FALLUJAH, Iraq --
Just mentioning of the city of Fallujah conjures up images of a devastated city ripped apart by the horrors of war. It was November 2004, there were an estimated 2,000 insurgents infesting the city prepared to fight to the death and it was the Marine Corps’ job to facilitate this. After bitter house-to-house fighting the Marines took the city. In the battle’s wake, laid a city in ruin. Numerous buildings turned to rubble, the streets littered with debris, any form or city infrastructure such as water and power eliminated. It was total devastation.
The Fallujah of today still holds the scars of war. Bullet holes pockmark numerous buildings throughout the city. Yet, out of the ashes of fiery combat a city of hope has begun to arise.
Fallujah is far from perfect if you look at it in terms of American standards, but considering where it was a few years ago, the city is thriving. “The city has heart and soul; it’s headed in the right direction.” Said Lt. Col. Christopher Dowling, battalion commander, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.
One of the largest contributors to the turn around is the will of the people. According to Dowling, the people of Fallujah are key in setting the conditions for change. “They need to be willing participants, and the people of Fallujah are willing participants.”
Another indicator to the success of a city is its economic development. Now years later on the same streets that saw the most violent combat, vendors sell their goods. Fishmongers haggle over the price of the day’s catch, a child sells ice-cream, old men sit around and drink tea, and trucks loaded with produce pass under the same bridge where the mutilated bodies of American contractors once hanged. In the very streets that Marines and insurgents once clashed, caravans of cars, trucks, and even horse and tractor drawn wagons move the residents of the city about their daily business.
According to Dowling it has been a slow and methodical process and the success in the city today is due not only to the current Marines and Iraqi security forces who protect the city but also the numerous soldiers, sailors, Marines and Iraqi forces that have come before paving the way for the cities revival.
The fight for the city and the events leading up to today have been costly, expressed Dowling. “The streets of Fallujah are filled with the blood of sailors, solders, and Marines.” And according to Dowling the success of the city today is a “tribute to those young men.”
Fallujah is a city at the brink, the potential for it to erupt into chaos is still present. Yet thanks to the valiant efforts of the soldiers, sailors, Marines and Iraqi forces who have served here with distinction that potential becomes less and less every day. Moreover, the willingness of the people of this once war-torn city to rise up from the fiery ashes of combat and make this city work shows that this city’s future remains bright.