• HIKING IN AFGHANISTAN: The offer seemed intriguing, the climb reasonable, the view sublime. "Want to go for a hike?" the US Army captain asked the Monitor's Scott Baldauf during his latest reporting trip to Gardez, Afghanistan (page 1). The captain pointed to a hilltop where there was a shrine to an old saint of the Sufi sect of Islam.
"'Sure, I'm game,' I said. For most of the next hour I regretted those words. As four US soldiers, carrying much more weight than I, scrambled up the mountain, I chugged up with my 20-pound flak jacket and my out-of-shape thighs. From the top, the view was fantastic. But I soon realized how differently military men and reporters see things," says Scott.
" 'That mountain over there,' said the captain, Beau Baggett, 'is covered with land mines.' He then explained how that mountain had a commanding view of a major road, and how the Soviets had fired artillery shells full of land mines to prevent the Afghan guerrillas from using it for ambushes. It was such a stunning landscape, that it was easy to drop one's guard and forget the hidden dangers of a long-lost war."
• PERSISTENCE AND PERSPECTIVE: The Monitor's Scott Peterson found it easy to get the Iraqi perspective on a US raid south of Baghdad. But getting the other side took more persistence. He stumbled across Monday's story last Thursday (this page). But he couldn't find anyone in the US military press office in Baghdad who knew about it. "Give us 12 to 24 hours," he was told. He went to the US base in the town where the incident occurred and was turned away by a soldier who said, "I don't even know the name of this town." Two days later, the Baghdad press office was either too busy to try or simply couldn't locate the officers Scott had named. So Scott made one last attempt at talking to members of the US unit. With some fast talking, he managed to get into their camp and get the full story.
David Clark Scott