IRAQ: Canceling Baghdad…

If Marla Ruzicka had penned her own obituary, she would have written about Faiz Ali Salim, her 43-year-old Iraqi driver and aide in documenting the impact of the US-led invasion on Iraqi civilians. While US troops were bombing, Marla was bonding, literally canvassing door-to-door in Baghdadi neighborhoods in order to count the number of civilian casualties. The 28-year-old northern Californian and Faiz were killed by a suicide bomber on the notoriously dangerous Baghdad airport road in April 2005. In her quest to secure funds for families who’d lost innocent loved ones, Marla had befriended scores of reporters, who generously and poignantly eulogized her infectious spirit, her relentless determination to help war victims and her gift at salsa dancing. Faiz’s death was mentioned as an after-thought; cialis generic 2.5 mg Marla would have told his story instead. He left behind his wife and 2-month old baby. Marla and I shared a suite during our first trip to Iraq, just 5 weeks before the US-led invasion. I didn’t know her well, she seemed deep in her own world as if she were trying to place herself in it. Struggling with a recent romantic break-up, recovering from grueling work she had just experienced in Afghanistan, and, like cialis for sale cheap all of us on that trip, reconciling our helplessness with the theoretical power our democracy was perceived to bestow on us, she was quiet and didn’t invite intrusion. [To read the blog I posted back then on my very old web site, visit: http://www.douglasdrenkow.com/communitycampaigns/MarlaRuzicka.htm.] Over the years, I’ve wondered what Marla’s conversations were like with Faiz. Surely, she would have been enchanted by his newborn, she gravitated to children. Did they ever talk about how dangerous their work was? Reporters wrote about Marla’s fearlessness. Did Marla ever wonder if her presence as an American put Faiz in danger? Did he shrug off that possibility in favor of helping this dynamic American secure compensation for his injured countrymen? These questions knock about my brain right now. For the past week, Abdullah and I have been on a roller coaster made more frustrating by communication snafus. One minute he’s expressing concerns about my visit – I’m not over the counter viagra sure what he is concerned about: my safety, his responsibility for my safety, or his safety – the next minute he’s lining

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up meetings with my new translator and driver. My new translator is a 21-year-old who recently worked in the Green Zone. Born in 1991, the year of the first Gulf War, Mustafa has known nothing but recovering from war, preparing for war and enduring war. He is excited to work with me. Until this weekend, when a wave of coordinated car bombs shattered Eid celebrations and killed 60 – 91 people.* It’s akin to Al Qaida setting off coordinated bombs in Boston on Thanksgiving. [*As I googled to confirm these figures, casualty numbers still unconfirmed, I learned another 2 bombs went off in cafes in Baghdad an hour ago, killing another 21 people, according to initial reports.] New checkpoints. New overthecounterviagra-best.com roadblocks. New lines, new walls, new fears. Mustafa wrote that there’s a new requirement: I must get some sort of written permission from the Iraqi government to conduct interviews. He wants me to get this paper to protect him, the driver and Abdullah so that soldiers stopping us at checkpoints don’t think I’m being kidnapped by 3 Iraqi men. It could take cialis viagra comparison chart a month to get this approval, and my Iraqi visa is good for only a month. Furthermore, getting this approval means sending these men’s names to the government. Abdullah, a Sunni, is understandably suspicious of being registered with the predominantly Shiite government as having helped an American. Abdullah’s hushed voice on the cellphone today is brittle, suspicious and cryptic. His uncharacteristically long email last night in a language that is not his own is suddenly panicky, almost desperate. “Our names will go to the [government] ministry and militias then after you’re back (if you are back safe), who will generic cialis canada online be sure that we will be safe? Now in Iraq no one trusts even his brother, so how can I trust the driver or translator or even the staff of the hotel?” This proud man once defied my concerns about getting blacklisted if he were seen with me –

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a Westerner – by crossing his arms and declaring, “I am a free man.” I can still hear his indignation, now I hear his defeat. Then, the driver demanded more money

– double, in fact, what anyone else would get. My Iraqi contact in Philadelphia advised I postpone, my friend Sarmad in Hillah (who is interviewed on my blog about water treatment quality) was more blunt: “Don’t come.” The 29-year-old new father wrote me tonight: “Kelly, we have no life. We are all dead.” # # # # #