As in the money flows where the mortars aren't.
"We're doing something worthwhile here," Sassaman said in an interview at the headquarters of his unit, the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, part of the 4th Infantry Division. "But it's clear that our enemies are going to keep attacking us until we kill and capture every one of them. That's going to take a while."
On a recent afternoon at Balad Youth Center, Sassaman found himself in the unlikely position of presiding over one of the first meetings of the Balad City Council. Seated at an elevated table, he looked like a soldier but acted more like a teacher, moving the meeting along, reminding the Iraqis of their responsibilities, nudging here, shepherding there.
"I want to take a moment to congratulate the mayor for the great job he's done," Sassaman said into the microphone, "and for all his efforts he has made for a secure and stable environment in Balad."
The mayor, Nabeel Darwash, stood up, and all the Iraqis clapped.
The City Council meeting that unfolded in Balad on Friday was a measure of the progress the Americans have made here and in other parts of the country where the environment is peaceful enough to allow American soldiers and their Iraqi allies to begin the quiet work of building a democracy.
And not only that: In Balad, the American military has been setting up police forces, repairing electrical lines and filling up hospitals with medicine.
For Sassaman, the key to the success inside the city has been simple: His soldiers do not get shot there. As a result, he has channeled the overwhelming majority of the reconstruction money at his disposal — more than $1 million — into Balad, and away from the outlying areas, where the war is.