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Alan Pogue, Texas Center for Documentary Photography
Saving One Little Girl's Eyes
Blog from Austin to Amman to Orlando


Meet Alaa'

Note to the press:
For more background detail, photos, downloadable press release, etc. go to the Press Section

Because a 2004 trip to save Asraa, a 13 year old Iraqi girl, showed how many suffering children need help, Cole Miller, a screenwriter and Alan Pogue, a photographer, decided to try again. Cole read through case histories of wounded Iraqi children for those that could be helped without much funding. One Iraqi doctor suggested just such a case.

They were having a party. The home, in the Anbar Province, was hit by a US tank shell. Some of the children were killed including two brothers. 3 year old Alaa' was hit by shrapnel, bits of which are lodged in her eyes. Doctors believe that quick surgery could save her eyes.

Her mother is blind in one eye, but the other may be saved by quick medical attention as well. She was injured twice. Her eyes were injured at the childrens' party. Later, she was hit by a US military sniper while riding in a car driven by her father on a hospital errand.

Alan left for Amman, Jordan the morning after the bombings at the three hotels in order to usher the family through the paperwork process and escort them to an Orlando, Florida hospital that has committed to providing specialized medical care. Below are emails from Alan, posted more or less daily.

Index of Posts by Date & Time (US-CST)

     Dec 13
     Dec 6, 6:31 PM
     Dec 4, 2:06 PM
     Nov 24, 10:39 PM
     Nov 24, 5:29 AM
     Nov 22, 6:51 PM
     Nov 21, 1:49 AM
     Nov 19, 2:58 AM
     Nov 17, 4:24 PM
     Nov 16, 1:47 AM
     Nov 15, 2:42 PM
     Nov 14, 4:22 PM
     Nov 14, 9:44 AM
     Nov 13, 5:31 PM
     Nov 12, 6:37 PM
     Nov 12, 12:05 PM
     Nov 12, 1:24 AM
     Nov 11, 2:45 PM
     Nov 7, 10:03 PM
     Oct 28, 11:53 PM
     Oct 20 6:45 PM PST - Background

The International Humanities Center, a nonprofit 
              501[c](3) organization, is our fiscal sponsor

June 2006

Alaa' and her dad riding in a car in California, after the final corrective surgery to her abdominal muscles and on their way to a fundraising party in her honor. Now she wears glasses. The opthalmic surgeon in Florida said that one more week of delay getting her into their treatment would have been too late to save her eyesight. But, thanks to the willingness of the doctor and the hospital in Orlando to take on such a case and the extraordinary skill of the whole medical staff there, this one little girl will not have to grow up blind. She and her father have now returned to Iraq.

A big THANK YOU to all those who gave of themselves in several countries across the face of the earth, to help make this little miracle possible. This is what we should celebrate, because this sort of caring in the face of seeming impossibility is what makes hope for the future possible.

Dec 13 - Why Civilians Become Casualties

Medical Personnel and others in Al Anbar Province say civilians are targeted purposely.

June 10, 2005 - The Hospital at Al Qaim, with pictures of Alaa'

Oct. 10, 2005 - Text and pictures by medical personnel in Al Qaim and other localities

An email from Hadeetha, near Al Qaim, calling for help, citing attacks by US personnel:

"...Before sunrise on Saturday, November 19, 2005, and after a landmine went off near a US patrol, they raided the houses near the place where they came under attack and executed 16 people of two related families including a disabled elderly man and an infant...

...Also, the US forces, stopped a car full of university students on their way to college in Ramadi. Despite the fact that they searched the passengers and made sure that they were unarmed students, a marine lost his temper and brutally executed them all including the driver...

They executed four brothers who went out of their nearby  house to watch the incident...

...Thousands of people from Hadeetha...took part in the burial and funeral ceremonies. One of the victims was Waleed Hameed Alhasan, the Muezzin of the main mosque of Hadeetha, the Haj Abdirraheem Mosque..."

When will the press look into this?

