Fallujah gains mythic air



The U.S. Marine siege of Fallujah, designed to isolate and pursue a handful of extremists in a restive town, has produced a powerful backlash in the capital. Urged on by leaflets, sermons and freshly sprayed graffiti calling for jihad, young men are leaving Baghdad to join a fight that residents say has less to do with battlefield success than with a cause infused with righteousness and sacrifice.

"The fighting now is different than a year ago. Before, the Iraqis fought for nothing. Now, fighters from all over Iraq are going to sacrifice themselves," said a Fallujah native who gave his name as Abu Idris and claimed to be in contact with guerrillas who slip in and out of the besieged city three and four times daily.

He spoke in a mosque parking lot emptied moments earlier of more than a ton of donated foodstuffs destined for Fallujah -- heavy bags of rice, tea and flour loaded into long, yellow semitrailers by a cluster of men who, their work done, joined a spirited discussion about the need to take the fight to the enemy. They included a dentist, a prayer leader, a law student, a lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi police and a man who until 10 days earlier had traveled with U.S. troops as a member of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps...

The lopsided battle 35 miles to the west -- where 2,500 Marines have been deployed -- has had a profound impact here, redefining for many in Baghdad the nature of the campaign against U.S. troops...

Intense, sympathetic and often startlingly graphic coverage on Arab channels has deepened a vein of nationalism, stirred in part by still unconfirmed reports of high civilian casualties. Over the weekend, in the living room of a decidedly secular family, a woman wept over the images on a screen she finally leaned forward and kissed. ..

 


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