As if to highlight the ongoing violence, the rumbling of heavy explosions could be heard as a backdrop as the prime minister went on to state: “We want to secure the country so elections can be done in a peaceful way, and the Iraqi people can participate in the elections freely, without the intimidation by terrorists and by forces that are trying to wreck the political process…” Allawi must know that he is putting a brave face to a situation that is quickly spinning out of control. All across Iraq, insurgent forces have the initiative. Just before the emergency was declared, guerillas staged dozens of attacks throughout the Sunni Triangle and beyond. In the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, three police stations were raided and 22 officers were killed, many of them lined up and executed by firing squads. In the two days of attacks, over the weekend, more than 60 people have been killed and about 75 wounded.

If martial law is indeed the plan, it would seem to be up to the U.S. occupation troops to do the cracking down during the 60 days of emergency rule. This could lead to more checkpoint shootouts and more doors kicked in as U.S. troops again go about the mostly ineffective tactic of rounding up the usual suspects. Meanwhile, feuding Iraqis finger the folks whom they want arrested.

Fallujah

The occupation forces are convinced that the elimination of the insurgent stronghold in the city of Fallujah is the central theme in fighting the rebellion. The military believes that killing or capturing the 3,000 or so fighters in the now-besieged city will break the back of the resistance. Just hours after the declaration of martial law upon the populace, the prime minister gave the green light for the Americans to begin the assault on the city.

U.S. Marines and soldiers with tanks and other armored units from the First Infantry Division and the First Cavalry Division had sealed off the city in the weeks preceding the attack. They launched the main attack at sundown on Monday. Between 10,000 and 15,000 U.S. troops, supplemented by Iraqi infantry troops, are involved in the hostilities. In the words of the Pentagon, this is to give the assault an “Iraqi face.” But unfortunately, many of these soldiers have refused to participate and have deserted. An embedded reporter with National Public Radio has written that one Iraqi battalion shrank from more than 500 men to just 170 during the past two weeks, and another 225 de-enlisting over the weekend. This scenario is typical of U.S. involvement just about anywhere. During the Vietnam War era, this was normal procedure. While thousands of U.S. troops were dying in southeast Asia, a token amount of allied troops who should have been leading the charge were on the scene. At the same time, the hapless U.S. taxpayer was footing the bill.

Prior to the ground assault, U.S. fighter jets dropped 500-pound bombs and artillery units shelled the city with high explosives in an effort to soften up rebel targets. Civilians still holding out in the city are estimated between 30 and 50,000, down from the normal population of 300,000.

Army General George Casey predicts that the guerillas “will probably fall back toward the center of the city, where there will probably be a major confrontation.” This could be a serious engagement for U.S. forces as they try to fight their way from house to house, block by block. Snipers, PRGs, and interlocking machine gun fire could prove disastrous. The only option left to the U.S. command might be pounding suspected targets with massive firepower to minimize U.S. casualties. Insurgents will know the terrain and they will know which local civilians will be amenable to helping them. The insurgents will easily blend in with what’s still alive of the population.

Waiting inside the city could very well be the hard core of several hundred fighters, loyal to or even led by the notorious and elusive Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Their weapons of choice will be suicide bombers, booby- trapped car bombs, and even reports of entire building rigged to explode. The enemy units inside the city have had months to prepare and nothing to inhibit their movements.

As we go to press, other cites are feeling the sting of increased insurgent escalation. U.S. casualties are on the rise, and will increase.

A military action that begins to break the back of the insurgency could well be the straw that breaks the back of the occupation. By Grady Hawkins

Iraqi strongman and Prime-Minister-for-the-Moment Ayad Allawi on Sunday declared a state of emergency all across his war-torn country. Why he has waited this long is a mystery to us here at Alt. Iraq has been a disaster for months. Worried that upcoming elections could be in jeopardy, the interim prime minister declared that declaration of a state of emergency is a “very powerful message that we are serious…” Insurgents from Basra to Baghdad must be laughing at the notion of an Iraqi government crackdown. Ruling mostly from the not-too-safe Green Zone, the interim government has no army or national guard troops trained or trusted or deployed, and its police force is noted mostly for corruption or collaborating with the enemy or both. Most Iraqis, however, are acutely aware that anyone suspected of collaborating with infidels is courting a soon-to-be-scheduled appointment for his own beheading.