Dec 6, 6:31 PM - Alaa' and Haj Ali

Got the photos developed. Here is Alaa' feeding Haj Ali Salah a cookie at the Al Monzer. I was shocked to find I was in the presence of the man behind the black sheet. I don't know much about him except he was in Abu Ghraib and is now head of an Iraq association for Iraqis tortured in American run prisons. Here is a portrait of him. He has grace, gravity, kindness, humor, and intelligence.

Haj Ali Salah at Abu Graib

Dec 4, 2:06 PM - Alaa's eyes, First Surgery

Alaa's better eye, the left, was operated on Friday, Dec. 2.

The eye surgeon believes the right eye, which we feared was totally blinded, may be saved as well. When the bandages come off the left eye then the right eye will be operated on as well to save it, Inshallah ( God willing). This is the best news yet. After that her abdominal wall can be reconstructed.

At 1 am NOV 26, Alaa', her father Khalid and Alan arrived in Orlando.

They were met by some local press, and then later, after some sleep, interviewed. Alaa' is scheduled to see her first specialist on Wednesday for an evaluation.

It turns out that when Khalid arrived at the family home after the blast, Alaa' was found to be in such bad shape that a doctor on the scene pronouced her beyond saving and turned to the task of saving other wounded children. Khalid couldn't accept this, so he got in the car and drove probably 100 miles through an area where there was some risk of being a target to find a doctor. The doctor he found was only willing to sew her intestines back together to mollify the father. That Alaa' lived actually is a miracle.

Orlando Sentinel Story, Sunday Nov 27

Nov 24, 10:39 PM(CST) - Up Early, Waiting to Depart Amman

I am up early, 6:30a.m. I packed last night but I am still anxious about anything not happening at the correct moment. Jamil has a car for us at 8 a.m. to take us to the airport so we will be there 2 1/2 hours ahead for the 10:45 a.m. departure. I had hoped to see Jamil one last time.

Some of the hotel staff think I am giving him money because he does so much for me and the family but the truth is I forgot to slip him a tip. If I could I would buy him his own hotel. He runs the front desk, cooks, cleans, answers three questions from different guests in English, French and Arabic. Through it all he is always upbeat no matter what the problem or personality type he must deal with. The Al Monzer is Jamil's stage.

My affection for the owner, Mazin, and the staff should not give the impression that this is a grand hotel in the physical sense. The front door could easily be missed in the row of shops that line the Abdali bus plaza. The stairway is dingy, the elevator ancient, the walls need paint. This is the one star hotel of choice for impoverished non governmental organizations. A Christian Peace Maker team arrived from the West Bank as another launched itself toward Baghdad. Each room has four small beds, a bathroom and shower, hot water and clean sheets, add a friendly staff and a fatherly owner and what more does one need, a chandelier?

As I type I can look out the window, over the bus plaza toward the King Abdullah mosque , a Coptic and a Roman Orthodox church. A young Syrian businessman asked me to type a letter to a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer. A German woman asked my advice on her newspaper ad as a language teacher. A befuddled Englishman wanted to do something for Iraq but he wasn't sure what. I will miss the place.

Nov 24, 2005 5:29 AM(CST) - Arrive NY Fri 4 p.m.

Dear All Who Helped,

Barring unforeseen bureaucratic hurdles we take off on Royal Jordanian at 10:45 Friday morning , arrive NY around 4 p.m. and leave for Orlando around 10 p.m. Friday night. Dr. Zeidoon said that would be fast enough to secure Alaa's surgery in time to save her eye. I should be able to leave Orlando the following day. I may get 24 hours of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

I am very happy to be packing.


P.S. Nov 24, 12:31 PM

Khalid and Alaa' straggled in after 15 hours on the road between Amman and the Iraqi border. They left at 4 a.m. to take Zaynab to the border to meet Khalid's brother.

