The Sunni Arab and al Qaeda defenders of Fallujah were defeated in the media, as well as the military battle. The residents of Fallujah are very angry with their defenders. Although the anti-government forces generally behaved well (they didnt steal, and often paid well for the use of houses taken over for shelter or weapons storage), they were less charitable when anyone questioned the wisdom of staying and fighting the American and Iraqi troops that were obviously closing in. Fallujah has a normal population of about 250,000. But when the first Red Crescent (Islamic Red Cross) recently entered the city and took a census of who had stayed, they turned up only about 200 families, plus several hundred men who remained to protect their homes from looters. Before fleeing, as the government urged everyone to do, residents had pleaded with the gunmen to stand and fight on the outskirts of the city. But the gunmen insisted on setting up their defenses in crowded residential areas. Actually, the gunmen preferred the poorest neighborhoods, as these were the most crowded and appeared to provide the best ambush opportunities. Any residents that protested too loud or too long were branded as pro-government and sometimes punished. The gunmen killed hundreds of residents suspected of aiding the government, and many more were beaten or tortured.
Apparently, there were only about 5,000 people in the city when the battle began, and about 3,000 of those were hostile gunmen. Mosques were also used to store weapons and to fight from. In many cases, this was with the permission of Islamic radical clerics. But in other cases, the gunmen simply took over. This has not played well among most Moslems. Even al Jazeera has shown the mosques used for combat. Al Jazeera and other Arab media also ran stories on how unhappy Fallujah residents were with their treatment by the Sunni Arab and (often foreign) al Qaeda gunmen.
The defenders of Fallujah also lost stature because of the speed and apparent ease with which the American and Iraqi troops defeated them. Sunni Arab and al Qaeda leaders complained to the Arab media that they were let down by the Arab world. But everyone remembered the Fallujah defenders recent boasts that they would turn Fallujah into a graveyard for Americans. Most of the defenders were killed or captured within two weeks, and the remnants are still being chased down.
It did not go unnoticed that the leaders of the Sunni Arab and al Qaeda gunmen left town before the battle began. Apparently there are those who talk of martyrdom, and those that do it. All in all, Fallujah was a bad media event for the defenders of Fallujah, and the violence that Sunni Arab and al Qaeda gunmen are still carrying on with.