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Remembering a friend killed in Iraq, Marla Ruzicka

by friends of Marla
On Saturday April 16, our colleague and friend, 27-year-old Marla Ruzicka of Lakeport, California, was killed when a car bomb exploded on the streets of Baghdad. We still don’t know the exact details of her death, which makes it all that much harder to deal with the utter shock of losing this bright, shining light whose work focused on trying to bring some compassion into the middle of a war zone.

Marla was working for a humanitarian organization she founded called CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), which documents cases of innocent civilians hurt by war. Marla and numerous other volunteers would go door-to-door interviewing families who had lost loved ones or had their property destroyed by the fighting. She would then take this information back to Washington and lobby for reparations for these families.
more info:
Dear Friends of Marla and CIVIC,

It is with deep sadness and regret that I am writing to inform you that Marla died on Saturday at the age of 28 in a suicide bomb attack. Faiz, her Iraqi partner, was also killed.

It is tragically ironic that two beautiful people who devoted their lives to helping innocent victims of war have now become them.

The attack occurred on the Baghdad Airport road as she traveled to visit an Iraqi child injured by a bomb, part of her daily work of identifying and supporting innocent victims of this war.

Only a few hours before her death, Marla sent me this photo of Harah. She was 3 months old when she was thrown from a vehicle just before it was destroyed by a U.S. rocket attack. Her entire family was killed. Hers just one example of the hundreds of lives Marla and Faiz touched with their heroic work.

Their deaths are profound losses not only for their family and friends, but for the entire world. There are precious few who have the courage to stand up and demand justice for all the victims of conflict wherever they may be. This troubled world cannot afford to lose people like them.

Marla overflowed with passion and had an incredible sense of obligation to help those less fortunate. She worked tirelessly to push the US military on its responsibility to keep a proper accounting of the consequences of military action on civilians in Iraq.

While her incredible passion and courage never faded, she was often torn between concern for her personal safety and a fervent desire to be in the field. She recently moved to New York City and was eager to establish a base after spending so many years living out of her suitcase and on the couches of friends, including mine.

While she was serious about her work, Marla never forgot to have fun and was always the life of the party. She had an incredible knack for making friends -- we couldn’t walk a block in DC without her running into people she knew. I, along with human rights workers, journalists and many others have been bolstered by her spirit and drive.

It is crucial that Marla and Faiz be commemorated and that their work continue. I can assure you, we will continue to shine a spotlight on innocent victims of war and ensure that their crucial work is continued.

Thank you all for your support.

with love and peace,
April Pedersen
april [at]

Click here to read our 2005 goals and please make a donation to help us continue Marla's work.

More information will be available in the coming hours.

Christian Science Monitor Article
CNN article
Al Jazeera article
Other articles
by more
Marla Ruzicka deserves the presidential medal of freedom. Unlike Paul Wolfowitz or George Tenet, she shouldn't get it for botching the job in Iraq. No, she ought to receive it for trying damn hard to make America live up to its ideals in Iraq and elsewhere. But the medal would have to be awarded posthumously--because on Saturday, Marla, an irrepressible 28-year-old from California, was killed by a bomb when a suicide bomber, who was apparently trying to strike a US convoy on the highway to Baghdad International Airport, pulled up alongside her car pulled and detonated the explosives. Faiz Ali Salaam, her 43-year-old associate and the father of a two-month-old daughter, was also killed.

I met Marla several years ago. During the early months of the (still unfinished) war in Afghanistan, I became obsessed with the idea of providing compensation for the civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan as the result of the US military action. Few others--in the media, on Capitol Hill, in the foreign policy community--shared my concern, which rose from both a humanitarian sentiment and a sense of national self-interest. If the United States was killing and maiming civilians in Afghanistan to protect ourselves--even if inadvertently--it seemed to me Washington should do whatever it could not to piss off further the people in Afghanistan (and other countries) by ignoring the plight of the noncombatants. Soon after writing about this, I was contacted by Marla. She had been in Kabul, where she had conducted surveys to assess the extent of civilian casualties, and she was now in Washington pressing for US assistance to the families harmed. She had been doing the hard--and dangerous--on-the-ground work.

I was much impressed by her, as were others in Washington. She was a passionate, facts-driven advocate who cared about the individual lives of victims so often kept out of our collective conscience by being described as "collateral damage." No, she urged, they count, too. As much as our fallen neighbors struck down on September 11. And she meant that quite literally. She argued that these people ought to be counted; their deaths should be recorded by someone, especially since the Bush administration showed a particular disinterest in mounting such calculations or even acknowledging the damage done to civilians. Marla wanted to chronicle the truth and aid the afflicted. She was brave. She was concerned. She was a hero.

During one of our conversations after the major fighting was done in Afghanistan, we discussed her future. She was not finished with her Afghanistan work, but she sensed there was a bigger issue afoot: the general attitude toward civilian victims of war. She was right. We both saw that a war in Iraq was on its way. There will be antiwar activists raising hell, I told her, and Marla easily could be one of their leaders. But she had identified and filled a crucial need overlooked by so many others in the antiwar movement. She had made herself indispensable to the cause of social justice, and she had, in a way, transcended the typical ideological and policy disputes. I encouraged her to continue and expand her efforts.

Marla did engage in organizing against the war in Iraq, but once Bush launched the invasion, she created a small, nonprofit outfit called the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC). Shortly after the invasion, she quickly organized a team of 160 Iraqis to conduct a survey. These researchers interviewed thousands and documented nearly 2,000 civilian deaths from the start of the invasion to May 1, 2003--the day Bush prematurely declared the end of major military operations in Iraq. "The purpose of the survey is not to quantify the total humanitarian impact of the war in Iraq, but rather to identify victims and families of those in need of recognition and assistance," CIVIC later noted. "... Each death, injury and house that was destroyed represents a story and a need." After her death, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, told the Associated Press that it had been Ruzicka's idea to create a special fund in last year's multibillion-dollar foreign aid bill to help Iraqis whose businesses had been damaged by US bombs.