There are hundreds of people waiting to cross and the line moves slowly since the hotel bombings in Amman. Khalid came back across the border on foot so he could avoid being in a vehicle that would be searched. Alaa' is asking for her mother and Khalid looks sad and worn for the first time. He smiled upon seeing the airplane tickets.

The last three days have been particularly harried and worrisome. We finally got the visas and six days is fast for a security clearance so the Jordanian woman at the window in the embassy was sincere in her effort to expedite the process.

My Royal Dutch Airways ticket became a liability since the Netherlands embassy wanted to take three weeks to process Khalid and Alaa's transit visas since they are Iraqis and even injured three year olds might be terrorists. This frustration was compounded with fear by our visit to an eye doctor for Zaynab. Dr. Zeidoon was very kind and did not charge to see Zaynab once he heard how she was injured. He said she would need further surgery but this could not be done until after she gives birth.

Dr. Zeidoon was alarmed when he looked into Alaa's eyes. He said she was already blind in her right eye and that the left one was compromised. She must get to the hospital in Orlando as soon as possible he insisted. If we couldn't leave and reach the Retina Center in Orlando in a very few days then we must have her eye surgery here.

Royal Jordanian is the only airline with a direct flight from Amman to the United States so I called for the next possible flight. Zaynab did not have a separate passport but to have one made for her would require four different documents from Iraq. Obtaining documents from Al Qaim would not be possible. Khalid had to accompany her to the border with his passport in order to get her across the day before we had to leave. There was a chance he would be detained at the border and our brand new tickets would be no good and Alaa would lose precious time.

But now all is well on this Thanksgiving Day and I do give thanks that we will fly to New York and Orlando in the morning.

Nov 22, 6:51 PM - Got Visas!

We got our visas today and I'm working on flights!

If I ever want to see my sister and be in Austin for any part of the Thanksgiving holidays I'd like to book them through to Austin for a couple of days. Also this would be the only chance for Austin and Texas supporters to see Alaa' up close and personal.

Been throwing up all afternoon, some bad falafel sandwich some where. Have to wait on deeper thoughts.

Zaynab had a sonogram and it shows a healthy baby girl. She wants to name it Alia, after the queen of Jordan.

Moving fast now. Have to get a separate Iraqi passport for Zaynab, get her an eye appointment, get a transit visa through the Amsterdam airport for Khalid and Alaa', and make sure Zaynab has a place to stay and a way to have money available for her.

Nov 21, 1:49 AM - Maternity hospital for Zaynab

Zaynab has multiple physical problems. She really needs to be with her husband and daughter in Orlando where she can be seen by the various doctors and she can be looked after. Here in Amman I don't know how we will see to it that she gets to where she needs to go. She can neither read nor write. She cannot even sign her name. We can't leave money in a bank account for her.

This morning we will go to a gynecologist to see how Zaynab's fetus is coming along in light for her having taken a rifle shot in the abdomen during her first month of pregnancy and the medicines she had to take before and after surgery. There is also a piece of metal left in her bladder from the later tank attack. If the fetus is normal then, we are where we were. But if the fetus is abnormal then we may have the further complication of obtaining an abortion for her.

No use crossing that bridge yet but I'd prefer a boring wait for the medical visas to this.

Would the embassy let her into the U.S. for an abortion rather than a birth?

Zaynab was shot by a U.S. sniper during the first month of her pregnancy, 3 or 4 months after the tank attack on her home that injured her and Alaa, and killed her two sons.

She had to have an operation to remove the bullet in her abdomen. She had to take drugs of various types. There is still a piece of metal in her bladder. It seems prudent to have her have a sonogram to see if the fetus is developing properly or not. This will delay going to the eye doctor.

Husayba is the old name for Al Qaim so news reports that military operations have moved to Husayba are nonsense. The one village covers only a square kilometer so every part has been thoroughly shot up and bombed. The U.S. military took over the customs house which was the highest point and from there shot everything that moved: young children, old women and even six donkeys.

