August 04, 2004

Fallujah Strikes Back

Here's some good news from Fallujah of all places.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - In an extraordinary assault, gunmen in the city of Fallujah stormed a kidnappers' lair and forced the overmatched militants inside to flee, freeing four Jordanian truck drivers held captive, local officials said Wednesday.
Notice how the journalist uses the word "militants" to denote the kidnappers. This old and silly game is shown to be the farce it is in the very next paragraph.
They [the Iraqis] called the kidnappers "terrorists" and outsiders.
The word terrorist appears in quotation marks. Now, granted, the word was an actual quote. The punctuation doesn't have a sneer on its face in this particular case. Still, if Iraqi leaders in Fallujah are calling these punks a bunch of terrorists I've got to wonder who the Associated Press is worried about "offending" with this supposedly loaded and controversial noun.

Oh, and just for the record, this hostage rescue wasn't carried out by the army. The anti-terrorists in this particular battle were ordinary Iraqis - basically a posse of pissed-off locals.

Sheik Haj Ibrahim Jassam, a tribal leader, said he received word late Tuesday that the men were being held in a house on the edge of the city. Local leaders gathered together armed residents, who raided the house, freeing the hostages and chasing out the kidnappers, he said.
This is huge. Terrorists are now getting their asses kicked by the locals in the biggest hotbed of violent activity in Iraq. They are not Mao's famous fish who swim in the "sea" of the people. They are hunted by the people.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 4, 2004 10:48 PM
Comments

This is, indeed, good news.

But I'd love you to look up the word "militant" and explain to me why it is not an accurate description of these people.

I mean, sure, in some ways it would be lovely if the press decided to use terms that always reflected the characterizations that I would choose to place on events ... although others might tire of hearing George W. Bush referred to constantly as "the unelected liar-in-chief".

But, given that a press that spins my way would also tend to legitimise a press that spun the other way, I'll just settle for them reporting the facts and leaving me to make up my own mind.

Posted by: Mork at August 4, 2004 11:43 PM

>>>"I've got to wonder who the Associated Press is worried about "offending" with this supposedly loaded and controversial noun."

it would offend Michael Moore primarily, but also a myriad of other Lefties and Dems. One man's terrorist is another man's minuteman.

Posted by: David at August 5, 2004 12:07 AM

>>>"But I'd love you to look up the word "militant" and explain to me why it is not an accurate description of these people."

because "terrorist" is more accurate. Look up both definitions and see for yourself.

a 'militant' is merely a generic fighter; but a terrorist is someone that uses specific methods.

These kidnappers/head sawers are terrorists.

Posted by: David at August 5, 2004 12:13 AM

This kind of thing really impresses me. To say that it's just a posse of pissed-off ordinary locals rising up is amazing enough, but far short of really hammering home the courage involved.

I think alot of times we Americans have a hard time really wrapping our minds around something like this. This wasn't JUST a posse of pissed-off ordinary locals taking things into their own hands. This was a posse of pissed-off ordinary locals taking things into their own hands in the face of an extremely well-armed group of militia thugs. Sadr's people control and rule the area through fear and intimidation and brute force. The fact that some of these people are, in essence, committing suicide in a situation like that to fight back against organized thug-rule is truly inspirational.

"Live Free Or Die," my Iraqi friends.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 5, 2004 01:00 AM

Sadr's people control and rule the area through fear and intimidation and brute force.

Don't speak too quickly, Grant. It may yet turn out to be "Sadr's people" or something like them who have done this. Some of the fundy Shia groups are strongly opposed to foreign fighters and may well be prepared to hunt them down ... the group that did the little video a month or so back is a case in point.

You can't assume that the enemy of our enemy is someone we'd like to sit down with for a cup of tea.

Posted by: Mork at August 5, 2004 01:15 AM

Further to that, see this article:

http://www.economist.com/World/africa/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2947736

As that piece suggests, nor should we be surprised if Allawi eventually co-opts Sadr and those in his orbit into the governing structure.

So don't assume anything about the friends of our friends, either!

Posted by: Mork at August 5, 2004 01:21 AM

Dude, trust me Mork...I doubt there is anyone out there who hates the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend/he's a son of a bitch but he's our son of a bitch" school of foreign policy thought more than I.

You may be right about what you said. How would I know? It's possible. I do know, however, that Sadr himself isn't exactly that hostile to the Iranian theocracy next door, so I have to take issue with the broad claim you're making there. "Pick and choose your foreign fighters," I suppose he would say because somehow I imagine the status quo in Iran would amount to a wet dream for the guy.