The innocent casualties of war were too real for Marla. In November 2003, she sent an email to Alternet in which she described one small tragedy in Iraq:


As terrorists wreak havoc on life in Baghdad, innocent families are getting caught in the crossfire.

On the 24th of October, former teacher Mohammad Kadhum Mansoor, 59, and his wife, Hamdia Radhi Kadhum, 45, were traveling with their three daughters -- Beraa, 21, Fatima, 8, and Ayat, 5 years old -- when they were tragically run over by an American tank.

A small grenade was thrown at the tank, causing it to loose control and veer onto the highway, over the family's small Volkswagen. Mohammad and Hamdia were killed instantly, orphaning the three girls in the backseat. The girls survived, but with broken and fractured bodies. We are not sure of Ayat's fate; her backbone is broken.

CIVIC staff member Faiz Al Salaam monitors the girls' condition each day. Nobody in the military or the U.S. Army has visited them, nor has anyone offered to help this very poor family.

The only assistance from U.S. forces in Iraq is via the neighborhood Central Military Operations Center (CMOC). If the girls can get to their offices, their case will be filed and heard via a town council. This offers little hope for these girls, who are faced with immediate needs and a broken future.

The U.S. needs to have a clear procedure to respond to cases like Ayat's. CIVIC is working to try to establish such a system of assistance, but for now, the very least we can do to show our sympathy is to help Ayat and her sisters ourselves.

Thank you, and let's hope and pray for a peaceful Iraq.


The task that Marla had assumed for herself was to make America better--even when she disagreed with the government. She opposed the war in Iraq. But once the United States began killing people in Iraq, she wanted this mission conducted with true concern for those errantly harmed. In December 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle published an accurate profile of her. It noted:

Marla Ruzicka's life is driven by numbers. The numbers of Iraqi civilians dead, the numbers of the wounded. How many of their homes have been destroyed?

As founder of CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), Ruzicka works 15-hour days in the thick of the war zone, going door to door to assess the harm done to innocent Iraqis caught in the line of fire. Ruzicka then uses that information to lobby the U.S. government for assistance....

While the Defense Department keeps official records of U.S. troops killed and wounded (440 and 2,470 as of Dec. 1), no one has stepped forward to do the same for Iraqi civilians but Ruzicka, the self-appointed watchdog of civilians harmed in recent Middle East conflicts....

An unofficial survey she undertook in Afghanistan confirmed 824 dead. Returning to the United States, she lobbied Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., to insert language in an appropriations bill that would provide $3.75 million to help victims. In July, the money started trickling in to the devastated country....

"Marla is an exceptionally determined, energetic and brave young woman who has traveled to the front lines to focus attention on an issue that too often gets ignored," he said. "Civilians bear the brunt of the suffering in wars today, but there is no policy to help them. Marla and her organization have helped put a human face on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by identifying the victims and their needs, and by lobbying for assistance."

...Would she ever consider doing something a little ... safer?

"To have a job where you can make things better for people? That's a blessing," she said. "Why would I do anything else?"

Author Peter Bergen, a friend of hers, noted yesterday,

One really interesting thing is that Marla was very opposed to the Iraq war before it began, but once the war started I never heard her express any opinion about the war itself. Once the war started she just wanted to help people who were hurt, not engage in a debate about the merits of the war. Beneath her Californian happy-go-luck demeanor Marla was a very hardheaded realist about what needed to be done. The war happened. People were hurt. She wanted to help them. And an example of her realistic approach is how she worked in Afghanistan and Iraq compensating the families who died. Marla had no patience for people who demonstrated against the war, and did nothing else.

Marla told one interviewer, "My long-term goal is to get a desk at the State Department that looks at civilian casualties." It seems like that would be a natural. Shouldn't a nation keep track of and be concerned about the damage done to civilians when it engages in military actions? Yet what a dream that was--and remains.

There will be memorials for Marla Ruzicka. Senators Patrick Leahy and Barbara Boxer have said they will offer tributes to her on the Senate floor. Last night after I heard the news of her death, I looked in on my two daughters--age four and five-and-a-half. Thinking of Marla's parents, Nancy and Clifford Ruzicka, I imagined how proud I will be if my children grow up to be women who have the sort of strength and conviction Marla possessed. And how scared I will be.

CIVIC was the brainchild of one helluva woman. But the idea, the simple idea--that we care about the innocent people killed in our name--was much larger than one person. Or it should be. Unlike the leaders of the US government, Marla knew that America--for humanitarian and security reasons--had an obligation to help noncombatants injured by US forces. Marla deserved many more years. And the people she helped and tried to help deserved more assistance from this idealistic American.

She will, of course, not be receiving the Medal of Freedom from a president who leads an administration that has said it does not bother to collect data on civilians killed or injured by its military and that has been tremendously slow to compensate the innocent Afghan and Iraqi civilians who have lost loved ones, limbs, homes and businesses due to US military actions. In fact, according to an article in The Washington Post, Marla had "stayed in Baghdad longer than she had planned because she believed she had found the key to establishing that the U.S. military kept records of its civilian victims, despite its official statements otherwise, colleagues said."

In the years I have written this column I don't think I have ever asked a reader to make a donation to an organization. But please consider contributing to CIVIC. You can do so by clicking here. It won't be just for Marla. It will be for the people she lived and died for--and for a principle that all Americans ought to consider seriously: when we fight a war, we are responsible for the triumphs and for the costs.
Add Your Comments

Comments (Hide Comments)
by DLi
Yes, this is yet another sad episode in the continuing holocaust that is Iraq. Of course, that has been happening to over 100,000 Iraqi civilians since the illegal Invasion of 2003(AND more than 500,000 since the U.S.-imposed economic sanctions in the 1990s). And our taxes--thanks to a spineless Congress--continue to pay for maintaining the killing fields...