One 56 year old woman was wounded and as she tried to crawl to safety she was shot again and was killed. There were many other similar gruesome incidents. A house was bombed at 2 a.m. and 28 of 30 members of an extended family were killed. There have been seven or eight months of this so individual stories would fill a book.

Nov 19, 2:58 AM(CST)   Alaa's Family Take a Break

Khalid, the dad, and Alaa' are in the process. They are coming to the US as soon as his security clearance comes through. I have a lead on care for Zaynab's eyes in Amman through a Doctors Without Borders connection.

Got some good sleep at last so now I'll send pics from the children's amusement park.

I was falling down tired yesterday but Jamil coaxed me into going to the kids park "just for a few minutes". Not a poor persons amusement park, 1/2 dinar a ride is 75 cents, more than your average war refugee could spend but here I am so ride we did.

Alaa was amazed by the colorful lights and carousel animals. This was an opportunity to be with other children that she does not often have. Khalid and Zaynab were happy to see their child have some fun. The park is near a large traffic circle surrounded by shops of all kinds and plenty of street vendors as well. The rides were industrial strength, made in Germany. Alaa is almost three so we stayed with the slow, safe rides.

After the amusement park we strolled the avenue packed with people shopping, talking, eating, people watchings. We stopped for swarma sandwiches. Khalid is a friendly person and struck up many conversations. Alaa was taken by a small toy with flashing lights a street vendor displayed so we stopped and bought it for her, a whole dinar. 24 hours later she is still playing with it, a good investment.

Once back at the hotel Khalid wanted everyone to see the pictures so I downloaded them to the computer and set up a "slide show". Khalid watched the pictures go by over and over again until he was too tired to watch and had to go to sleep. All of this is too good to be true after what they have suffered. The photographs confirmed the reality and he wanted to relive the moment again and again.

Nov 17, 4:24 PM(CST) Zaynab's Tears

Zaynab burst into tears as soon as she left the embassy. I was worried she would be run over in the intense Amman traffic because she was so stunned she was not paying attention, maybe didn't care if she was run over. She was blown up, shot, had two sons killed, her daughter full of shrapnel, her home destroyed, other close relatives injured and killed and now her medical care in America has been suddenly taken away.

She was so looking forward to having her good eye made better and her blinded eye fitted for a prosthetic eye. She was wiped out by the bad news of being denied over being pregnant.

Happy mother's day. She was sitting, listlessly, in the hotel lobby. I went over to her and had Jamil tell her that Cole and I would do whatever it takes to find medical treatment for her in Amman if she can't go to America. She said that was the most important thing for her and she seemed to gain a bit of strength.
We must make that happen.

At the embassy, the head of the section had called me over and asked me questions about how the project is funded, who was I since I was not Cole Miller, questions about the organizational sponsors, who would accompany Khalid and Alaa, and then let me in on the news since I wasn't allowed to be with them during the interview and do not understand Arabic in any case.

During the interview Khalid was asked some routine questions about how many children he has. He answered that besides Alaa he has another daughter who is in Baghdad being taken care of by relatives. He went on to say that his two sons were killed in the same tank attack that harmed Alaa and his wife.

The next question was, "And is your wife pregnant?", to which he answered,"Yes, she is."
"How many months pregnant?"
"Three months", he truthfully replied. That was it, end of the journey for Zaynab.

The head of the section was sympathetic and promised to move the security check along as fast as it could go so Alaa could finally have something done for her eyes before irreparable damage sets in.

Every person in line for a visa had a compelling story, people separated from their loved ones by war and enforced economic inequalities desperately trying to connect. Amman is a Casablanca place. Everyone is aware they are in a crystal palace. The first rocks have been thrown.

Oliphant's play "Little Murders" was precocious, people in a big city having to put up with random sniping all the time as a way of life. Yes, like going for glasses plus being shot at and mugged, having ones family held for ransom and raising the money while knowing they are probably dead. Crazy.

