Reporters on the Job

Baghdad Guessing Game: Like a chameleon, Baghdad's skin can change almost before your eyes, says staff writer Scott Peterson. That has never been truer than now, as unprecedented security measures are coming down over the capital. Thursday provided a good example of how it works, and how such measures can yield stories along the way.

Asked to track down some election images for today's paper, Scott set off early in the morning, prowling the streets for opportunities. The security situation has improved a bit since the peak of the kidnapping of foreigners last October.

Scott shot some images, then spied a rare sight: a group of US troops on foot patrol. He caught up with them (page 1) just as they rounded a corner and entered a "polling zone" - a place where Iraqis will vote Sunday.

Of course, Scott notes, "US forces had already been busy, setting up concrete barriers around schools and other polling places for days."

Blocked roads around the capital were testament to that, with more and more streets becoming off limits.

At dusk, Scott was delayed on his way to a press conference in the Green Zone. Iraqi police jumped in front of his car and sent all traffic into snarled side streets. Popping back on the main road later, Scott saw the culprit: a US military convoy, which appeared to be stopping every block, dropping off coils of razor wire.

Movement slowed even further after dark, as curfew came closer, and Scott tried to make his way back to the hotel. "The razor wire was being stretched across every intersection, and there were Humvees and Bradleys rolling through the tiniest streets, making their presence felt," says Scott. "We thought we were home free, until we came across a cluster of police cars in the middle of the road with their emergency lights on. We took a quick turn off, and got back, leaving a locked-down Baghdad behind us."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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