Concerned citizens can & must re-dedicate ourselves to a renewed commitment to ending this Imperial Occupation.
by repost
By Rachel Levin
NBC News
Updated: 9:00 a.m. ET April 18, 2005

Driving past vineyards and rolling green hills I slowly approached Marla Ruzicka's house. The small lakeside home was an image out of a Rockwell painting: beautiful, serene and worlds away from Afghanistan where I first met her nearly four years ago. It was hard to believe that my friend who dedicated herself to working in war zones had grown up in such a sheltered and peaceful place. The contrast was overpowering and only made me admire her more for stretching so far beyond her surroundings to help people in countries that most of her neighbors had never heard of. Marla was still full of suprises.

Marla played many roles. She was a do-gooder to war victims, social maven, matchmaker and caretaker to many by simply taking the time to ask us how we were doing. Every journalist, NGO worker or government official knew Marla.

She kept people's spirits up by organizing weekly parties and never seemed to run out of energy. She made the war zones bearable and was perhaps one of the most selfless and fearless women I have known.

I remember one of the last conversations we had last year when she admitted to me that she was tired. It was obvious to many of us that Marla was so busy taking care of others that she was seriously neglecting herself. She talked about taking some time off but felt guilty about abandoning the the Iraqis she was trying to help. That was the last time we spoke and she promised not to go back to Baghdad until the security improved.

Then this morning at 7 a.m. I got a call telling me she had died. The irony that she was killed trying to help victims of violence is so painful. I still don't want to believe she is gone and yet I already miss her.

Her twin brother Mark told me that she was known in her home town as an activist. On the day Marla graduated and walked across the stage to get her high school diploma someone shouted, "Marla, go out and save the world!"

I don't think for a second Marla ever doubted that she could make a difference and that optimism is a gift she shared with all of us.
by more
Activism from an early age ... Marla Ruzicka, who was killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad, sits last week with an Iraqi family that her one-woman aid agency helped.
Photo: AP

Baghdad: For more than two years Marla Ruzicka worked to get help for civilians caught in crossfire in Iraq. A 28-year-old Californian with blond hair and an electric smile, she ran a one-woman aid group.

On Saturday Ms Ruzicka became a casualty herself. A suicide bomber attacked a convoy of security contractors near her car on the airport road in Baghdad, killing her, her Iraqi driver and one other person, US embassy officials in Baghdad said.

Ms Ruzicka had worked in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. She took great risks, often travelling without guards and armoured cars. She also had a gift for promoting her cause.

She worked with Senator Patrick Leahy to get $US2.5 million ($3.2 million) for civilian victims in Afghanistan, and later $US10 million for victims in Iraq. Last week another $US10 million was authorised for the Iraq program.

"She was the one that persuaded us," Senator Leahy said on Sunday. "Here's someone who at 28 years old did more than most people do in a lifetime."

Ms Ruzicka often arranged gatherings for the correspondents in Baghdad and in Afghanistan, using the occasions to lobby reporters to write about the things that mattered to her.

Ms Ruzicka came to activism early. When she was 15 she walked into the offices of an advocacy group in San Francisco and collected all its brochures. Later she persuaded an organiser at the group to give a talk at her school.

In her early 20s she was hauled off by police after protesting during a speech by George Bush when he was governor of Texas.

Later she changed tactics. In 2002 she attended a Senate hearing where the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, gave evidence about Iraq. Afterwards she shook his hand.

"I didn't scream," she said recently. "I thanked him for testifying. And I started talking about civilian casualties," she said, laughing.

She came to Iraq in 2003 and founded Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Last year she moved to New York and was planning to go home in about a week. On the day she was killed Ms Ruzicka had been visiting Iraqis who had lost relatives in the violence.

Brigadier General Karl Horst, of the US Army, who arrived on the scene soon after the bombing, said Ms Ruzicka's car was in flames, and that she had burns over 90 per cent of her body.

The New York Times

. . . there are some troubling aspects to this story

first, the use of the term "innocent" to decribe civilian casualties, as if to suggest that Iraqis who resisted the US invasion and the US occupation are "not innocent"

such a distinction is extremely pernicious, and implies that Iraqis are not entitled to decide as to whether violent resistance to the invasion and occupation was, and remains, appropriate, and act upon that belief, especially given the failure of the peace movement globally to protect them from the predations of the US

the US is equally culpable in all deaths resulting from this conflict, and any attempt to create a special class of "innocent" people, based upon their non-involvement in the conflict, should be rejected

second, along these lines, there is the troubling, difficult question as to whether her work ended up legitimizing the war and occupation to some degree

there is no clear answer, but, it must be noted that the entire process by which Iraqis are deemed to be non-combatants, and, hence, entitled to compensation from the US government for the loss of life, injury and destruction of property, has a tendency to falsely humanize the invasion and the occupation by suggesting that it is subject to a kind of legal regulation and opportunity for redress

this becomes apparent when you look at the amount of compensation money involved, in the low millions, when the devastation inflicted upon the country is undoubtedly in the billions, which the Iraqis must pay American contractors to ineptly repair out of their own oil revenue, assuming the contractors do anything other than pocket the money

no doubt, her work helped a lot of people, and they could certainly use whatever assistance they received, but we should resist any attempt, explicit or implicit, to incorporate her achievements into a broader effort to humanize the actions of the US in Iraq

somehow, I suspect that, without having known her, she would be equally appalled by such an endeavor


by Toni Costello
I mourn Marla as i do all victims of that imperalist adventure . She was no doubt personally brave and dedicated . She had,however,abandoned her public opposition to the war when she founded her organizaton .She worked daily with the occupation officials and according to a friendly profile piece in the .S.f. Chron.refered to a affectionate nickname that U.S. army officers gave her.. She died as a tragic victim of the war.But not as a 'antiwar martyr' .She sadly chose to abandon that movement.
by anton
While truly a tragic loss for her friends and associates, the question that stands out is why?

