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Showdown - Part 2

There was a thread on Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping that discussed a picture of Marines outside of Fallujah, maneuvering under fire. They appeared to be bunching up. From the looks of the picture, I thought it was difficult to tell - and we can't really see what factors were shaping the battle (METT-T and OCCOCA for you junkies). Anyway, I believed that they were living up to their well-deserved reputation and have had this fixation to see for myself how the Marines were doing in Fallujah.

I've been channel flipping every night to catch some of what's happening there. One night, I saw a Marine platoon withdraw from positions under fire (CLARIFICATION: They were ordered to leave certain areas as part of the truce/ceasefire and were being fired upon their departure). They performed the most perfect, beautifully executed bounding overwatch that I have ever seen. That film should be shown at the academies. Tonight, on Fox, I saw Marines setting up positions, taking fire, getting ready for the cease fire to end.

Of course, the Marines are the only ones ceasing anything right now. But not for long.

Fallujah Truce Shaken; Hostage Killed
By JASON KEYSER and LOURDES NAVARRO, Associated Press Writers

...Brahimi also criticized the U.S. military operation in Fallujah.

"Collective punishment is certainly unacceptable and the siege of the city is absolutely unacceptable," he said.

In Fallujah, Marines and insurgents were fortifying their positions in preparation for more fighting.

In abandoned homes a few blocks into the city, Marines punched bricks out of walls to make holes through which to fire, and knocked down walls between rooftop terraces to allow movement from house to house without descending to the street. They spread shards of glass across doorsteps to hear the boot of an approaching insurgent.

Insurgents were also organizing. Gunmen were believed to be digging tunnels under the houses they hold to allow them to move without being targeted by Marine snipers, Marines said.

A 4-day-old truce was crumbling amid nightly battles in which gunmen in larger groups have been attacking U.S. troops with increasing sophistication. Wednesday night the fighting began again, with AC-130 gunships over the city battering targets below.

The top Marine commander in the Fallujah area suggested time for negotiations was running out before U.S. forces call off their halt in offensive operations.

"I don't forecast that this stalemate will go on for long," said Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division. "It's hard to have a cease-fire when they maneuver against us, they fire at us."

Tuesday night, insurgents launched near simultaneous attacks on several positions of a company of Marines controlling a few blocks in the city's northeast. In one attack, the gunmen sent up flares to light up the American position, then unleashed heavy, continuous gunfire, Marines said.

In a five-hour battle the same night, one of two armored vehicles sent to resupply a front-line Marine position got lost during an ambush and ended up nearly half a mile inside the southern part of city.

The vehicle, with 20 Marines inside, came under an even larger ambush. At least 100 gunmen opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades, hitting it at least 10 times, knocking out its communications and its engine and paralyzing it.

"They've been preparing for this the whole time. ... We definitely stumbled into the wasp nest," said Captain Jason Smith, who was at the position meant to be resupplied.

The Marines in the armored vehicle fled into a nearby building, where they waited to be rescued. They threw back grenades that insurgents tossed over the wall and listened to gunmen whisper outside.

A rescue force, backed by four tanks, wandered the streets in search of the beleaguered vehicle, finding it by following black smoke. "We were firing in a 360-degree radius," said Lt. Joshua Glover, part of the team that reached the vehicle. While F-15 warplanes strafed the area for cover, the stricken armored vehicle was hooked to a tank and dragged away.

Showdown - Part 1 is here.