Less than a week after the 2004 presidential election, the U.S. military launched its largest operation since the war in Iraq began, an all-out assault aimed at ridding Fallujah of insurgent forces. Two years later, McClatchy Newspapers reports that Fallujah is once again a "violent place" where "residents and police alike complain bitterly that ... security is eroding in what had been touted as an American success story."
In the kind of retrospective the White House would have preferred to see after Tuesday rather than before, McClatchy reporters Jay Price and Mohammed al Dulaimy say that insurgents have "filtered back" into Fallujah despite the checkpoints and other controls that were supposed to have kept them out. Violent attacks in the city have doubled since last winter. Insurgents have killed two city council members and nearly three dozen police officers. Police patrols have all but stopped in the city, the reporters say, because "officers fear to walk the streets."
Fallujah resident Majeed al-Rawi tells the reporters that gunmen hid a bomb in front of his house a few days ago. His only option: Abandon his home. "If I report it to the Americans, I will be killed by the men who put it there, and if I don't, my family will be killed either by the explosion or the Americans," al-Rawi says. "This is not a way to live; this is a way to hate life."
The man says George W. Bush didn't give Iraqis democracy. "He gave us more new ways to be killed."
Tens -- maybe hundreds -- of thousands of Iraqis have died in the war. In Baghdad today, the U.S. military announced the deaths of five more American soldiers. Two were killed when their helicopter crashed near Tikrit. Three others died in fighting in the Anbar province. At least 2,836 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq now -- more than 2,700 since Bush declared the end of major combat operations in May 2003, and more than 1,700 since Americans last had what he called an "accountability moment" on the war in November 2004.
Asked last week whether U.S. troops will remain in Iraq through the end of his second term, the president of the United States said: "It's hard for me to tell."