There is a reason that groups like Voices in the Wildereness and other US based peace groups have discontinued sending volunteers to Iraq for extended periods.

As a US anti-war activist associated in the past with Code Pink, Marla must have known that any ongoing association with the US occupation forces might be seen by Iraqis as collaboration, or worse.- at a time when Pentagon contracted US civilian contractors providing support for the occupation are crawling all over the country - often masquarading as humanitarian relief providers.

This loss is doubly tragic, because it might have been preventable. One wonders what concrete advice she received from other US activists like Medea Benjamin, who have spent time in occupied Iraq.

by _
means little rose.
by maybe she was inconvenient
i seem to remember a whole series of activists and journalists who were "unintentionally" killed in "mishaps". Damn terrorists...
by ChrisA (bicketybamm [at]
You're some piece of work. I would venture to say that Marla was a hell of a lot more of an anti-war activist than you will ever be, how can you say that she "abandoned" that movement. Because she got off her ass and actually did something to help the people of Iraq instead of just talking about it? Because she obviously befriended some American Military personnel? She actually cared about the safety of the Iraqi people and was doing something about it. Also, it seems that she understood that American servicemen and women are people that do care and are there to make a difference as well. She was making a real difference, I'm willing to bet that you are not.
by marat
I'd hold off on the canonization process just yet. Marla was about raising money and distributing it to civilian war casualities in Iraq. Period. After leaving Code Pink, she deliberately distanced herself from the organized anti-war movement because she wished to lobby the US government for funding, and be able to function in occupied Iraq without being impeded by occupation authorities because of her former activism. Indeed, by her own accounts, she aggressively lobbied US military and civil occupation authorities for assistance...and endeared herself to US military personel. And here's the kicker - Marla's NGO functioned like any other US approved charity operating in the country, albeit on a smaller scale. It is as simple as that. Marla died because her car was traveling near an armed convoy of US security contractors on the way to Baghdad Airport which came under attack by the Iraqi resistance. Her loss, while tragic, simply cannot compare to the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have already died because of the US war on Iraq.
by RWF (restes60 [at]
how the need to defend Ruzicka's willingness to collaborate with the Occupation Authority on condition that she remain silent about the brutality of the invasion and the occupation engenders this kind of defensive criticism of anyone who dares expose it

[Because she got off her ass and actually did something to help the people of Iraq instead of just talking about it? Because she obviously befriended some American Military personnel? She actually cared about the safety of the Iraqi people and was doing something about it. Also, it seems that she understood that American servicemen and women are people that do care and are there to make a difference as well. She was making a real difference, I'm willing to bet that you are not.]

comments like this implicitly suggest that the only way to help the Iraqi people is to remain silent about the occupation like Marla did

nothing could be further from the truth, as I wrote in this comment posted today, 4/19/05, on the American Leftist blog:

also, as I wrote in this comment, and mentioned here earlier, Marla essentially adopted the rhetoric of the occupation by separating Iraqis into good, "innocent" Iraqis and bad "guilty" ones who violently resist the occupation

fact is, quite a number of people have done equally good things for people in Iraq, possibly even greater than Marla's efforts, without abandoning their willingness to speak candidly about US actions there

for example, Simona Toretta:

by remaining silent about the reality of the occupation, and identifying herself so openly with the Occupation Authority and its military presence, Ruzicka did a real disservice to the people that she cared about so much, as she either accidentally or deliberately marketed the absurd notion of an 'occupation with a human face'

and, sadly, for her and her family, she invariably became associated with targets of the resistance


by aaron
I agree that the emphasis on so-called "innocent victims" suggests quite clearly that those who fight against US plans and are killed in the process are *guilty.* This is an insidious message.

I found the following Marla Ruzicka citation in a July 21, 2002 New York Times (byline Dexer Filkins) story on civilian casualties in Afghanistan which tends to underline that this was in fact her view:

"Marla Ruzicka, a Global Exchange field worker in Afghanistan, said the most common factor behind the civilian deaths has been an American reliance on incomplete information to decide on targets.

'Smart bombs are only as smart as people on the ground,' Ms. Ruzicka said. 'Before you bomb, you should be 100 percent certain of who you are bombing.'"

Whatever one may say about her bravery and generosity, those are hardly the words of a principled opponent of imperial war.

by Throwing 20s in craters
Any loss of life is a tragedy for the family and friends of the dead but...
Reading her writing almost made me vomit.

'Sorry we killed your family hunting the terrorists that ruined our liberation of you. Here have a few 20s and let me get a shot for my web page and future house seat bid.'

Charity is not activism because it’s done to benefit the self image of the oppressor not to empower the oppressed with self determination. She shook Rumsfeilds hand just like Saddam. Put that picture on the web page and ask what message does that send?

by Rallyroundthefamilywithapocketfullofshells
Shake the hand that shook the hand come to Lakeport and say it to our faces. We can serve you your last meal.
by ned
maybe US special forces killed her, supporting imperial war, what other excuses will you make for the animals that do this? What were the excuses for PolPot? Do you really hate your neighbors that much, that you gloat over the misfortune of a fellow American trying to do the right thing? I did say fellow American, because no matter how much you may feel for the locals, you are not them. You're a novelty, a meal ticket, whatever, but you're not part of the tribe.
You feel so much for the resistance? Go over and become the al jazeera segment of the week.
by A friend of hers
I wish folks would chill out (both those who are disagreeing with her political position and those who are reacting to that)Please try to remember that someone many people loved has died...she was my sister, someone I loved deeply. We disagreed on our political positions. We also laughed together and ate together, and talked about our lives together. I didnt need to agree with her 100% or see her as an isn't about political symmetry, it's about deep knowlege of that please don't let this thread devolve into anger. It's a place where people can remember why they loved her. Let folks have a space of morning for someone they loved very, very much. Marla was exceedingly lovable? why? Because she was recognizably human...not a martyr, not an angel, not anything that simple. She came to life (like we all do) because of, not in spite of , our contradictions.
go <h ref="">here,scroll down the page and go the article that I posted there yesterday morning about Ruzicka and CIVIC, and then click on the comments, and read the last one that I posted there today

(unfortunately, I don't have copy of it to post here in its entirety)

the person that criticized her writings has it correct, at least in so far as she identified herself with the rhetoric of the occupation, and said some amazing, ludicrous things in support of its conduct

I wouldn't say that she wanted to run for Congress some day, that's a little cold hearted, but she did say that she wanted to work at the State Department some day, with an emphasis upon civilian casualties, and I address the implications of this remark in my comment referenced above
by aaron
Good post, Richard.

