Reporters on the Job

MISSING IN BAGHDAD: How do you find the vanquished top brass in Baghdad (page 1)?

Not very easily, says Monitor correspondent Scott Peterson.

While one major popped up at the plush new offices of an Iraqi opposition group and was interviewed by the Monitor's Peter Ford, tracking down a talkative brigadier proved more difficult. Despite departing with district, street, and house number in hand, Scott and his translator finally arrived after 90 minutes of driving all across Baghdad - only to find that their prey had left 15 minutes before.

Despairing, they visited the normal workplace of Scott's translator. Two more leads turned into duds.

"Just before deadline, we struck pay dirt in a neighborhood where an American drone buzzed overhead," Scott says. He found two officers who grudgingly agreed to talk - anonymously, and after making sure that their curtains were firmly closed.

MILITARY BASES EVERYWHERE: The Monitor's Ben Arnoldy hitched a ride with some marines going from Talil Air Base to Nasiriyah, Iraq, where he reported Friday's story (page 8). On the way, they dropped off supplies at White Horse, a former Iraqi Army base.

Ben knew about Talil Air Base and the one used by the Free Iraqi Forces. But he was surprised to come across a third military base located on the outskirts of Nasiriyah.

"The marines in the car reminded me that at one point Saddam Hussein wielded one of the largest militaries in the world. Later that afternoon, when a Nasiriyah resident talked of Iraq squandering its wealth on wars, his words rang true."

Ben, who is embedded with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group, is currently residing in a hardened aircraft shelter with combat search and rescue crews. Those digs are giving him the opportunity to see how a good number of the troops use their downtime.

"Watching movies is one of the main ways people pass time. They have painted a patch of the hangar white so that they can project DVDs on to the wall. There is no buttered popcorn, but sometimes there are Tootsie Rolls from leftover Meals Ready to Eat."

So what's been on the marquee recently? Ben and his military cronies have gotten to see showings of the Terminator, Monty Python's Holy Grail, Wyatt Earp, Platoon, American History X, and American Pie.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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