Taking the Battle to the Enemy

U.S. and Iraqi forces launch high-risk probes of the insurgency in Fallujah and Ramadi. A TIME exclusive

As lightening flashes intermittently in an otherwise clear sky, a group of more than 200 Marines begins to gear up on a dusty plain outside the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Officers bark orders, directing grunts into their vehicles. Tank drivers climb into turrets and crank up heavy-metal tunes. Infantrymen who moments earlier had been asking about baseball scores exhort one another to move forward. "This is what you trained for, Marine!" "You're the hunter! You're the predator!"

As the group prepared to move last Thursday on the city that has most bedeviled the U.S. occupation, the hyperbole seemed appropriate. Fallujah is...