Reporters on the Job

BEDSIDE MANNER: Before the war in Iraq started, Monitor contributor Nicholas Blanford had talked with men in Beirut - where Nick lives - about their plans to help in the fight against the US. So when Nick traveled to Syria, he hoped to talk to someone there who had actually made the journey (page 1). Some asking around brought him to the hospital bedside of Fahd. The "very ordinary" 18-year-old - who left home without telling his parents - would not talk with the Arab network Al Jazeera, but was willing to talk with Nick, a foreigner, as he recovered from wounds that have left him partially paralyzed.

The teenager's trip had devastated his parents, says Nick. "When Fahd arrived at the hospital, he called his family and simply told them to come get him. The father and uncle drove two hours to Damascus. They knew nothing of his condition. Fahd, who was otherwise quite chatty, choked up as he told of the moment when desperately saddened father realized that his oldest son, in whom an Arab father puts all his aspirations, was now crippled."

Nick says the vast majority of volunteers saw this as their Islamic duty. "So all these guys ran off to the pan-Arab cause, and are now deeply disillusioned by Iraq's quick collapse. It raises the question of how they will handle this sense of humiliation in the future - whether they will be fodder for militancy."

STAY TUNED: Just after the fall of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the Monitor's Ilene Prusher was working on her laptop computer when a resident approached her.

"She asked me if my computer was the Internet," Ilene says. "I said no, but that it could give you access to the Internet. She was really interested, but didn't really know what the Internet was."

Ilene started with the basics - like explaining what a laptop was. "She was amazed to see me working with no plugs. She kept saying, I've never seen these things. We've been kept in this primitive society, and we don't know anything."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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