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GHOSH: The city is now mostly placid, and few signs remain of the terrible battles. The insurgency was co-opted in 2007, when the military poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the so-called Awakening campaign, recruiting former militants to fight against al-Qaeda.
Many of those collaborators have gone on to win reconstruction contracts. Our host, a powerful tribal sheik, said the lesson Fallujah had taught the world was that "if you fight the Americans long enough, they will eventually pay you to stop shooting at them."
RAWLINGS: We asked the sheik whether, given the scale of U.S. aid now pouring into the city, Fallujis would one day call Americans their friends. No, he said. There had been too much violence, too many killed, for Fallujis ever to trust the Americans. I was saddened by his answer. The perfect Arab host, he had tended to our every need all day, knowing full well that I am an American and that we write for an American magazine. And yet he could not bestow forgiveness for the blood and destruction we had brought to his town. I bet if you asked the same question to the families of the hundreds of Marines and soldiers who died here, you'd get the same answer. Some wounds can't be healed by money or time.
Few Americans have heard of Hamdiyah, a cluster of hamlets near Anbar province's capital, Ramadi. But this was the heart of al-Qaeda country from 2004 to 2007, before the tribes, with American support, expelled the terrorists.
GHOSH: As elsewhere in Anbar, the insurgents in Hamdiyah were led by former Baathists and officers from Saddam Hussein's army. But some in this community of 2,500 souls also signed up with al-Qaeda and gave shelter to foreign fighters. In time, this group grew dominant. They used date-palm orchards to hide training camps. Suicide bombers were brought here for indoctrination before their final mission. Al-Qaeda even had a prison here, a converted chicken coop where captives suffered brutal torture. Their screams could be heard at night by villagers living half a mile away.
Near the former prison, we found the remains of a human jawbone. In keeping with Muslim tradition, our translator immediately buried it.
RAWLINGS: According to the American narrative, enlightened U.S. military commanders co-opted the insurgents, persuading them to point their guns away from us and toward al-Qaeda. But the story is told differently here: Sheik Abdel Jabbar al-Feydawi, leader of the Albu Fahed tribe, rallied his people against al-Qaeda because the terrorists murdered his brother. He did it with little assistance from the Americans and took none of their reconstruction money.
What appears to be a Rashomon story may actually be two sides to the same narrative. The anti-al-Qaeda movement was already taking hold in Anbar when the U.S. military brass woke up and realized you can't kill your way out of an insurgency.