Nov 16, 1:47 AM - Comparing Iraqi, American Embassies

Reflections on the sights I took in while making the several trips necessary to obtain an interview date for Alaa' and family:

The U.S. embassy is in a rich, spacious section on the edge of town. There is not a another building close to it. It is built like a large prison and access to it is like gaining entrance to a Texas prison. Each person goes through two searches to get inside and your cell phone is kept in a drawer to be retrieved upon exiting.

Inside everything is subdued, no smoking, not much talking, people sit in resignation. When one talks to an official it is through very thick bullet proof glass, like visiting a death row prisoner but in this case the prisoner, petitioner, is on the outside trying to get in. There is a double wide street in front of the embassy but only one lane is used. There is a black tank-like vehicle with a large caliber machine gun pointed at the street near the entrance. A smaller , faster truck sits under a tarp with a M60 machine gun mounted on the top of the cab. There is no way to drive directly at the entrance and the actual building is set back behind a serious wall. I doubt anyone would or could attack the place.

The Iraqi embassy is a contrast.

It is in a commercial and apartment area in town. One may walk right up to the door and knock on it. A friendly man will open the door and you go through a perfunctory weapons check. There are some bored guards but I don't think there are bullets in their weapons. Inside it has the air of a market with clusters of people talking animatedly, lines formed in several directions, lots of smoking, rich business types working their cell phones, families, kids playing in the open courtyard.

I was able to stay with Khalid all the way up the stairs into the most private areas with no questions asked of me. Khalid was able to speak with the Iraqi officials as one human to another and not have to act like he was a grateful child. These obviously stressed out, over worked officials were able to cut corners and work things out. A chaotic but refreshing experience.

Nov 15, 2:42 PM(CST) - Problematic Passports, Haj Ali Shalalc

Part of the mystery of what was supposed to be wrong with the passports has been solved. I was never able to open the message the consul in charge of non-immigrant visas sent to Senator Kennedy's office which may have helped me. But, forging ahead this is what I discovered: Emails to the U.S. embassy were unanswered. Phone calls to the embassy were looped into prerecorded messages but never to a person who would listen and answer a question.

I went to the embassy this morning during American citizen receiving hours, got number 60 and was seen quickly. The person I spoke with told me Zaynab and Alaa would probably receive their medical visas right away. Khalid, the father, would receive a visa but not permission to leave for the U.S. until he was cleared by a security check that could take two weeks to a month. My heart sank at hearing that.

But it explained Dan Goodspeed's reservation about having Alaa on Khalid's passport rather than having a separate passport for Zaynab with Alaa on hers. They could leave almost immediately. I discussed this with the family and they want to stay together.

The passport they have should work since many Jordanian and Iraqi families regularly travel with one family passport document. The security check is a flexible procedure. If memory serves me, Abdulamier, in Kuwait, was passed through the security check process in a few days, maybe three. There is not much to check. I see a lot of discretion on the part of officials in the embassy and/or State Department.

Haj Ali Shalal

Jamil introduced me to Haj Ali Shalal, the person under the black sheet, holding the electrical wires as he stood on the box in the iconic photograph from Abu Ghraib prison.

He is now the president of Victims of American Occupation Prisons Association. His experience of being subjected to the cruelest of torture did not crush his spirit. His left hand was crushed and he bears many scars. Haj Ali stands six feet tall with thick steel and black hair. His gravity was enhanced by the full length navy blue overcoat he wore against the cool night air.

Alaa' fed him a cookie as he held her in his arms. He smiled often but his soft dark eyes riveted and enveloped everything they fell upon. He told me the U.S. operates seventy six prisons in Iraq. The Iraqi government runs thirty six normal prisons, he did not explain the other than normal. Political parties and factions in Iraq have two hundred prisons of their own. Haj Ali had another appointment but gave me two CDs of photographs and interviews of prisoners and promised to return for a longer discussion.


Had to go to sleep for a few hours but I'm back on track, 12:53 p.m. in Amman and 4:53 p.m. in Austin.

I have to admit their passport was a problem. Existentially it is fine, there are three human beings and they are accurately represented, but from a bean counters perspective the thing lacks functionality, an American bean counter that is.

