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Reporters on the Job

February 8, 2005



Few Lights, Big City: Two months have brought a world of change to Fallujah, says staff writer Scott Peterson, who returned to the devastated city this week for the first time since he followed marines during the November invasion.

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"Everything has changed," says Scott. "There are people everywhere, and far more families than I expected. They are also remarkably relaxed." (page 1)

That usually means smiles in exchange for candies and pens, and the kind of face-to-face time that is rare in Iraq - especially in Fallujah.

The marines, Scott says, are trying to put a gentler face on the occupation. Monday, they sealed off a road and lined up 20 car drivers and passengers for a pat-down. Afterward, a marine who speaks Arabic apologized to the men and told them, if they saw anything out of the ordinary, to tell an American, because "we are here to help you."

The men nooded their assent, and as one climbed into his car, he told the marines: "Thank you very much."

"The verdict is still out on whether Fallujah 'works' as a model for crushing insurgents," says Scott. "But people here are showing unexpected resilience. Shops are opening, and even a few schools are on their third day of classes."

Helpful Conversation: Correspondent Faiza Ambah, who is attending a counterterrorism conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was intrigued by an exchange with three young men in the hotel lobby (page 6). "They were students at Imam Saud Islamic Law University, with the untrimmed beards and unadorned head scarves that mark the devout," she says. "One asked if I were a Muslim and then, why my hair wasn't covered. We spent 20 minutes talking about whether or not that was a sin. He asked if I'd start wearing a hijab if he proved to me that Islam demands it of women. I said no. He apologized for his curiosity and said he had never sat with a woman whose hair wasn't covered. I think we both came away a bit wiser and more tolerant."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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