Saving Jessica Lynch#039;s rescuers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2003

Two lawmakers have proposed one way of rewarding the 32-year-old lawyer we know only as Mohammed who was responsible for Pfc. Jessica Lynch's rescue: Bring him and his family to the United States to start a new life - if that's what they want. It seems only fitting.

Mohammed was visiting his wife, a nurse, at Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah when he saw a guard striking a helpless woman, who, he found out, was an American POW.

Mohammed was affronted by this inhumane act and set off in search of U.S. forces. After a long and dangerous six-mile walk he encountered Marines. "I have important information about woman soldier in hospital," he said. Indeed he did.

The Marines sent him back to the hospital twice more where he and his wife drew maps that would direct Lynch's special operations troops to her room. The rescue worked flawlessly, and Lynch, 19, is now back in Washington, recovering from multiple fractures.

Had Mohammed and his wife been caught by the paramilitary guarding Lynch the reprisals would have been savage. What the couple did was not only an act of great humanity but one of considerable courage. And one hopes that now they're safe from harm.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., both Judiciary Committee members, have urged Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to offer Mohammed and his family the opportunity to settle in the United States.

Ridge has this authority under a 2002 law granting refugee status to anyone from the Mideast who delivers an American POW to U.S. custody. The law was intended to aid the search for Michael Speicher, a Navy pilot shot down in the first Persian Gulf War and still missing.

Mohammed and his wife sound like people we'd be proud to call fellow citizens, but if they want to stay in Iraq to help rebuild their homeland that's understandable.

In the general euphoria over the freeing of seven other POWs and the winding down of the war, what one Iraqi man and his wife accomplished should not be eclipsed. They should be honored and rewarded and welcomed here any time.

- The Birmingham