THE CLEAN STREETS OF FALLUJA |
August 15, 2007
I vividly remember hitting the streets of Iraq -- not a FOB, the streets of Ar Ramadi -- for the very first time. We dismounted to help sweep a suspected cache last October. One of the things that struck me was the smell and the horrendous amounts of garbage laying all over the place.
My inference was that due to the lack of municipal services, garbage removal had simply fallen to the point where no one could even think about taking responsibility for it. Individual citizens certainly did not feel the need to do so. Why should they? Even if they did, it seemed clear their neighbors were not going to, so they might as well not either. I can imagine it feels pretty hopeless to try and clean up where you live if you have no reason to think that it will ever change. As a leader, the most challenging aspect of this was heartening my Soldiers, who would look around and ask why they should care, if it seemed like the people of Iraq did not.
I told them I thought the people of Iraq cared; I also thought they were discouraged and scared.
Approximately ten days ago we rode through the city of Falluja and I was delighted to see clean streets. Because Team Badger working in conjunction with RCT-6 has done such a great job reducing the roadside bomb threat in the city, Al Qaeda has had to resort to the car bomb as their terror weapon of choice.
After a couple of attacks the Mayor of Falluja had an answer to that problem. Simply allow no cars or trucks into the city. People park on the outskirts of the city, and walk in through an entrance control point. There are buses to move people around internally. The City of Al Falluja proper is approximately five kilometers by five kilometers -- not an onerous walk.
What was amazing to me though was how clean the city has become. As you can see from the top picture, the street in front of the shop is quite clean.
The second picture shows Fallujan's getting out and taking care of their city. There were hundreds of young men out working on crews that were hauling garbage and refuse away. Even some of my more skeptical Soldiers had to admit that we were witnessing quite a change.
Falluja clearly has a long way to go. Even though the short lived Islamist regime only effectively governed for six months in 2004, the city has been reeling ever since. This last January though, Iraqi Security Forces assumed primary responsibility for the city's security, and they have been doing a pretty good job.
That the citizens are willing to come out and help clean their city up seems evidence of that fact. The mean streets of Falluja are transforming into the clean streets of Falluja.