It's all-out war. Again.
Almost a year to the day after President Bush delcared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, American soldiers and marines unleashed ferocious assaults in Fallujah and outside of Najaf. 64 militiamen loyal to the renegade cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were killed in the holy city, according to the AP. The death toll for Fallujah is not yet known.
In that city's Jolan quarter, a U.S. AC-130, "a powerful gunship that can unleash a deluge of ordnance, joined 105mm howitzers in opening up on insurgent targets in the neighborhood. Gunfire and explosions reverberated for nearly two hours, and an eerie orange glow shone over the area while showers of sparks descended like fireworks," the AP reports.
"U.S. aircraft dropped white leaflets over Fallujah before nightfall, calling on insurgents to give up. 'Surrender, you are surrounded,' the leaflets said. 'If you are a terrorist, beware, because your last day was yesterday. In order to spare your life end your actions and surrender to coalition forces now. We are coming to arrest you.'"
In recent days, American forces had largely held their fire in Fallujah (where an extremely tenuous cease-fire with Sunni rebels was in place) and in Najaf (which the U.S. was hesistant to attack, because it is the equivalent of the Vatican to Iraq's Shi'ite majority).
With the twin lulls ended, Slate's Fred Kaplan notes, "no longer [can] U.S. officials speak of conducting mere 'security and stabilization operations' the Marines' declared mission last month when they took over [Fallujah] from the Army's 82nd airborne division. SASO (the military's acronym for such operations) is essentially police work with heavy armaments in a war, or postwar, zone. It is not an accurate term for invading a city of half a million people or strafing it with gunship fire."

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