cover image Fallujah Awakens: Marines, Sheikhs, and the Battle Against al Qaeda

Fallujah Awakens: Marines, Sheikhs, and the Battle Against al Qaeda

Bill Ardolino. Naval Institute, $36.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61251-128-3

Headlines trumpeted the 2004 Battle of Fallujah, when Marines defeated Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda fighters in brutal urban battle, but few reports noted that rebels soon returned and resumed their attacks. An embedded reporter at the time, Ardolino (associate editor of the Long War Journal) delivers a brilliant, detailed description of events in 2007, when Marines, tribal leaders, and local Iraqis worked together to again eject the insurgents—hopefully, this time, permanently. The author is wise to remind readers that al-Qaeda was never terribly popular in Iraq; it espoused a form of Islam considered violent and unfamiliar, “even by conservative Fallujan standards,” and its success required vicious retaliation against uncooperative Iraqis. Even so, many refused to help the radical group, opting instead to side with American forces for a variety of personal and political reasons. Ardolino describes one Marine battalion near Fallujah that achieved remarkable success by enlisting the aid of an ambitious young sheikh nicknamed “Dark.” Combining eye-witness accounts of political frustrations, the dangers of the “irrepressible and deadly creativity” of insurgents, and sympathetic portraits of the locals, Ardolino’s is an outstanding account of the winding down of a resoundingly unpopular war. 15 b&w photos, 4 maps. (May 15)