retina scans & DNA tests for returning fallujans
Returning Fallujans will face clampdown
By Anne Barnard, Globe Staff �|� December 5, 2004
FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The US military is drawing up plans
to keep insurgents from regaining control of this
battle-scarred city, but returning residents may find
that the measures make Fallujah look more like a
police state than the democracy they have been
Under the plans, troops would funnel Fallujans to
so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts
of the city to compile a database of their identities
through DNA testing and retina scans. Residents would
receive badges displaying their home addresses that
they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them
into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of
suicide bombers, would be banned.
Marine commanders working in unheated, war-damaged
downtown buildings are hammering out the details of
their paradoxical task: Bring back the 300,000
time for January elections without letting in
insurgents, even though many Fallujans were among the
fighters who ruled the city until the US assault drove
them out in November, and many others cooperated with
fighters out of conviction or fear.
One idea that has stirred debate among Marine officers
would require all men to work, for pay, in
military-style battalions. Depending on their skills,
they would be assigned jobs in construction,
waterworks, or rubble-clearing platoons.
"You have to say, 'Here are the rules,' and you are
firm and fair. That radiates stability," said
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer
for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine
regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during
the US assault and expects to be based downtown for
Bellon asserted that previous attempts to win trust
from Iraqis suspicious of US intentions had
telegraphed weakness by asking, " 'What are your
needs? What are your emotional needs?' All this Oprah
[stuff]," he said. "They want to figure out who the
dominant tribe is and say, 'I'm with you.' We need to
be the benevolent, dominant tribe.
"They're never going to like us," he added, echoing
other Marine commanders who cautioned against raising
hopes that Fallujans would warmly welcome troops when
they return to ruined houses and rubble-strewn
streets. The goal, Bellon said, is "mutual respect."
Most Fallujans have not heard about the US plans. But
for some people in a city that has long opposed the
occupation, any presence of the Americans, and the
restrictions they bring, feels threatening.
"When the insurgents were here, we felt safe," said
Ammar Ahmed, 19, a biology student at Anbar
University. "At least I could move freely in the city;
now I cannot."
US commanders and Iraqi leaders have declared their
intention to make Fallujah a "model city," where they
can maintain the security that has eluded them
elsewhere. They also want to avoid a repeat -- on a
smaller scale -- of what happened after the invasion
of Iraq, when a quick US victory gave way to a
disorganized reconstruction program thwarted by
insurgent violence and intimidation.�
To accomplish those goals, they think they will have
to use coercive measures allowed under martial law
imposed last month by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
"It's the Iraqi interim government that's coming up
with all these ideas," Major General Richard Natonski,
who commanded the Fallujah assault and oversees its
reconstruction, said of the plans for identity badges
and work brigades.
But US officers in Fallujah say that the Iraqi
government's involvement has been less than hoped for,
and that determining how to bring the city safely back
to life falls largely on their shoulders.
"I think our expectations have been too high for a
nascent government to be perfectly organized" and
ready for such a complex task, Colonel Mike Shupp, the
regimental commander, said at his headquarters in
While one senior Marine said he fantasized last month
that Allawi would ride a bulldozer into Fallujah, the
prime minister has come no closer than the US military
base outside the city.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry has not delivered the
1,200 police officers it had promised, although the
Defense Ministry has provided troops on schedule, US
officials said. Iraqi ministry officials have visited
the city, but delegations have often failed to show
up. US officials say that is partly out of fear of
ongoing fighting that sends tank and machine-gun fire
echoing through the streets.
Meanwhile, the large-scale return of residents to a
city where only Humvees and dogs travel freely will
make military operations as well as reconstruction a
lot harder. The military must start letting people in,
one neighborhood at a time, within weeks if Fallujans
are to register for national elections before the end
of January. The government insists the elections will
proceed as scheduled despite widespread violence.
The Marines say several hundred civilians are hunkered
down in houses or at a few mosques being used as
humanitarian centers. In the western half of the city,
civilians have not been allowed to move about
unescorted. In the eastern half, controlled by another
regiment, they were allowed out a few hours a day
until men waving a white flag shot and killed two
"The clock is ticking. Civilians are coming soon,"
Lieutenant Colonel Leonard DiFrancisci told his men
one recent evening as they warmed themselves by a
kerosene heater in the ramshackle building they
commandeered as a headquarters. "It's going to get a
lot more difficult. We've had a little honeymoon
A tall order If DiFrancisci's experience dealing with
a small delegation of Iraqi aid workers is any
indication, sorting out civilians from insurgents in
large numbers will be overwhelming.
One afternoon last week, DiFrancisci, a reservist from
Melbourne, Fla., and a mechanical engineer, was
ordered to escort workers from the Iraqi Red Crescent
Society out of the city on their way back to Baghdad.
The Red Crescent, an equivalent to the Red Cross, had
been butting heads for days with Marines who initially
denied the aid organization entry to the city,
insisting the military was taking care of civilians'
needs. The society finally won a Marine escort in and
refused to leave, setting up in an abandoned house.�
Dr. Said Hakki, the group's president, met DiFrancisci
and Lieutenant Colonel Gary Montgomery at a mosque,
eager to mend fences. "We want to play by your rules,"
Montgomery agreed that Marines would ferry a group of
aid workers to Baghdad, along with several women and
children who had been rescued from houses. But when
the Humvees pulled up to the Red Crescent house,
scores of young men who had taken refuge there were
milling around the streets. There was no way to tell
whether they were fighters.
"All these military-age males are out during curfew,"
Montgomery told Hakki. "If you all don't follow the
rules, you're going to get people killed."
Tensions rose when about a dozen women and children
started climbing into ambulances for the ride to
Baghdad. One man tried to get in, gave the Marines who
challenged him several versions of his age, then
decided not to go rather than discuss it further.
Suhad Molah, a young woman in a veil that showed only
her eyes, was indignant that a translator said she
might be Syrian because of her accent, implying she
was the wife of a foreign fighter.
"I am Iraqi," she said, adding that she and her
children had been trapped in their house for weeks.
The Marines were also suspicious when more than a
dozen men, not the handful they expected, said they
were Red Crescent staff members headed back to
Baghdad. Some had no identification, and there was no
way to verify whether they were the same men who had
come out from Baghdad.
"This is not a 'muj' rescue service," DiFrancisci
said, using slang for mujahideen, or holy warriors.
Montgomery remarked, "The real negotiations start
after you've agreed on something."
The Marines let the men go after Hakki vouched for
them, but not before the Iraqis grew angry that their
motives had been questioned. The convoy headed onto
the highway, but only after a dozen Marines had spent
two hours organizing and searching the vehicles. Back
at their headquarters, the team debated the procedure
for allowing civilians to return. Major Wade Weems
warned that there should be a set number per day so
that a backlog would not form behind the
retina-scanning machine, fueling resentment.
When they heard of the proposal to require men to
work, some Marines were skeptical that an angry public
would work effectively if coerced. Others said the
plan was based on US tactics that worked in postwar
Germany. DiFrancisci said he would wait for more
details. "There's something to be said for a firm
hand," he said.