Fallujah's still a fucking mess. That's all I know for sure.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 5, 2004 01:32 AM

Iran is Shia, so that's natural. Al Qaeda is generally Sunni, so that's why they have tended to team up with the ex-Ba'athists, which is a very good reason why Sadr may prefer them gone ... because they make his enemy stronger.

Posted by: Mork at August 5, 2004 01:36 AM

Cool.....I needed some good news this morning.

Thanks

Posted by: joekm at August 5, 2004 05:36 AM

Fantastic!

Its about time that the people of Iraq actually fought for their own damn country. I understand being frightened of the crazy dictator with his enforcement goons... well I sort of understand. But, to have the entire American army supporting you and NOT cleaning up your own mess, is just irresponsible.

Here's to those Iraqi's, whoever they are, true Patriots (even if maybe we don't agree with some of their views).

Posted by: Ratatosk at August 5, 2004 06:23 AM

Grant, Mork,

Not trying to be snarky but:

The al-Sadr army are Shias. They don't control Fallujah, but just parts of the Shia south, such as Najaf, Karbala, etc.
The Fallujuan posse, farther north, were almost certainly Sunnis.

But al-Sadr's goons also have much opposition from native Shias, such as a vigilante group which has knifed a number of them in the dark as well as the Shia governor of Najaf, who has called on them to leave town many times, most recently yesterday.

So your main point holds. Both the al-Sadr thugs in the south and the Baathist/Al Quaeda terrorists in the north are pissing off ordinary Iraqis a great deal, especially since Iraqis are the ones being murdered these days, not Americans.

So the fact that ordinary Sunnis are starting to rebel against their "Minutemen" is very good news.

Posted by: Matt Ward at August 5, 2004 06:44 AM

Good morning...

The political aspect that jumped out at me was that the incentive of the tribesmen who actually went out and confronted the terrorists was rooted in a sense of community beyond the tribe. Even more important is that the call to action was sold, not dictated, by the leader.

Way back when, I loved the Angry Villager Rule in Dungeons and Dragons.

This is good news.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 5, 2004 07:14 AM

Unless, of course, this is a sheik in the kidnapping business who decided he could pull in more on political points by "rescuing" his own stock-in-trade than by trying to press for the nominal goal of the ongoing negotiations.

The fact that there were no fatalities, and no mentioned casualties, makes me somewhat suspicious of the whole situation.

Posted by: Mitch H. at August 5, 2004 07:32 AM

Damn Mitch, you're as paranoid as I am ;-)

and I'm an insane squirrel...

Posted by: Ratatosk at August 5, 2004 08:25 AM

"This is huge."

Only if you're starved for good news and need to extrapolate this incident into a mass-movement.

It's nice to hear stuff like this, as I'm sure most Iraqis are getting sick to death of kidnappings (from a recent post by Riverbend: "...kidnappings have multiplied. It’s an epidemic now. Everyone seems to know someone who was abducted. Some are abducted for ransom while others are abducted for religious or political reasons. The abduction of foreigners is on the increase.")

So the good news is that a traditional local authority rescued kidnap victims and drove off thier kidnappers (I wouldn't call them "militants" or "terrorists" ... how about "criminals looking to make a buck"). The bad news is that kidnappings are such a problem that militias have to deal with them instead of police or troops. That's what's huge.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 5, 2004 08:39 AM

It's not Mao but it's a good quote nonetheless. Perhaps they're the sharks who swim in the sea of the people.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at August 5, 2004 08:43 AM

These were Jordanian truckdrivers kidnapped to get their trucking company to stop working to bring in supplies to rebuild/replenish Iraq. They were not kidnapped "to make a buck."

I'll take any positive news I can get from Falluja and will be a little more positive about the prospect of Iraqi democracy.

Remember, it's been only 100 years since we had fighting within our borders, and 140 since we had a major civil war. No one said it was going to cheap or easy for Democracy to take root in Iraq, but this is a good sign.

Posted by: Todd at August 5, 2004 09:12 AM

Todd: These were Jordanian truckdrivers kidnapped to get their trucking company to stop working to bring in supplies to rebuild/replenish Iraq. They were not kidnapped "to make a buck."