She in effect renounced the anti-war movement.

Why should it be expected to laud her?
by Another friend
The anti-war movement may not be expected to laud her but her friends in the anti-war movement who loved her will certainly continue to miss her.
by saddened
I'm sorry to hear of her demise. Arguing over any perceived shortcomings or semantics ignores the fact that she did what she thought was right, tried to help others, and died for it.

How many of us here, safe and living the good life can relate to what she tried to do? Even if you differ in opinion on what is right or wrong on US policy, you can agree that she tried to do what she thought would help without causing further harm.
by Matt (matt.spencer [at]
For anyone who's interested, I've collecting some links to the many stories and remembrances about my friend Marla. You can go here to read them:

In my opinion she was someone who was quite ordinary like you or I, but her desire to do the right thing led her to do the most amazing, extraordinary things, and it was always out of love. I hope that people, regardless of their political views, are able to see that she was not a selfish human being, or a sell-out, or anything of the sort. The only thing that she was could possibly have hoped to accomplish for herself in her humanitarian aid work was to single-handedly save the world. And as such there's no way in my book that what she was doing could be wrong.

I'm proud to have known her, and I'm sad that I won't ever get to see her again.

interesting to see Matt Spencer posting here so calmly and rationally

privately, it's a little different:

[From:  <restes60 [at]>
Reply To:  restes60 [at]
To:  <matt.spencer [at]>
Subject:  RE: Marla
Date:  Thu, 21 Apr 2005 00:15:58 -0400


None of the people like you, who, unlike me towards Marla, have been
personally insulting and profane, have taken the time to dispute one
thing that I have posted factually or politically about her and CIVIC.

I'm sure that, privately, she was a wonderful person and did some
amazing things. But she assumed a public role, and, in my view,
somewhat arrogantly, spoke as if her approach, with involves collusion
with the occupation, is a superior one.

So, it's entirely appropriate to judge her public actions, which I did.

Your response, like the others, just goes to show that I'm on the right
track about her and CIVIC, just look at this confirmation from the Wall
Street Journal:

Marla may have been a great person, but politically, between her and
Simona Toretta, there's no comparison.


Original Message:
From: matt spencer matt.spencer [at]
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 19:28:39 -0700
To: restes60 [at]
Subject: Marla

You really have some nerve to criticize the dead. Marla was a terrific
human being. I know this because she was my friend. You on the
other hand are beyond rude, as well as hopelessly confused about the
world. Please, for your own sake, get some therapy.


One can only hope that he is more tolerant of dissent within the Green Party itself, and that the Green Party doesn't share Ruzicka's view that collusion with the occupation is an appropriate way to help the people of Iraq.


by sfbg (reposted)
Marla Ruzicka
By Matt Gonzalez

On April 16, while traveling on a dangerous airport road in Baghdad, Marla Ruzicka was killed in a car bombing. She was the founder of the Campaign to Aid Innocent Victims in Conflict, a group that sought to document civilian casualties in the Iraqi War. Sen. Patrick Leahy has credited her with obtaining millions of dollars in U.S. federal aid for civilian victims in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Though she was only 28 years old, she was already well known in Bay Area activist circles. An activist who got her start with Global Exchange, she was also active in the Green Party.

I met Marla in 2000, when she was working on Medea Benjamin's campaign for U.S. Senate. In fact, she was at the protest that caused me to join the Green Party. And both she and Medea embraced my entry into the Green Party, even putting together a house party at Medea and Kevin Danaher's home for me.

I still remember having to plead with Marla because she wanted to give my campaign all of the money she had in her bank account, a couple of hundred dollars, and I wouldn't let her.

Later I would always see her. Whether it as at a rally against pharmaceutical companies that were making it virtually impossible for AIDS medicines to reach Africa, working on the campaign for public power, or protesting against Enron, California's energy deregulation fiasco, and the World Trade Organization, she would be there.

Marla fought on a broad front, never allowing her concerns to be myopic. Her mentors, Medea Benjamin and Kevin Danaher, had treated her to a lesson in the politics of progressive change. And she was eager not just to know but to act. She was eager to fix.

How to describe Marla? She had a lot of moxy, and she was indefatigable. She knew how to cajole her way into and out of places she shouldn't have been allowed to be. Her smile could melt the fiercest opposition. And her optimism was infectious. She fought hard, but she also laughed and knew how to let her hair down.

And of course there were moments of great doubt. In quieter moments, as a gathering died down, she would often be self-reflective, wonder if we were getting somewhere. But she wouldn't linger there. There was, after all, too much to do.

I can recall a picnic in Golden Gate Park where Marla went off to throw a football with some guys she didn't know. Then she would dart back and play with some nearby children – and though she didn't know them either, in minutes she was kissing and hugging them. Then she would hang out, catching up with all the activists there and talk easily and knowingly about the progressive concern of the moment.

She often dropped by the art parties at my office in City Hall. Always with a great big smile on her face, she had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in her life. She loved to talk with Mark Leno and Tony Hall. She loved trying to get to know them and urging them to support her progressive causes.

Her death has caused many to portray her in almost martyrlike language. But at the bottom of it all, she was just a human being trying to make the world better. She wasn't deterred by rules and obstacles or frontiers and borders. Beneath the girlish smile was a person firmly committed and armed with information.

