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By Colin Freeman. General Mark Kimmitt was a US soldier from central casting: ramrod straight, square of jaw and with a uniform as neatly creased as the side parting in his greying hair. As the senior spokesman for the US military in Iraq in , he was always tirelessly upbeat, and never short of a positive soundbite as US forces battled an ever-growing insurgency.
Asked once what he would say to Iraqi children frightened by US warplanes, he famously described it as "the sound of freedom". Even Gen Kimmitt, though, knew a lost cause when he saw one. And 50 miles west of Baghdad, nestling on a bend in the Euphrates, there was a place that drove a rocket-propelled grenade through even his armour-plated optimism.
Army hit al-Qaeda linked militants. Colin Freeman: Saddam's legacy still haunts Iraq. Sunni militants 'liberate' northern Iraqi town from government. Ten years after Saddam's fall, his home town of Tikrit still mourns. Violence in Iraq goes up despite US pull out. We will all lose if Christians flee the Middle East. For the general, it had been a particularly bad day. Earlier that morning, an SUV carrying four US security contractors had been attacked as it drove through Fallujah , and their burned, mutilated bodies strung up from an arched metal bridge over the Euphrates.
An Iraqi version of the Black Hawk Down debacle in Somalia, it was a watershed moment in the anti-US insurgency, turning the tide in a war that America had previously thought it was winning. A few days later, when Fallujans refused to hand over the security contractor's killers, US Marines began the first of two sieges of the city, razing much of it to the ground.
But even then, Fallujah still didn't "get it". Instead, a decade on, it remains a hotbed of resistance to outside authority in all its forms. This week, tanks and artillery are besieging the city yet again, after al Qaeda gunmen mounted an attempted takeover of Fallujah and neighbouring Ramadi. It will be the third time that Fallujah has faced all-out assault in ten years, this time not from the Americans but from their fellow Iraqis. So what is it about this drab and otherwise unremarkable satellite town that makes it such a troublemaker?