• Camp Fallujah Revisited: Things have improved at Camp Fallujah since staff writer Scott Peterson was first embedded with US military units there last summer. "It was quite grim and primitive," Scott recalls of the largely demolished military base once used by Saddam Hussein's army. Water was rare. "Camouflage ponchos were gamely hung over open doors; dust was everywhere. The public affairs officers often sat huddled around the single fan."
When he returned to the base Wednesday night (page 1), Scott was prepared for hardship duty. But there's been a concerted effort to make life better for troops destined for long tours, he says. Container trucks have been brought in with modern toilets and showers, and many of the tents have plywood floors and air conditioning.
"The cafeteria is vast, and serves up buffet meals on tables decked out with cloth-flower arrangements, every conceivable condiment, and American flags on the walls," Scott says. "The PX is a wonder too, with everything from plastic hangers and Dr. Pepper, to 'troop towels' and Nutter Butter cookies."
• Change of Mood: Najaf is still a troubled place, with the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr roaming the city. But the mood has definitely shifted (this page). Before Dan went to the city, there was concern about kidnapping, and he talked to other reporters and acquaintances about security in the city. One friend told of being held and questioned for five hours and having his satellite phone stolen by militiamen in Najaf earlier in the week. So before he went, Dan arranged for an Iraqi friend to get letters of safe passage from a judge in Najaf. It delayed the trip by two days. But when he arrived Thursday, Dan and his interpreter went wherever they pleased, and chatted with many members of Sadr's militia. They were armed, but friendly. And no one asked to see the legal document Dan so patiently secured before the trip.
David Clark Scott