In the Blast's Aftermath

'Izzy? . . . Bring Your Daughter Here'

By David Finkel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2007

BAGHDAD, July 26 -- An hour after a car bomb exploded in downtown Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 25 people, wounding at least 110 and destroying an apartment building, a phone call begging for help came to an Army officer in eastern Baghdad. It was from a man named Izzy who works as an interpreter for the U.S. military and whose calm voice was now filled with panic.

His apartment was in ruins, he said. One of his two daughters had been badly injured. Something had pierced her head when their apartment disintegrated. He had taken her to a hospital filled with the injured, but overwhelmed doctors had said there was nothing they could do, that she needed more help than they could give, and so he was standing on a street with his bleeding daughter at his side, afraid that she was going to die.

"The only hope you have is to get her to an American hospital?" said Maj. Brent Cummings, executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, for which Izzy is an interpreter. He was repeating what Izzy had just said. Izzy started to answer. The cellphone went dead. "Izzy?" Cummings said. "Izzy?"

How do moments of decency occur in a place such as Baghdad, in a war such as this war? Perhaps by what several officers on an Army base in eastern Baghdad decided to do next.

"Izzy," Cummings said after dialing 5, 10, 15 times and finally getting through. "Bring your daughter here."

It was a simple idea. The base where Izzy works has a first-rate medical facility.

"Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you, sir," Izzy said.

And that's when things got complicated.

Any Iraqi hurt by the American military is eligible for American medical care. But this wasn't an American bomb, and so none of the injured were entitled to American care -- including, it seemed, Izzy's daughter.

But what Cummings had in mind was Izzy's previous life, before he was an interpreter. He had lived in New York City. He had worked there. And he had had a daughter.

A daughter who is an American citizen.

Could an American citizen living in Baghdad, who was injured by a non-American bomb, receive medical care in an American military medical facility?

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