Selfishly, I'm going to miss getting those late-night phone calls "checking in." I'm going to miss those calls from across the globe telling me that something I was doing here was so important. She had a way of letting you know that she had her eye on you and that what you were doing mattered.

I must say, Marla would have loved the attention she's getting now. She would have loved that the issue she cared about was getting noticed. But she would have hated knowing she had put her driver, Faiz Ali Salim, who also died in the car bombing, in harm's way. She would have hated knowing that his young newborn would be fatherless.

It hurts me to think Marla suffered such a painful death. The New York Times accounts of her car engulfed in flames and Marla surviving for a short time with burns covering over 90 percent of her body, are hard to read.

Marla's will to live was strong. She died trying to live, wanting to live. Saying "I'm alive" at the very end of her life, according to the medic that treated her, conveys how tenacious she was.

I'm heartened to know that so many are remembering Marla.

Let's keep her alive. Matt Gonzalez, the former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is now an attorney in private practice but still a progressive political activist.
by Aaron Aarons
Thanks to RWF for bringing informed clarity to this discussion. Here's the URL for the more readable "print" version of the WSJ column in which Marla Ruzicka is praised for her work by an obvious right-wing character named James Taranto:

While Ruzicka may have had good intentions, whether or not mixed in with other not-so-good ones, she was objectively working for the occupation. Unfortunately, she got in the way of a resistance fighter who apparently had the noble intention of killing some of the occupation's hard cops, a.k.a. "security contractors", and inadvertently got a couple of their soft cops instead.

It's a pity that an energetic young person who had been part of the anti-war movement wound up as a martyr to the cause of "humane" imperialism. What a tragic waste!
by Toni Costello
This is especially addressed to Matt from the Green party and the woman who stated that she was a close friend of Marla's .She no doubt was a wonderful human being who cared for the 'innocent''' Iraqi victims . The problem is that she ,implicitly at least, supported the killing of those who were 'guilty' (i.e those who fight with arms against the .U.S occupation )There have been other humanitarian groups who have tried to ease the day to day suffering in Iraq AND call for ending the root cause of most,at least ,of their misery,the vicious occupation. I sincerely mourn her as a human being .I respect her ''love of humanity'.I cannot respect her political evolution that led her to repudiate the antiwar movement.
he thinks that we have no "common sense" or "respect for people", because we have this tiresome tendency to actually look at the Marla's record with CIVIC

as I've said before, the defensiveness embedded within this arrogant rudeness, really shows that CIVIC is a morally hollow shell

no wonder the anti-war movement in America appears to be moribund among political activists, having been transformed into an enterprise lead primarily by veterans and otherwise politically disinterested families fearful of the children being snatched into the military by recruiters or a draft

its remnants now uncritically celebrate someone who abandoned the movement, and openly promoted the purported superiority of her approach of working with the occupation

when I die, I hope that the people who know me remember me honestly, warts and all, instead of deluding themselves into believing that I was something that I wasn't

[From: Matt Spencer <matt.spencer [at]>
Reply To: matt.spencer [at]
To: <restes60 [at]>
Subject: RE: Marla
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2005 14:13:46 -0700 (GMT-07:00)

I disagree. I think you have no copmmon sense or respect for people. I think very little of you or any opinions you might have and surely could not give a shit what you might have written about CIVIC. Recognize that by behaving poorly you are not doing anything constructive - merely making an ass of yourself.]

by Toni Costello
Thanks RWF for your remarks . Today i heard on D.N. that Howard Dean now supports the war , saying that since'' we ''are there ''we'' have to win ! Recently ''move on '' said that they wouldn't take a position on the occupation , since so many of their members were divided . (One wonders if it really was their members or the leaders of the Democrats ? ) Anyway this is the context in which this discussion of the POLITICAL significance of the work of C.I.V.I.C. is taking place.Of course Marla died a awful death sincerely trying to help SOME of the victims of U.S. Imperialism . But though the family and friends of Marla would understandably like the discussion to be solely on her personal virtues most of t obituariies have never the less been political ones and the moral has been that one should shake the hands of the Rumsfeld s., collaborate with the ''powers that be '' , challenge only ''within the system ''or as the S.F.Chron wrotewith approval , that Marla had given up 'confrontation'' for ''pragmatic cooperation ''.It' no ''disrespect for the dead'' to challenge that .
by Aaron Aarons
I just went ot the CIVIC website and read Marla's journal entry from Nepal. It's awful! Here's the kicker:

Senator Leahy sponsored an amendment which is now U.S. law, which put human rights conditions on military aid to the Nepalese Army. (I am not against US military aid as we do not want a Maoist government).

So she supported U.S. imperialism's arming of the reactionary Nepalese ruling class because "we [sic!] do not want a Maoist government"! But apparently "we", i.e., Marla, wanted a Hindu government that continues the brutal exploitation and oppression (including national and caste oppression) of the great majority of the people of Nepal! More important than the specifics, though, is that she would support U.S. imperialist intervention, directly or by proxy, anywhere in the world!

Some of the stuff by Faiz is just as bad! One diary entry of his is called A Message From Faiz After the Handover, where he's clearly referring to the "handover" of nominal power to Iraqi puppets in the middle of 2004. It includes this gem:

With the handover of power to Iraqis I am very optimistic. But I do think that US forces should pull out of the cities and onto bases.

In other words, he supported the occupation but didn't want U.S. troops to be on the front lines! Also take a look at his report from Najaf! Although the facts he reported make it clear that the U.S. military is responsible for the horrors he described, he managed to blame the resistance, apparently because the Americans kill "innocent" people while trying to kill the resistance fighters!

Whatever their humanitarian intentions, Marla and Faiz were not part of the anti-war movement and their organization, CIVIC, is not deserving of one iota of support! It will, in any case, receive plenty of support from liberal peaceniks who want to avoid responsibility for the consequences of imperialist war without actually opposing imperialism.

by aaron
This from today's story in the SF Chron about her memorial:

"One friend recalled watching her sitting on a tank in Iraq looking striking in a blue dress. When someone asked Ruzicka where she got the dress, she said she'd bought it at a yard sale in San Francisco for $1.25."

