We Lost Fallujah – Twice. What Does It Mean?

From Holden:

US Soldiers re-enact Ben Hur prior to Fallujah assault.

In a stunning (and lengthy) article published in Outlook India Abhay Mehta explains that the U.S. military has now lost two battles in Fallujah, and how our defeat in Iraq signifies the end of warfare as practiced by America.

In the first siege of Fallujah in April 2004, the Iraqi Resistance inflicted a severe defeat on the Americans. In April 2004, while over 1,200 Iraqis were killed, blown up, burnt or shot alive by the Americans — two thirds of them civilians, mostly women and children — while 2,000-pound bombs were falling on the the city, AC-130 Spectre gunships were demolishing entire city blocks in less than a minute and of course silence of the plop as Iraqis targeted by marine snipers hit the ground, nonetheless the operative portion remains: the Marines were beaten back in no uncertain terms. This was followed by a “truce”.


The second formal large scale assault on Fallujah (Nov./Dec 2004) pitted images of the world’s most powerful military force against fighters in tennis shoes, wielding homemade rocket launchers. There were three declared tactical objectives. The first was to either kill or capture the Jordanian born “terrorist” “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” (if indeed he exists) and to “battle and destroy some 4000 to 5000 suspected fighters”. The Americans also vowed to “liberate” the residents of Fallujah from “criminal elements” and to “secure Fallujah” for the January elections. Lastly, it appears an additional declared tactical/political objective of the American Military’s task was to engage in a “fight of good versus evil”. Additionally it appears (presumably per their intelligence reports) that the mission also was to “destroy” “Satan” since it appears that “he lives in Fallujah”

On the face of it, it appears as if none of these tactical/military objectives have been met, including, it appears, the desire to presumably meet Mr Satan, resident of Fallujah.


The assault has left as many as 10,000 civilian dead–perhaps much much more . The Red Cross/Red Crescent estimate was upwards of 6000 as of November 25th. Till date no formal Red Cross/Red Crescent operation has been allowed in the city.

What the images of Phantom Fury did not convey is that this assault is the largest concentration of heavy armor in one place, since the fall of Berlin. This was the first time since World War II that “an American armored task force” has been turned “loose in a city with no restrictions”.

More to the point, the force of as much as 20,000 soldiers (12,000 to 17,000 American/coalition soldiers, about 2000 odd Iraqi “National guards” and perhaps 1000 odd peshmergas) were supported by an estimated 1100 to as much as 2000 armored vehicles and tanks. Air support was largely carrier based out of the gulf and B-52’s from bases outside of Iraq.

The armor alone represents the heaviest ever concentration of armor since the fall of Berlin (1945) in one place against a single military objective.

Phantom Fury was officially underway on the 8th of November and declared to be a sweeping victory on or about the 15th of November.


Now for a moment, consider the substantive anomalies in the official discourse. Consider one such example- Satellite Imagery of Fallujah (block by block including “after action”) available to the media till the 15th of November and carried in graphic detail day by day from the 8th of Nov. through the 15th stopped abruptly. There are no explanations.

There are no satellite pictures of Fallujah available in the public domain after November 15th.

Or consider that the Red Cross/Red crescent has not been allowed to enter the city in any substantive manner. Today is the 20th of Dec and it has still not been allowed.

Or consider another break in the regular stream of consciousness. No reporter has set foot in the city or after the 22nd of November.

A “Great Victory” like this and no footage?


Fallujah has not been taken. Not only has Fallujah not been taken, but the coalition forces have staged several retreats and are now confined largely to the outside of the city.

The Iraqi resistance is currently in control of most of the city and have forced back at least three of the largest armored assaults in recent history.


At the peak of the assault, the Americans held no more than 35-40% of Fallujah (largely the north on or around the 18th of November) Thereafter, they appear to have been steadily repulsed and in fact the coalition forces currently have been repulsed to where they were on November 13th or thereabouts and to the outskirts of Fallujah.


Against the most heavily armed opponent in the history of War, Fallujah has still not let itself be “taken” to date (As of 20th Dec, 2004). Falluah and indeed the rest of Iraq post April 2003, heralds “supersymmetrical” warfare and the end of conventional warfare. This represents a turning point in military affairs – the end of warfare–as practiced by the Americans i.e the application of overwhelming force to obtain a victory.


Over the last 30 years since Vietnam, the normative amount of explosive power and force multipliers available to the Americans and their opponents (compared to say the North Koreans in the 50’s, the NVA in the 60s) has normalised and in fact are comparable if one were to factor in the context in which the firepower is used and deployed.

The ‘normalisation” of firepower on a level playing field- In this case, Fallujah, or for that matter the rest of Iraq, is noteworthy.

Consider one such example. A RPG 7 can travel up to 300/700/950 meters. At 300 meters, even a basic warhead can penetrate 330 mm of steel armor. Yes, 33 cms, 13 inches–that is a lot of steel. The projectile would cost perhaps $30-40. Conservatively, a squad of 3 armed with RPG-7s have more than a fighting chance against a M1 Abrams. In close urban quarters, the advantage that the tank had (in say open ground in a conventional war) is completely lost.

The cost/personnel advantage is noteworthy. With minimal or no training, just about any one can operate a RPG. A squad of say 3 would cost perhaps no more than $5000 to equip. Against this, the M1 Abrams (“the mightiest tank”, 70 odd tonnes of steel, a few million a pop).

Now consider the mightiest Gun in the West against the rookie squad of three. Throw in a street. Add cover (even rubble will do, in fact quite nicely, thank you)

Even odds?

Now consider for a moment. Consider a force of say a few thousand men — the best in the business and certainly the bravest men on the face of this planet–say no more than 3000, anything more and it would be one sided. 3000 against 12,000 to 20,000 sounds about right.

Now add ingenuity, intelligence and passion and a good reason to be very very angry. Throw in a just cause. In fact, the “most just cause of all”.

There’s a lot more, you should really read the entire article.

Here’s one more tid-bit, a message from the insurgency to one George W. Bush that was broadcast on December 10, 2004:

“You have asked us to ‘Bring it on’, and so have we. Like never expected. Have you another challenge?”