And Saddam has been blamed for the increase in the attacks against Americans. Just before press, the U.S. government announced a $25 million reward for the hope-not-to-be legendary Beast of Baghdad, presumably dead or alive. The fruit of his loins, sons Uday and Qusay, are worth a mere $15 million (editor's note: since we're not sure whether the sons are worth $15 million each or together, we have to assume that this is specifically aimed toward the low-budget bounty hunter types). They are suspected of paying bounties for U.S. scalps and for encouraging hundreds of foreign-born fighters to slip into the country and join the fighting.

The primary motivation for the bounties seems to be the release of a supposed audio tape of a very much alive Saddam Hussein. Recorded by Al-Jazeera over the phone, the voice could be the Bush administrations’ worst nightmare on the ground in Iraq. The voice claimed that the tape was made on June 14. The much hoped-for-dead-dictator took credit for the increased attacks and promises. Much to everyone’s disappointment, the voice also said, "I am still present in Iraq.” He also said that other former Iraqi leaders are still in the country. If true or otherwise believed by the average Iraqi, this could seriously undermine the entire U.S. effort.

The specter of an unseen Saddam Hussein and still potent secret police could terrify the civilian population, even force some of it to join the ranks of the attackers, only if to hedge their bets with a public demonstration of loyalty to the former tyrant. After all, the Americans have a habit of running out on allies that they no longer want or can’t afford. Ask the Kurds to the north or the Shiites in the south.

The voice on the tape also tried to explain the quick American victory. "We have sacrificed the government… but we will not sacrifice our principles or surrender…”

Later, the voice calls for another Muslim standard, the Jihad, against the invaders.

But this seemed to have some merit. At a U.S. base 55 miles north of Baghdad, 18 American soldiers were wounded, two seriously, when a salvo of four mortar rounds hit inside the compound. A mortar is a crew-served weapon, and it takes considerable support and organization to put into the field.

And, on Saturday, an explosion ripped through the city of Ramadi, killing seven newly graduated police recruits and wounding about 54 other people. The recruits had been participating in a U.S. training program.

But the problem with the bounty could be that Saddam and sons are worth considerably more than these figures. And, if they are hiding out inside the Sunni triangle, Hussein’s home territory, no one there is likely to rat them out. This is where the former ruling Ba'ath Party had its strongest support.

The $25 million bounty on the head of Osama Bin Laden has seen no success. Nothing has turned up but dozens, if not hundreds, of private military contractors crawling all over the countryside and annoying the drug traffickers.

Here at home the Independence Day weekend saw Americans of every stripe enjoying the now traditional, almost mandatory outpouring of Strip Mall Patriotism. But for one U.S. soldier standing guard at the Baghdad Museum, this Independence Day was his last. He was part of the First Armored Division, and was up in the gunner’s hatch of his Bradley when a sniper shot him.

He was the 67th soldier to die since May 1, when we were told by a victory-flushed President George W. Bush that major combat had ended. Of that total number, 26 have died from hostile fire. The Pentagon sees this death as “militarily insignificant.” Of course, the dead soldier was not asked if he thought his death was insignificant.

There are about 55,000 American troops inside Baghdad, so the Pentagon’s seemingly callous attitude can be explained by the lack of serious numbers, much as former secretary of defense Robert McNamara tried to use statistical analysis and number crunching to prove victory and legitimize the war in Vietnam.

North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap proved McNamara’s notion of spreadsheet tactics groundless. Giap pushed his peasant army to legendary military victory while Robert McNamara was banished to the World Bank.

But the Bush administration is not concerned. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held one of his now-legendary Pentagon press briefings last Monday to set the record straight. While patronizing assembled reporters from around the globe, Rumsfeld said that leftovers from Hussein's former regime are responsible for the attacks. He claimed that they were part of a ‘terrorist network,’ but argued against the feared guerrilla war and the casualty-generating meat-grinding quagmire that an insurgency would produce.

“There are so many cartoons where people, press people, are saying, ‘Is it Vietnam yet? Hoping it is and wondering if it is… it isn’t… it’s a different time… it’s a different era… it’s a different place…”

The secretary is correct about that. Unfortunately, the color of spilled blood never changes.

(Editor’s note: sources for this story include the U.S. Department of Defense, Reuters. AFP, The Observer, and SanDiegoChannel.com) By Grady Hawkins

The daytime temperature in Iraq’s capital of Baghdad can soar to a sweltering 115 degrees or more nearly every day. But the inside of a patrolling Bradley fighting vehicle can reach a punishing 130. It's high summer in Iraq. But the killing temperatures are only part of a deadly sum. American soldiers and Marines are being attacked, and these attacks are growing in number. U.S. military officials say that there are now about 13 attacks every day. And they are no longer confined to the so-called “Sunni Triangle," defined as the area from Baghdad at its eastern base to the now-infamous city of Fallujah at its west. The apex of this triangle is the boyhood home of Saddam Hussein himself, the city of Tirkut, one hundred miles to the north.