The usual culture clash over the importance of the form the name takes and how that is compounded by translating from one language that has a radically different form from the other. Chinese must be even more difficult. So here we are moving from Arabic language and culture to Western European/American language and culture. The human beings remain the same only the pigeon holes change shape.

Being an existential guy I could not care less about pigeon holes but I realize the functional necessity of figuring out how to make the pigeon holes interface. See, I'm awake now and can talk this way.

I made it through the day by maintaining my objective distance within this comedy of errors. Another learning experience, oh my, it was. So now I must contact Dan Goodspeed at the embassy to see if there are any remaining problems with their physical passport so that when we go in for the interview on Thursday we can walk out with the medical visa, otherwise we lose another three days.

Nothing moves Friday through Sunday, it seems. One day off for each monotheism, one supposes. The cultural name deal reminds me of Sweden where the child takes the fathers first name as the last name so there gets to be a lot of John Johnson's. In Arabic countries the child has a first name and then the middle name is the fathers name and the last name is the grandfathers. This is why even married women have "last" names that differ from the husband's. I think I finally have it down. Makes prefect sense within the culture. Americans, being the ethnocentric lot they are, think that if something is different then there is something wrong with it. This "one way street" demand for cultural uniformity doesn't make us any friends.

Onward to the U.S. embassy web site!


I am too tired for colorful detail so here is the schedule of todays events. We went to the U.S. embassy before 9a.m.. We were told we couldn't do anything until $100 was deposited in the Amman Cairo Bank for each person seeking a medical visa.

We went to the Amman Cairo Bank and the teller said he couldn't accept the money because Zaynab's name was not completely spelled out but only signed Zaynab M.A. in English on her part of the passport.

We went to the Iraqi embassy and spent an hour getting someone to change the name to Zaynab Mohammed Assi.

We went back to the Amman Cairo Bank and the teller said he did not notice that Alaa also didn't have her name completely spelled out .

We went back to the Iraqi embassy and had her name spelled out on the passport.

We went back to the U.S. embassy and waited in a long line for an hour. I almost gave up but we perservered and obtained some forms to fill out and an interview date of November 17th. I will call Daniel Goodspeed tomorrow morning and see if we can speed things up. The 17th is Thursday so we have to know that we will actually get the visa then because the embassy has a permanent three day weekend, I am told, so no business transacted until the following Monday.

I don't want any more surprises if they can be avoided. We can't book a return flight until we have some idea when we are leaving. In Kuwait the U.S. embassy took the cash right there and we filled out the forms on the premises. The previous Iraqi administration in Basra did a better job of producing a passport.

Nov 13, 2005 5:31 PM TO THE EMBASSY, 9 AM

Khalid, Zaynab, and Alaa' have new passport pictures for their medical visas.

We went around the corner to Waleem's Kodak Studio for some state of the art digital photos since I don't have a way to print the ones I took. Zaynab didn't like showing her ears for the photograph but she did. Alaa was coy for awhile but warmed up to the camera eye. Khalid was straight forward as usual, a handsome young man.

They are eager to get medical attention for their child and afraid of being lost in the huge country of America. Through an Arabic journalist I was able to assure them that they would never be alone in America. Some member of our group would be there for them at all times. The doctor in Orlando is Arabic. The Ronald McDonald House is a nice hotel for children with medical problems, I explained.

The weather will be like Amman, cool but not bitter cold. There will be no snow in Houston or Orlando, I assured them. I warned them that there are huge lines for immigration in Houston that take four hours to get through. What I didn't say is that it took Cole and me five weeks to get Asraa and her dad the medical visas in Kuwait. Here we have every document in hand. Communication is quick. Nothing but having been burned in Kuwait is a cause for worry. Amman is not Kuwait City, there should not be any difficulty here. In Kuwait City we has five layers of bureaucracy to deal with but here we only have the American embassy.

