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Reporters on the Job

THE DETRITUS OF WAR: Wednesday's story on the problem of unexploded bombs in Baghdad (page 1) took the Monitor's Peter Ford to a Baghdad suburb where residents were confronting the problem in the streets and their backyards.

As Peter stepped gingerly around unexploded cluster bombs, talking to frightened residents, he could not help but remember the strict lesson he had learned in a 'hostile-environment' course last year: if you see unexploded ordnance, turn around and walk away carefully and quickly. But local people had been living with the things outside their doors for more than a week, and if he wanted to interview them, Peter had to follow in their footsteps. "At least I had a flak jacket on, which was more protection than anybody else had," he says.

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HOSPITALITY IS RULE NO. 1: Working with Peter Ford was Monitor photographer Andy Nelson, whose task it was to illustrate the impact of the unexploded ordnance on the Baghdad neighborhood (photo, page 11).

Andy went to the home of a family where the husband and two adult sons had been killed by bombing. He knew it would be a sensitive task to create the shot. What he wasn't prepared for was an invitation by the widow to stay for lunch.

Andy took her up on the offer, and found himself in the courtyard eating rice, chicken, and dates. In the background, he could hear the singing of mourning songs for those who had just died. He was touched by the kindness of the family - and struck by how difficult the encounter was.

"I felt it wasn't proper for me to be there as a lunch guest. I'm not the government, but I'm an American, and while they weren't outwardly angry at me, there was definitely anger below the surface," Andy says. "But the hospitality was put forth, and if I had not accepted, they would have been offended."

By the time he left, Andy felt he and the family had gained some degree of mutual understanding.

"I think they wanted to make sure the story was told, and I explained I would do my best to help Americans understand," he says. "In the end, I felt they understood what I was there for. My job was to document."

Still, Andy says, "it was the most uncomfortable lunch I have ever experienced."

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Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor


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