Reporters on the job

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    Cultural crossroads: Gnawan musicians, like the one above in Marrakesh, Morocco, are carrying on the musical and spiritual traditions brought north across the Sahara centuries ago by black slaves. Today, the Gnawa are enjoying a renewed interest in their music and customs.
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A New Army: Since early 2004, staff writer Tom Peter has been embedded with various US military units responsible for training the Iraqi Army. Today, he says the state of the Iraqi Army stands in stark contrast to what he's seen in years past.

"In 2004, the Iraqi Army, which was then called the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, was basically just a bunch of guys with guns," recalls Tom. "I remember watching one soldier rest his head on the muzzle of a loaded rifle to take a nap. They just weren't all that professional."

Two years later, Tom accompanied a unit into battle. "While they managed to eventually defeat insurgents, it's fairly telling that the only casualty came from an Iraqi soldier who accidentally shot himself in the leg.

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"Today they're a lot better," observes Tom. "They have a definite command structure, and when you see them on the streets, most behave like professionals."

– Michael B. Farrell

Middle East editor

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