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Reporters on the Job

SEE NO ANSAR, HEAR NO ANSAR: The Monitor's Scott Peterson visited the destroyed Ansar al-Islam base at Sargat, in northern Iraq, a few months after it had been smashed by US bombers and cruise missiles (page 12). The only things left were bomb craters, rocks, and a wall with the white-painted sign "Admin..."

And still, no one who lived in the nearby village wanted to talk about their former militant neighbors. "One house had a bird's-eye view of the camp, and we found a mother and her family living there, hanging up the laundry," Scott says, noting the grapes drying to raisins on the roof, and a pile of walnuts. She remembers the war, all right: "We were sleeping in this room. It was really terrifying; the biggest blast I ever heard."

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But fear seems to have caused memory failure. When asked about how Ansar and its Arab units lived. "I don't know, I don't know what happened to those people," said Tabiba Habib, returning to her wash line. "It's a sin to speak about things you don't know."

PEACE WAITS: Arriving back in the Middle East after a brief respite abroad, Monitor correspondents Cameron Barr and Nicole Gaouette were intrigued by reports of a new, unofficial peace initiative. A press conference was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. But then a bombing in Gaza (page 1) demanded attention. Cameron drew that straw, ruling him out for the press conference. Nicole put off a drive to pick up the family dog from a kennel to get more information about the peace initiative. Then the fax machine began printing: The press conference had been postponed a day. In the Middle East, even the talk of peace has to wait for conflict to subside. And a family puppy comes second to the dogs of war.

- David Clark Scott

World editor

Cultural snapshot