â€¢ Superficially Warm Welcome: Correspondent Sam Dagher says that when he visited the Baghdad neighborhood of Amel, it was guarded by armed Sunnis, who were very friendly (see story). "They offered me tea and even wanted me to stay over for lunch. But every time I asked to speak to Sunni families on their block, they would say that I needed to get approval from their commander."
At one point, a guard identified himself as the intelligence and security chief. "The commander dispatched me to see if you were a spy or a legitimate journalist. This is routine," he told Sam.
Finally, the word came: "We can't allow you to speak to families without the permission of the US military. We get paid by them and we answer to them."
Permission never came.
Later that day at a reconciliation meeting in the neighborhood of Jihad, US Capt. Brian Ducote told Sam that he was surprised Sam made it to the meeting on his own, without being embedded with US forces. It turns out, Sam had been invited by one of the Iraqi neighborhood leaders on the reconciliation council.
But Sam replied to the American captain: "Well, you have been saying that the security situation has improved, and I have come to see for myself."
Sam says that Capt. Ducote told him that the security has not improved to the point where Western journalists can venture out on their own to places such as Jihad.
â€“ David Clark Scott