Really? From the article:
The Jordanians insisted their captors were not those who had battled the Marines.
"The kidnappers have nothing to do with the resistance," Abu-Jaafar told The Associated Press by telephone.
[...]
The hostages heard that a man from the United Arab Emirates had been willing to pay the kidnappers $500,000 ransom, but the raid put an end to that, Khleifat said.
Kidnappings are an epidemic right now, and most are for money. If a few teenage thugs want to garb themselves in the mantle of the resistance to make themselves heros in their own eyes, that still makes them criminals out for a fast buck in my books. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 5, 2004 09:26 AM

DPU,

The kidnappers call themselves "the Mujahedeen of Iraq, the Group of Death."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 5, 2004 10:47 AM

The kidnappers call themselves "the Mujahedeen of Iraq, the Group of Death."

So?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 5, 2004 11:36 AM

Funny how Fallujah "insurgents" "militants" "terrorists" or whatever suddenly become ordinary "gunmen" because they busted up a kidnapping. This could be just little more than a turf war between competing groups of thugs.

Posted by: ken at August 5, 2004 11:54 AM

I'm glad to see that Mork, DPU, et al. are up to putting a negative spin on this unmistakably good news. I wouldn't want them to get tired or anything. . . .

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 11:59 AM

BTW, given time, I'm sure they can work "Bush lied!" into this, too.

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 12:00 PM

'm glad to see that Mork, DPU, et al. are up to putting a negative spin on this unmistakably good news. I wouldn't want them to get tired or anything. . . .

Oh good, a personal remark instead of discussing the issue.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 5, 2004 12:06 PM

OK, DPU, how's this: Why not accept at face value reports that citizens turned on the "insurgents" until there are facts that suggest otherwise?

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 02:55 PM

Why not accept at face value reports that citizens turned on the "insurgents" until there are facts that suggest otherwise?

Because that's not what the facts suggested, as indicated in the linked article. And I did say that it's good to hear news like this, but that to interpret it as citizens turning on insurgents is premature, unless you have information to the contrary that I haven't heard yet.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 5, 2004 03:29 PM

The plan is to turn over the security and eventually the country to the Iraqis. Looks like it’s working to me. To have what we are doing in Iraq work seems to be something that not everyone is happy to acknowledge.

Posted by: thedragonflies at August 5, 2004 03:55 PM

DPU -

You illustrate my point about your own preconceptions admirably. "For every silver lining, there is a cloud."

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 04:51 PM
They [the Iraqis] called the kidnappers "terrorists" and outsiders. The word terrorist appears in quotation marks. Now, granted, the word was an actual quote. The punctuation doesn't have a sneer on its face in this particular case.

Much as I might like to think the AP is coming to its senses in this orthographic matter, I must point out that if these weren't sneer quotes, the article probably would have quoted the word "outsiders" as well. Me, I think the AP just has a global search-and-replace program that replaces terrorists with "terrorists" throughout.

Posted by: jaed at August 5, 2004 09:47 PM

From the article, it's not clear if the militants/terrorists were 'insurgents' or common criminals. Some people said they were, some said they weren't. However, most common criminal/kidnappers target Iraqis, not foreigners.

It's not clear what was going on exactly, but for whatever reason, a group of people got together and did the right thing - in contrast to Government leaders like the Philippines' Gloria Arroyo, who consistently does the wrong thing.

That's one reason why democracy works - people are usually a lot smarter than governments.   

Posted by: mary at August 6, 2004 05:19 AM

So, is there any reason to think that the guys who kicked out the kidnappers weren't the same ones who've been fighting the Marines?

And they found "outsiders" in their city?

I don't see that this is particularly good news, though it's good for the kidnap victims. And it's good for Fallujah if the kidnappers leave, though not good for wherever they settle down next.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 6, 2004 08:24 AM

Unfortunately for all of you here who saw this is unquestionable good news, the tribal chieftain who led what's described as a raid is more likely than not a Saddam loyalist, has described his posse as being aligned with the resistance in Fallujah, and he probably didn't go to the government because his main beef with the kidnappers is that they are horning in on a lucrative business that should be left to the locals.

Doesn't anybody check sources and facts anymore?

Oh, sorry, I forgot: that requires actual work and actual thought, like real journalists are known to bother with, from time to time. NOW I remember why I stopped commenting here.

But hey, if you're interested in sniffing along the trail for something like the real story, I've documented what I have so far right here:

http://transcendentalbloviation.blogspot.com/2004/08/saddamist-vigilantes-bask-in-us.html

Posted by: Michael Turner at August 7, 2004 03:02 AM
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