To find out what the rural resistance thinks of these tactics I visit a farm on the muddy flood plains near Balad. My translator and I are here to meet a group of former--or momentarily retired--resistance fighters. They are farmers, all brothers and devout, ritualistic Sufis.
Sitting on the floor of a cold farmhouse waiting for a lunch of fried chicken, rice and soup, one young man explains: "My brothers and I did many operations against the Americans, but it is dangerous to talk about this. We spent a lot of money on remote controls."
In these tightly knit villages, the resistance seems to be even more informally structured than the networked cells described in Adhamiya. "Sometimes a group of brothers or cousins will do an action," explains the man. "Or maybe someone from Abu Hishma might ask you to help with an action. You'll go to a field and you will find, maybe, some of your friends and maybe other people you don't know." He says that fear and disparate beliefs have kept this network of overlapping "cells" from uniting.
According to this young farmer and his brothers, the guerrillas all have different reasons for fighting. Some fight for Islam, some for Saddam, some just to get the Americans out and some for revenge. These young men seem to have fought for all of the above: They lost their father to an American bomb, they feel humiliated by the occupation, they are intensely religious and a few of them really like Saddam but are not in the Baath Party.
So why have they stopped their attacks in the last few weeks? The man doing most of the talking thinks for a bit, and then, revealing the deep war weariness of many Iraqis, says, "It's hard to fight and kill other people." He adds, "The Americans are very brutal, they are monsters. They have killed whole families and arrested a quarter of the men in this area."
As if on cue, two deafeningly loud Apache helicopter gunships sweep low over the farm. "Last night they were shooting at the other bank of the river," says one of the men.
Just before lunch is served and the political talk winds down, the former guerrilla concludes, "Perhaps the resistance is just resting, waiting to see what the Americans will do next."
Back in Baghdad, it is clear that while some in the underground may be giving up, the war is still in full effect. Three truckers working for the Coalition Provisional Authority have been shot and one killed. At my hotel, a colleague mentions that an Arab TV crew from Reuters was almost killed by the resistance, who accused the reporters of collaborating with the Americans. Fast talking and perhaps a little help from Allah got the journalists home safely.
A week or so later another huge car bomb goes off at the aptly named "Assassins' Gate," one of the main entrances to the coalition's fortressed "Green Zone." Racing through a gloomy morning of thick, chilled smog, a friend and I get to the blast area just as American troops are pushing back the first wave of reporters. The bomb has killed more than twenty and wounded sixty. It is the usual hellish scene of gore and wreckage. Whatever party, or cell, set off the bomb has released no statement, made no demands. But the brutal semiotics of the casualties are clear: In addition to three US soldiers and three American contractors, the dead and wounded are all Iraqis who, whether as maids or managers, worked with the coalition.