I have to admit, I’m still confused about the criticism I received during the Fallujah invasion for showcasing American troops storming into houses and messing up the furniture (See “Your House is My House” and “Fort Knocks“). I really do think I appreciate that couches and coffee tables don’t mean much in wartime. However, the fact we wreaked so much havoc (pretty much demolishing the city, as it turned out) not only didn’t do much for winning hearts and minds, it directly contradicted the military’s expressed goal of keeping the living situation mostly intact.
We Americans might have trouble relating to the people and culture(s) in Iraq, but it seems we are more than capable of relating to violations most dear to your average Nielsen family. But that doesn’t explain why my conservative friends reacted so negatively to images of domestic disturbance. Perhaps it moved that silly “fight ’em there, so we don’t have to fight ’em here” justification out of the abstract. In contrast to the standard images of coffins and orphan refugees, perhaps the idea of riffling through toy chests and pulling apart hair dyers might have brought the whole campaign just a little too close to home.
In contrast to the Fallujah campaign, I really don’t have a sense about the logic, efficacy or morality of the latest “home inspection” campaign. What I do know, however (from following the wire photos pretty closely), is that the past week has brought a spike in photos documenting troops making house calls.
Is this preventative action in anticipation of the Iraqi elections? Has an improvement in intelligence given us new and specific evidence about which houses have RDX taped to the underside of the ironing board? Or, are the pictures a more random event, perhaps just the latest assignment captured by the latest batch of embeds? (As far as I can tell, the bulk of these pictures were shot by only two photographers.)
I’d like to return to Fallujah for a second, though. There was a detail at the tail end of the last NYTimes update on that city that caught my eye. (“Residents Trickle Back, but Falluja Still Seems Dead.” January 6th, 2005. Sorry — link no longer active.)
After producing proof of residence and submitting to an “exhaustive” search at a U.S. checkpoint (which the Lt. Colonel in charge cheerily referred to as Disneyland), the Times asked one Fallujah resident, Sayeed Jumaily, 36, about his situation in the aftermath of the assault. Quoting the article:
Mr. Jumaily has been staying with relatives in Baghdad but this week found that his house was largely intact, though the furniture was destroyed and to his deep shame, he said in an embarrassed whisper, rummaging troops had scattered his wife’s underwear in the open.
Apparently, the article made no mention of the ironing board.
(image 1, 3 & 4: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra in Yahoo News; Image 2: AFP/Mauricio Lima in Yahoo News)