I have been reading the U.S. news media accounts of the battle in Falluja with a fair amount of interest but nearly all acounts were the same. But thanks to Kim du Toit I got a pointer to a British account of the battle. The difference is amazing.
On one extreme there is MSNBC:
As battles go, Fallujah has been a big disappointment to the U.S. military, which had wanted to draw the Iraqi insurgents into a cataclysmic mistake: a “fair” fight. Not that any officer relished the prospect of a Stalingrad- or Hue-like street-to-street, house-to-house blood-letting. But the alternative has even less to recommend it: a continuing series of roadside bombings and mortar and grenade ambushes that bleed American forces and frustrate efforts to secure Iraq ahead of January’s elections.
Unfortunately, from a military standpoint, the latter, less attractive option is the reality, and the choice was never the U.S. military’s to make. Iraq’s insurgents, with weeks to react as U.S. forces gathered and postured about what was about to happen in Fallujah, decided against turning it into al-Alamo. They saw the folly of taking on the Americans on their own terms, and they did what intelligent, determined guerrilla movements have always done in the face of overwhelming force: They faded away and lived to fight and kill and maim another day
On the other extreme is the Daily Telegraph:
American troops scored one of their biggest successes in the battle for Fallujah when an estimated 70 foreign fighters were killed in a massive precision artillery strike on a building in a mosque complex.
Military intelligence officers were last night trying to confirm that a “high-value target” or HVT died in the attack. The man is suspected of being a key lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq, and responsible for marshalling hard-line insurgence from other Arab countries.
A Humvee from Phantom troop fitted with a Long Range Acquisition System (LRAS) was moved to within two kilometres of the mosque, well inside its maximum range of 15km, to get a second opinion on what was happening. “The strike was so sensitive that it took more than an hour to approve it,” said Maj John Reynolds, operations officer for 2-2. “Normally it happens in minutes.”
American tanks engage insurgents on the streets of Fallujah
Lt Prakash was asked to provide a grid co-ordinate, accurate to within a metre, to minimise the chance of hitting the mosque, about 50 metres from the building.
At about 3pm, the higher authorisation came through and Lt Col Pete Newell, commanding 2-2 and with the call-sign Ramrod 6, gave the order to fire a barrage of 20 155mm high-explosive shells from howitzers about three miles away from the mosque.
Specialist James Taylor, manning the LRAS, watched the burst of shells hit.
“They landed on the left side of the building and I saw three bodies fly into the air,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Lt Prakash radioed that the rounds were right on target and requested 10 more to ensure maximum killing effect.
“One of the men was in a sniper position on the building,” said Lt Prakash. “I saw him fall off, hit the ground and bounce up. There were about five bodies that went three, four, five storeys up in the air. I’d already counted between 40 and 50 men going into that building. There were men running out, coughing and doubling over. The second lot of rounds took them out and all those who had been crossing the road.
Yes, I know completely different focus. One is talking about the big picture and one is talking about the mechanics of one skirmish. But my point is that MSNBC is entirely negative and that there are some very positive results available to report if they wanted to report them. I mean 70 enemy, including a HVT, were precisely killed from afar without them even knowing they were in danger is as Specialist Jame Taylor says, “Awesome”.