Inshallah, God willing, we will walk in at 9 a.m. and walk out with our medical visas by noon or at least the assurance that the visas are only a day or two away. I'm ready to book the return flights.


Time wise I'm 8 hours ahead rotating on the axis so it is 1:04 a.m. rather than 5:05 p.m. in Austin (CST.)

I walked down several dark streets to find a falafel and swarma (roasted chicken on a spit for sandwiches) restaurant. I never thought for a moment anyone would do more than wave to me. Jordanians are very friendly. There is no street crime to speak of. As bad as they were, the hotel explosions were very isolated events. This kind of takes away the intrepid reporter in danger romance but only the truth has documentary value. I have a keen dangermeter and I'll report if the needle moves. My only fear is of a bureaucratic obstacle course and I hope that is unfounded.

Nov 12, 2005 12:05 PM ABDALI PLAZA

Here is a sharper leg photo of Alaa'. Like a shotgun blast to her little legs. From her scalp to her toes there is not a square inch without a shrapnel scar.

Not much internet action on a Saturday morning in the U.S.. 8:48 p.m. here as it is 12:48 p.m. there. I'll walk around Abdali Plaza in search of falafel.

More press, with more gruesome detail, has been generated by three suicide bombers in Amman than has been generated by seven months of the concentrated bombing of Anbar Province by thousands of U.S. military personnel. Makes one wonder about the sincerity of the self styled "objective press". The "man bites dog phenomenon" at work, I'm sure. Killing Iraqis has become too routine to warrant much press. It only warranted the most shallow rationale in the first place.

Zaynab (Zainab) is 25 and the mother of Alaa'. Her eye was blinded by the same tank shell, May 3, 2005. Her other eye is harmed but she has some sight in it. She also needs eye surgery. Four months after the tank shell attack she was shot in the abdomen. She was in a car with her father on the way to or from a hospital when the car was fired upon by a U.S. military sniper. She knows of no reason why the car was fired upon.

Khalid, the father, 27, escaped physical injury because he was at work (he is a carpenter) when the U.S. tank round struck his home, May 3, 2005. their two boys, 4 and 5, were killed in the blast. Three of his brother's sons were killed. Eight others were injured in the house. They were having a party. From what I have read the city of Al Qaim, near the Syrian border and next to the Euphrates River, was randomly shelled and bombed for seven months. In any case these people need medical care and we have lined it up for them. all we need is the medical visa to the U.S.

D'Ann was crying on the cell phone as I was taking off for Amman. She had just heard about the hotel bombings. All is quiet at the moment.

Alaa' was also hit in the abdomen with larger shrapnel that severed some of her small intestines. When the intestines were put back together her abdomen was not well sutured so she has a large hernia.

Nov 7, 2005 10:03 PM - FAMILY NOW IN AMMAN

I'm almost gone. I hope this goes smoothly. I can send pictures, progress updates.

A little something I sent to a reporter at the Austin Chronicle:

Finally, I am confirmed on a flight to Amman via Amsterdam, this Wednesday at 5p.m.. The Iraqi family is in Amman waiting on my arrival to begin the medical visa request process.

The NYTimes is running military press releases thinly disguised as news articles. There was one Sunday and another today about the "major offensive on the Iraq /Syrian border". I noticed some of the "reporting" is being done from hotel rooms in Baghdad.

The bombing of Al Qaim, in the Anbar province, gave notice to the people in Husayba to clear out. Looks like a "free fire zone" to me. I'll not be going there either. I'm just picking up the pieces of harmed, if not ruined, lives. Too much like Vietnam where the people we were supposed to be helping were all thought of as the enemy.

I am heartened to know that I am the point man for the Raging Grannies, the Seattle First Baptist Church, Planet K (paid for my ticket), several individuals and I don't know who all Cole Miller received money from for the Iraqi family's plane ticket. Then there are the people in Orlando, the doctor and the clinic. There is a web of people who don't know each other but they care, they share a vision, they don't want people harmed in our names and they are willing to do something for those that are harmed. For anyone who says this is too small an effort, only symbolic, I ask them to help make it a larger effort.

