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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

An American in Iraq

Aired July 15, 2003 - 20:22   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: So, what do the Iraqi people think of the Americans in their country? Despite the almost daily reports of anti-U.S. violence, some Americans are very welcome there, indeed.
Jane Arraf has the story of a 26-year-old woman who is accomplishing small miracles one person at a time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Nothing can compensate for losing your entire family, but Marla Ruzicka is trying to help ease the pain. Najia Muhammad Brisen (ph) has only her granddaughter. Six other family members were killed instantly when their car was hit in a U.S. airstrike April 5; 3-month-old Harrah (ph) was injured, her 3-year-old sister badly burned.

MARLA RUZICKA, CAMPAIGN FOR INNOCENT VICTIMS IN CONFLICT: I went to the hospital and I talked to the troops outside the hospital. And I said, this little girl is going to die if you don't get her airlifted out. So we got Darha (ph) airlifted to a field hospital, where she lived, but died a week later from pneumonia.

ARRAF: The organization Ruzicka founded is helping Najia and the baby get by. Baghdad isn't the easiest for a 26-year-old from San Francisco, but Ruzicka is used to worse, like Afghanistan. There, through sheer force of will, she founded CIVIC, the Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflict, to help civilians who lose family and property in U.S. attacks.

RUZICKA: Well, it was during the Tora Bora offensive. I was in a hospital in Jalalabad. And a woman who had lost everything, she lost both of her eyes, both of her arms, legs were broken, her whole family was just wiped out -- and then, when they turned her over and literally blood spilled out of her, she said, what are you going to do to help us? And I thought, well, naturally, the U.S. should have a fund to help people that get hurt.

ARRAF: In large part thanks to Ruzicka, it does. She convinced U.S. lawmakers to appropriate money which will eventually help compensate victims of U.S. military campaigns. Ruzicka also tries to enlist the military's help.

RUZICKA: Hello, Major Doyle (ph), I just want to say, thank you so much yesterday for meeting with us.

ARRAF: The 150 Iraqi volunteers she organized are compiling data on how many Iraqis were killed or hurt. So far, they have documented more than 1,300 cases. At this hospital near makeshift graves dug during the war, she finds another case. This man lost his two children and his house in the bombing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah (ph) and Debi (ph).

RUZICKA: And any other children? Do you have any...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

RUZICKA: I'm very sorry. I don't know what it's like to lose a child, but it pains me to know.

ARRAF: Ruzicka promises to try to get help to rebuild his house. The message she wants him to hear, Americans care that Iraqis have been hurt.

Jane Arraf, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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