Bloodshed Leaves Iraqi Town in Opposition to US Occupation
By The Associated Press
The New York Times
Thursday 15 May 2003
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- Two weeks after the last confrontation here with U.S. troops, some residents still want the Americans out -- and the Americans say they have no plans to go.
Convoys of Humvees file slowly down the main boulevard, with gunners scanning the marketplaces. Iraqis scowl as they drive by, but do little else.
"The tension is really starting to ease up," said Staff Sgt. Steven Story, 40, of Clinton, Ark. "We still get some gestures that are not so polite, but for the most part people are happy to see us here."
Story is part of a U.S. military police contingent based in Fallujah, where protests against the Army's presence turned violent last month. U.S. soldiers fired on crowds on April 28 and April 30, killing 18 Iraqis and wounding at least 78.
The soldiers said they were defending themselves and that members of the crowd fired first, but Iraqis said no shots were fired at the Americans. No Americans were wounded by gunfire.
Hours after the second shooting, unidentified attackers lobbed two grenades into the U.S. compound, wounding seven soldiers.
At the time, many residents of Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, complained the Americans were not respecting Muslim religious customs, and many men said the troops were ogling local women. Those complaints persist.
"We are religious people," said Karim Kadhem, 42, a government worker. "We suspect the Americans are wearing glasses that let them see under women's clothes."
But Mayor Taha Bedaiwi al-Alwani said the Americans have become better at respecting local customs.
"Our relationship is getting better, because of the mutual understanding between the Americans and the people of Fallujah, and the Americans' acceptance of the city's conservative religious beliefs," he said.
He said people also appreciate the free gasoline distributed by the Americans, and have grown to understand that there will be no security in the streets without the military presence. He blamed last month's trouble on supporters of the former government of Saddam Hussein.
Some in Fallujah still bristle at the U.S. presence.
Graffiti on the wall of the 28th of April School -- named for Saddam's birthday -- urged residents to rise up.
"Defend yourselves. Defend your honor," it said. "Your pride was lost, and it will not be restored until you wage holy war. What are you waiting for? Until the Americans enter your houses and see your women?"