Reporters on the Job

RELIABLE SOURCES: As the Monitor's Peter Ford drove around the streets of Baghdad earlier this week and noticed makeshift signs going up announcing the creation of new political-party headquarters, he kept an eye out for the communists (page 1). "It wasn't just that they used to be the most important party in Iraq, and were known to have maintained a significant secret network in the country under Saddam Hussein's regime," he says. "I was following my golden rule of reporting in the developing world: When you need perspective and analysis, go to the Jesuits and to the communists. Whether you agree with them or not, they are always thoughtful and interesting."

STEPS IN TIME: Monitor correspondent Scott Peterson joined hundreds of thousands of pilgrims Tuesday streaming toward the holy city of Karbala and its Abbas and Hussein mosques (page 1). He and his colleagues had thought they'd have to abandon their car a good six miles out of the city. But to their surprise, they were able to drive within a few hundred yards of their hotel - and the shadow of the Abbas mosque.

"It turned out that the march was completely organized," says Scott. A four-lane highway had been divided to allow walkers to use one side while cars moved freely up and down the other. And when they got to the edge of the city, they were led in by armed militiamen, then allowed to drive slowly through the crowds.

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The atmosphere was much more relaxed than Scott expected. "It's a serious occasion, one of mourning, but everyone is just happy they can get together."

CHANGING VIEWPOINTS: In trying to gauge French views on the war in Iraq, reporter Chené Blignaut found that public opinion is a fickle thing (page 7).

"Before the fall of Saddam Hussein, I could not find one French person in Paris who had anything positive to say about either the US or the war in Iraq," she says. "They were very patriotic and appeared to regard themselves as morally superior to the United States."

But the rapid coalition victory seemed to change that. "Within days, it was no problem to find people critical of the government's position towards the war," she says. Chené even discovered a hint of respect for the "courage" showed by President Bush in confronting Mr. Hussein.

"I was surprised how what appeared to be such a strong national moral conviction could start dissolving after images of cheering Iraqis and the fall of the statue. It appears nobody likes to be on the loser's side," she says.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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