It was very clear that people had lived in there just days prior; fridges were still full of food; there were still family photos up on the wall, and all their possessions were still in the house - they brought very little with them. And on the part of the Marines I was with, there was quite a bit of looting going on. There was a certain hysteria. Basically they believed that every person in the city was a pure, evil terrorist bent on some irrational hatred against America, with very little concern for the civilians that were involved.
Mac: Everyone was considered a terrorist, civilians and anyone with a weapon?
Ross: Well, anyone in the city, we thought, because we told them to go live out in the desert because we were such nice people, that we were doing this for them, and if they chose to ignore that and stay in the city, then that's because they wanted to fight against us, so they were fair targets. That's the thinking. And that's partly because that's exactly what the chain of command told them, that there were 2000 hardcore international Jihadists inside the city; they were mostly foreign fighters, and that they were somehow controlling the city against the will of the civilians who lived there, and al-Zarqawi was orchestrating this whole thing [the military also claimed to be attacking the safehouses of "al-Qaeda in Iraq" led by the mysterious Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom, some declared, had established Fallujah as his operational base - no solid proof was ever found of this - Mac], so there's a lot of misinformation going on, and people believed that, and with the pressure because of the tense situation, the combat, the violence and everything else, this created a kind of hysteria, and, as [the push on] the city went on, atrocities started to happen in greater frequency and greater severity.
Civilians were killed; people were shot in the street. Marines, not all of them, but some Marines started stealing form the pockets of the dead resistance fighters, mutilating dead bodies. Entire sections of the city were bulldozed. I know at one point I saw a house was collapsed on top of two resistance fighters and a little boy. This was kind of just how it went on for about three weeks, and then when they trucked us out of the city, every house that I saw, if not totally demolished and leveled to the ground, had severe, severe damage to it.
Fallujans surveying damage from the US assault (Photobucket Commons)
Mac: What percentage of the city was destroyed would you say?
Ross: It's hard to say because I didn't see the entire city. My unit was just in this one section that was our area of operation, and of that section, every house had severe damage to it, severe structural damage.
Mac: So it was kind of like a turkey shoot.
Ross: Yeah, basically, I mean we used everything from air support, from 2000 lb bombs, to Hellfire missiles. On the ground we used tanks, bulldozers; we used C-4 to demolish houses; we used Mark-19 Grenade-launchers to demolish houses. We just basically used everything.
Mac: Wow! All ordnance used.
Ross: They say Depleted Uranium was used too. I certainly believe it's possible, but being an infantry man, we never handled Depleted Uranium, so I can't say that I witnessed that with my own two eyes.
Mac: Wasn't that normally used on their artillery shells anyway?
Ross: I think it's used on artillery rounds and tank rounds, but I'm not an artillery guy or a tank guy.
Mac: Did you see or hear snipers in action? I heard there were a lot of snipers shooting people.
Ross: Well, I heard that there was a huge problem with this during the first assault [in April] on the city where snipers were just being really indiscriminate and were just shooting at anyone who was out in the street. During the second assault this was less of a problem because the people who were in the city were hiding in their houses. To my knowledge, they weren't shooting civilians to the extent they were in the first assault.