Apparently she was so comfortable with the occupying forces--and they with her--that she would hang-out on top of tanks and pass the time.

When said tank was used to massacre "innocent victims" she'd scurry off to take a report and dispense some dollars to survivors.


already suggested by aaron and Aaron Aarons:

". . . The missionairies of the American Empire are the NGO brigades. Like their predecessors they try to soften the impact of the new order . . . . . a few former critics of imperialism found themselves trapped by the debris of 9/11 . . . . [such as] men and women who were once intensely involved in left wing activities. It has been a short march for some of them: from the outer fringes of radical politics to the antechambers of the State Department. Having honed their polemical and ideological skills within the left, they now deploy them against old friends, This is why they have become the useful idiots of the Empire. They will be used and dumped. . . . What unites the new Empire loyalists is the underlying belief that, despite certain flaws, the military and economic power of the United States represents the only emancipatory project, and, for that reason, must be supported against those who would challenge its power."

--Tariq Ali
"Street Fighting Years:
An Autobiography of the Sixties"
pp. 18-20

Ruzicka and CIVIC were traveling down this path. Compare and contrast Ruzicka's comment about antiwar protesters (she had no patience for those who did nothing but protest), with her preposterous recent published remarks about US troops respectfully facilitating inquiries about the deaths of Iraqi civilians with empathetic sadness (but, what happened when she did not accompany the family making the request?), and US troops understanding that they had to be careful about the use of indiscriminate violence against the Iraqi population because otherwise, they would not win their "hearts and minds".

Ruzicka and CIVIC maintained a discrete distance from the occupation, while gently recycling its rhetoric for a global audience. And, of course, Ruzicka openly expressed her desire to "march" to "the antechambers of the State Department".
by Aaron Aarons
Was M.R.'s work in Iraq still being financed by Global Exchange even after she disassociated herself from the anti-war movement? Is she -- like Medea and some other GX notables -- from a wealthy family? Was she getting funding from other sources? If so, it would be interesting to know which ones!

Also, what was the source of her funding when she was trekking through Nepal a few months ago and writing in support of continued U.S. military aid to the Nepalese state?
by tired of your shit
good to see you getting in your cardio workout by dancing on her grave.
I have never met a totally perfect or innocent person, but HFS, she's dead. can you arrogant bastards give it a rest?

Before she died, did you really look at anything she did? So why do you put her life under a microscope seeking fault now?

by The Devil and George Warmonger Bush
The Apes that did this work for John Negroponte. When His Assholiness George Warmonger Bush brought Negroponte and His Death Squad Diplomacy over from South America, they're Targets included those who get in the way of Bush's Imperial Antics. By counting the Iraqi Civilians Killed, Maria created Tangible evidence of US War Crimes, which would likely Indite Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and other Members of the War Party. Killing her and using the 'Iraqi Bomb' cover story (John Negrponte's Death Squads in Latin America commonly do these kinds of Murders then blame the left. They continue to do the same to Shiites in Iraq then blame the Sunnis. The Bush Black House will stop at nothing to continue the occupation.). The Salvador Option or Death Squad Diplomacy is not just for So called Insurgents, but also anyone else who gets in the way of Uncle Bush's War Machine.
by Aaron Aarons
I and others are critiquing Ruzicka's politics now because pro-imperialist liberals are using her spectacular death to promote those politics. I, for one, never wrote anything about her before because I was barely aware of her existence, and was certainly not aware of the role she was playing.

While Marla is not alive to defend herself, there are plenty of people who are alive and who are praising her work. I'm waiting for any of them respond to our criticisms with something more than name-calling.
by aaron
<<I'm waiting for any of them respond to our criticisms with something more than name-calling.>>

They can't without tipping their hand.

Are probably too upset to join in. I was at her funeral and counted her as a close friend, and while there is an interesting discussion to be had about Marla, her work, and the fine line between pragmatic thinking and out and out collusion, it'll be had without me. I'm too sad.
by aaron
Fair enough, you're too sad to join in.

But spare us the sanctimonious crap about "nuance" and "balance."

by aaron
You're saying that only her friends are capable of making a "balanced" assessment of her work, and specifically, her cooperative relationship with the occupying forces. That makes no sense at all. For obvious reasons, her friends are the *least* able to do such a thing.

by LP
Christian Parenti wrote about Marla (before she and her driver, Faiz were killed by a religious fascist) in his recent book ("The Freedom") about Iraq. His comments were very critical of what Marla was up to in Iraq. Maybe somebody could find this info and put it up here. I'll try to get it.

To the people who were friends with Marla-- I'm sorry for your lost. However not putting her actions and political orientation up for scrutiny is a big mistake. Reflection and respectful criticism are ways that allow the anti-war movement to grow.

by Der kleine fuhrer
It's good of you to point out when someone is out of step with the cause. We can not tolerate any action that is different. There can only be one line of thought. You will be told how to think and you will be denegrated for any deviation from this.

We have no tolerance for racists, but we will tell you which races and religions are approved. We despise authority, unless it's our group calling the shots

What is this needless banter accomplishing? Can't you just let it go? The lady died. Say goodbye and shut your mouth unless you choose to say something good about her.
by critique
so, when someone dies we're supposed to stop thinking? just cry a tear, say she was *well-intended* and denounce christian parenti for being a *mean* guy?

In the process of mourning, we just suspend our critical judgement in respect to her family?

holy shit, then all the suicide bombers are going get a free ride when we can't be critical of them. damn, how convenient!
by well
"so, when someone dies we're supposed to stop thinking? just cry a tear, say she was *well-intended* and denounce christian parenti for being a *mean* guy?
In the process of mourning, we just suspend our critical judgement in respect to her family? "

It depends on the death, but if you think about the effects of an argument beyond that of simply convincing peoole of what you think, you will realize how counterproductive it is to engage in this type of argument in this case at this time. Marla wasnt perfect and co-operated with authorities at some level in Iraq; who doesnt (do you pay taxes)? One can take just about anyone and find things that one can point to in this way.

