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The making of an Iraqi guerrilla: one man's tale

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One night at the end of June, a young Iraqi man goes out to ambush an American convoy near the central Iraqi town of Fallujah.

He is wearing his favorite blue tracksuit. He is a small guy, solid and compact, with cropped dark hair and a chin that juts out slightly. He likes tough sports, especially handball. He can stub out a cigarette on the calluses of his left palm. It will be his first time in combat.

Although he has trained only fleetingly for what he is about to do, he is not afraid. "If I die for a reason, that's a nice thing," he says later.

Since President Bush declared major hostilities in Iraq over on May 1, a rising tide of ambushes, explosions, and small-arms attacks has killed 60 Americans.

The man's motivations for attacking the convoy are simple: to resist the American "insult to Iraqi and Arab tradition."

His remarks, during a two-hour interview at a Baghdad hotel, convey a sense of betrayal and trampled dignity. "They might have helped, but they destroyed things," he says of the Americans in Iraq. "They provoked."

He mentions the "unfulfilled promises" of the Americans (to bring democracy, to make things better), their mistreatment of Iraqis (especially when male US soldiers encounter Iraqi women in raids or at checkpoints), their unwillingness to stop looting, help Iraqis in need, maintain stability. "Now nothing is under control," he says.

Beyond individual accounts, the origins of the anti-American guerrilla war are obscure. US officials and officers have long blamed the remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. They have also begun speculating about the possibility that "foreign fighters" or even Al Qaeda are participating in the Iraqi resistance.

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