his family members nodded in agreement.
In the area of Fallujah, which includes Habbaniyah (where I was stationed for a time) and Khalidiyah, the United States military is taking a decidely less visible presence. This is because there are so many trained Iraqi soldiers who are trying to make their country a better place. They often still have trainer/supervisors from the US military, but the continue to improve their tactics and their ability to keep the peace.
Roger Mullis, a Marine currently serving in Fallujah, has this to say about a recent Fallujah City Council meeting he attended:
it’s not that they aren’t grateful to the Marines for ridding Fallujah of the insurgents, because they are, and they say so at this meeting…they know what sacrifices have been made here. But they are also very stoic. They want their independence back, without the Marines. They just seem to need some help getting back on their feet.
(7/28/2006 2:17 PM MDT) Still more to come. Stay tuned for updates on this post...