"They have taken Iraq. They have taken everything."
Five years later, still winning hearts and minds:
Nearly every day, the sheik stops by the villa that was once his home, but is now an American garrison. Sometimes he comes with tips about the insurgency, or with news of political developments in this rural village near the Euphrates River.
But mostly he comes to ask for his house back.
“To take my home in this way is not right,” the sheik, Hamed Moussa Khalaf al-Duleimi, said one afternoon in April, putting a wrinkled, bronzed hand on the knee of the 31-year-old American commander, Capt. Chris Calihan.
Sheik Duleimi, 74, has not lived here since January, when marines on a counterinsurgency mission burst in late one night, announced that they were turning his house into a military base and evicted him. He sent his family to a rented apartment in Falluja while he moved into a son’s home just across the road.
Most Iraqis, particularly here in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, regard the Americans as occupiers who came uninvited to Iraq and who, in their rush to remove Saddam Hussein, may have damaged the country beyond repair.
But the prevailing view is also a deeply conflicted one, because most people here now want the Americans to stay, at least until some semblance of stability is restored.
“It’s not just my house,” Sheik Duleimi continued. “They have taken Iraq. They have taken everything.”