Leading the way as we turn over their country to their care.
The pickup stopped at a threadbare little roadblock the local police had made of motor oil jugs and soda cans. The bomb was 150 yards up the road, the police said.
Lieutenant Khadem stepped out of the car, dressed only in street clothes, and told himself what he always does as he jogged forward: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."
As the American-led coalition begins turning over self-rule and security to Iraqis, some, like those in the Baghdad bomb squad, are already shouldering the burden.
"It's a war," Lieutenant Mahdi said. "It's not a war for the Americans. It's a war for us."
Lt. Col. Mustafa al-Wahab estimated that among the 30 or so calls a day the squad receives, half turn out to be roadside bombs or rockets aimed at some target. In the last nine months, the 11 ordnance experts in the squad have probably defused an average of 40 to 50 bombs per man, Colonel Wahab said.