I tried not to go. Five weeks in Kuwait trying to get Asraa out fried my brain, hurt my heart. I asked if there was anyone else but among those I know there was no one else. I'd be happy to train others as I was trained by Kathy Kelly and Voices in the Wilderness. There are a couple of Iraq Vets who may go along next time and learn the process.

Bert Sacks, of Voices in the Wilderness, (and who lives in Seattle) is under a $20,000 fine for taking medicine to sick Iraqi children from 1996 to 2003. He violated the economic sanctions as he lived up to the Geneva Convention. What are people who love children to do? Voices in the Wilderness doesn't have $20,000 so they had to disband and regroup under another name. Bert is fighting the fine in court.


I am flying solo. Cole Miller has handled the paper work and contacted the same legislative help (as in the effort to help Asraa ): Kennedy, Boxer, McDermott, and Kucinich. I need to contact Doggett.

The U.S. embassy has been alerted and is supposed to be on board to expedite the medical visa. My fondest hope is that we can get through the red tape in a week.

Alaa, a girl of 3 years, was struck in the eye with small shrapnel. Her eye could be saved if the surgery is done quickly here in the U.S. In a separate incident her mother, 25 years old, was blinded by shrapnel. I do not know if the mother's eyes can be saved but they will try to help in Orlando.

The father, Khalid Abd ,27, will accompany his wife and daughter. They live in Al Qaim, in western Iraq, which has been an area of intense conflict.

An acquaintance of Cole Miller's, Ashley Severance, a 22-year-old law student from Melbourne, Florida, has enlisted the aid of the Central Florida Retina Center and the University of South Florida College of Medicine. Senators Boxer, Kennedy, and Congressmen Kucinich and Mc Dermott have already sent letters to the U.S. embassy in Amman , Jordan. The embassy staff has indicated they will expedite the medical visas as soon as I arrive.

We also have seven year old Abdul Ismaeel who has lost his left eye and needs plastic surgery to reconstruct the left side of his face. Abdul and his parents have not been able to travel to Amman due the the continuing fighting around Falluja but we hope to bring them in the near future.

We are working with a very brave young Iraqi woman who shuttles back and forth from Amman to clinics in western Iraq bringing medical supplies to outlying clinics in Iraq. When she has Alaa and her parents in Baghdad, ready to travel to Amman, then I will fly to Amman and help them through the process and accompany them to the hospital in Orlando.

I'm really broke so two people, Bruce Barrick and Frances Joseph, have volunteered to help raise money for me. The Ragging Grannies in Seattle have raised $3,200 for this effort. Bert Sacks helped with that. Cole has raised some money. The plane tickets are covered and some ground expenses.

Oct 20 06:45:29 PM PST   From: Cole Miller   To: Alan Pogue

Subject: Background

I started looking for medical reports, and tried many blind alleys. You remember what happened in Kuwait [Save the Children wouldn't give us information on war injured children, then the Iraqi doctors wouldn't either, all for political reasons]. Then Jamil [ manager at the Al Monzer Hotel in Amman] put me in touch with an Iraqi doctor. This doctor would forward medical reports of war injured children . I had them reviewed by a doctor to determine needs.

Ashley Severance visited the site several months ago, and sent me an email. We talked many times. I saw she was serious and dedicated. And smart. I connected her with Alaa's medical reports. She arranged the care, an amazing feat in Orlando. Simple, really. This is just what I wanted to have happen. I just got this ten minutes ago from a beautiful young student at Stanford who I met at an event while Asraa was here:

HI COLE!!!!!! I hope all is well- I am going to take you up on the offer- I really really want to bring a child over, and Stanford MSAN is willing to sponsor/raise money for it....where do I start??
     - Ahlia

An important element: Ashley has a daughter exactly Alaa's age.

Give my love to Alaa' and family, will you? I look forward to meeting them in Orlando -- come hell or high water.

     - Cole