A shot is fired at Marines and Michael Totten goes out with a subsequent patrol and encounters the slums of Fallujah. But the action is now the exception rather than the rule.
"Are we going inside?" I said to Lieutenant Lappe.
"I don't know," he said. "We need to talk to the owner, but he isn't around. The Iraqis are trying to locate him."
The purpose of the mission was to find him and talk to him, and also to show force. The Marines who were shot at had to be extracted, but at the same time they can't be seen steering clear of a place just because somebody fired a round at them.
This is as much action as the Marines see any more in Fallujah, which is why the city and the rest of the province are being handed back to Iraqis.
The police could not locate the owner, so we left.
Yet despite the relative quiet there's a sense that a drama of a different kind is taking place behind the scenes. One of the men with Totten is full of directionless energy. He writes, "Corporal Z bellowed at the privates under his command. He screamed at just about everyone, including me. He's a tyrant to work underneath, and he's a royal pain to work near. His belligerent attitude was unprofessional, and I was surprised his fellow Marines put up with him. I'm referring to him as Corporal Z instead of his full name because my objective here isn't to name and shame him as an act of revenge."
Reading through Michael's account I had the feeling it seemed as if the war were over but the peace hadn't yet begun. The difference is crucial. The state of peace is a little bit more than the absence of combat. Real peace has an excitement all its own; it's a living thing the way that war is. The dusty slums and the hulking flour mill were mute testimony to a kind of emptiness; a signpost to the long road still before the Iraqis.
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