Summary: We occupy Marjah amidst promises to rebuild and bring good government. Just as we did in Fallujah — which was in fact a simple punitive strike. Typical counter-insurgency tactics, as practiced for millenia. We’ll see if Marjah is different. It’s a test-case. Is COIN real, or just a cover for variations on the trinity of US counter-insurgency methods since WWII:
- Popular front militia (now called “tribes”)
- Massive firepower on civilians and their property
- Sweep and destroy missions
Whatever our invasion does to Marjah, good government will result. That’s the committment the American government has made. Just as we did in the November 2004 invasion and occupation of Fallujah: Operation Phantom Fury. From “In Falluja’s Ruins, Big Plans and a Risk of Chaos“, New York Times, 1 December 2004.
Within 2 or 3 months, Marine officials say, bigger projects will be set in motion: a new $35 million wastewater treatment plant, four new school buildings, several new health clinics. Badly damaged homes will be bulldozed and rebuilt, or owners will be compensated. To help revive the city’s economy, the Marines will ask all returning residents with relevant skills to take a job in the reconstruction projects.
In short, the Marines envision a huge effort of social and physical engineering, all intended to transform a bastion of militant anti-Americanism into a benevolent and functional metropolis. There are even plans to build new housing projects on the city’s outskirts while the central areas are being rebuilt. “The best place to bring a model town into place is Fallujah,” Colonel Ballard said.
In fact Phantom Fury was an old fashioned punitive strike, designed to break the will of the Sunni Arab insurgents. We wrecked Fallujah and dispersed most of its inhabitants as refugees — but the insurgency continued for another 3 years. “More than half of Fallujah’s 39,000 homes were damaged, and about 10,000 of those were destroyed or left structurally unsound to live in” (Washington Post).
The committment to rebuild was moonshine, with articles during the next 5 years about the fits and starts of rebuilding.
- “Desolate Falluja“, Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch, 14 January 2005
- “Long-Awaited Fallujah Rebuilding Shows Promise“, NPR, 23 January 2008 — “The United States had promised that reconstruction would begin immediately. It didn’t. But it is happening now.”
- “Report Finds Iraq Water Treatment Project to Be Late, Faulty and Over Budget“, New York Times, 28 October 2008 — Originally scheduled for completion in January 2006, now expected in April 2009.
- “Spate of Attacks Tests Iraqi City and U.S. Pullout“, New York Times, 23 June 2009 — Still some trouble in Fallujah.
- “U.S. Army Engineers Bring Sewage System to Fallujah“, State Department, 13 August 2009 — The wastewater plant is now scheduled for completion before the end of 2009.
- “Iraq project not worth the millions spent“, CNN, 30 October 2011 — Completed in May 2011 at a cost of $100 million; only 6,000 home connected. Here’s the full SIGIR report.
- See the links at Wikipedia to research and articles about possible effects of white phosporus use in Fallujah
Is this the future of Marjah?
Other valuable articles about the Marjah operation
- “The Men Who Would Govern Marjah“, William S. McCallister (Major, US Army, retired), Small Wars Journal, 20 February 2010
- “Fixing What’s Wrong in Washington… in Afghanistan“, Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, 21 February 2010
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