When an activist dies one can get upset when things one disagrees with with their cause are overly promoted to honor the dead but in this case it just comes a across as an insensitive wonkishness where nobody is going to step in and defend Marla since there is something unseemly about nitpicking about someone's life while their memorial service is still going on. Even Iraqis who hate US occupation and had issues with CIVIC are a lot more sensitive to Marla's death then the type of argument going on on this site:
by Aaron
Please chill out. That was a really hostile response to a very non hostile posting. You just made me feel slapped in the face.
by joel
Has it occured to any of you that outlooks change? Viewpoints that are easy to support from a distance often don't survive the reality of the situation. You are second guessing a dead womans thoughts and intentions, seemingly so you can boast about your own righteousness to the cause.

It is small minded, ill mannered,bigotry.

I did not know her, nor heard of her prior to her death. The best thing I can say on her behalf is that she was doing what she thought would help, without causing harm to others.

To those that wish to quibble, this person planted no bombs, did not execute anyone or maim any one. If you wish to prove that her shaking Rumsfelds hand caused children to die, go for it. I don't believe that to be the case.
when straightforward efforts to evaluate a person's work and organization are described as "bigotry"

I invite you to go back to what I have written here, and the links that have posted to other articles and comments, and then respond, without being so insulting

but, then, what else is there to do? CIVIC was clearly designed to become a humans rights monitoring organization under the umbrella of the US occupation in Iraq, and one can imagine it performing a similar role in Iran and Venezuela, if the US attacks either of these countries in the near future

for Ruzicka's Panglossian description of the US occupation, go here, towards the end of this article:

clearly, Ruzicka and CIVIC, as revealed in the AlterNet article, were deliberating serving the purpose of creating the myth of a humane US military machine that launches wars, and conducts occupations, in the most humane way possible

for example, read this piece from the American Prospect, that makes this clear:

for the unpleasant reality, as reported by longtime Middle Eastern correspondent, Patrick Cockburn, go here:
("Terrified US Soldiers Still Killing Civilians With Impugnity, While the Dead Go Uncounted")

sorry to be so bigoted to point this out, but there's something truly hollow at the core of a politics that would consider it more important to shield Ruzicka and CIVIC from criticism at the price of concealing the brutalities inflicted upon the Iraqis by the occupation


[Has it occured to any of you that outlooks change? Viewpoints that are easy to support from a distance often don't survive the reality of the situation. You are second guessing a dead womans thoughts and intentions, seemingly so you can boast about your own righteousness to the cause.

It is small minded, ill mannered,bigotry.

I did not know her, nor heard of her prior to her death. The best thing I can say on her behalf is that she was doing what she thought would help, without causing harm to others.

To those that wish to quibble, this person planted no bombs, did not execute anyone or maim any one. If you wish to prove that her shaking Rumsfelds hand caused children to die, go for it. I don't believe that to be the case.]

by Joel
I read the first and last article. Gen. Franks was reffering to the "Body Count", the VN Era way of showing you were winning based on the number of bodies you produce.

The military reimburses for damage they cause. I have been involved in those and seen claims denied due to the claimant inflating their claim, or being the cause of the damage. If someone shoots at me and my return fire destroys part of the house, we don't pay.

For the second article, well, that's just the way it is. In a land where anyone can and does often turn into an enemy combatant, it's what you do to stay alive. 1 friend was shot in the hand, 2 were killed by an RPG that took them and 1 passenger out and crippled the interpreter with them, 2 killed by an IED that flipped their truck, 3 killed in an ambush on the BIAP road about a week ago and a really close friend in the hospital with severe burns. I can speak from experience that not one of these people ever killed or wounded an unarmed individual.
This may not fit in with your view. You may deem this propaganda. But from my outlook, the person we were discussing did nothing wrong. That may be impossible for you to accept, but tell me what action she took that harmed those around her. Don't give me rhetoric. Tell me now if she gave false witness, targeted a building, pulled a trigger, anything physicaly harmful.
I don't think you can. What I have seen pointed out is that she spoke her mind and did not read from your script or from Rumsfeld's. The bigotry I reffered to is the ostracism of those that don't repeat the mantra of the moment.
by aaron
It says alot about CIVIC that its most vociferous defender in this debate is a combatant on the American side.

All you liberals should take heed.

The damage a group like CIVIC commits is political. Like Richard said before, CIVIC lends a humanitarian gloss to the US occupation, and by extension, US imperialism.

The official story is that every "innocent victim" the US creates is an accident. Yes, there have been tens of thousands of accidents in Iraq alone in the past couple years, but, hey, American morality has its costs. Although many gung-ho imperialists denounced CIVIC for "blaming America," smart imperialists see how helpful an organization like CIVIC--which believes that anyone who fights back against US aggression is "guilty"--can be for PR purposes. GI "the military reimburses for damage they cause" Joel knows this well.

Marla Ruzicka apparently had her eye on getting a "civilian casuality" desk in the State Department. Anyone who doesn't see how Orwellian that is has their head up their ass.
by Joel
So what is your answer? What would you do to make it better? This week, this month, if you could go there, what would you do?

I admit I don't really know of her group. never heard of them or of most NGOs operating out there. Unless they are hiring me to protect them, I have no use for them.

Aaron, you said you have friends in Fallujah you converse with, what do they say about her?

My main reason for defending this person, is that they lost their life trying to do what they thought was right. She tried to help and it cost her life. The argument about her future goals are pointless, as you will never know what they were. if she had wanted a DOS job, she probably could have had one after her tour in Afghanistan. I refuse to speculate more.

In her work, I do not see her defending the military. I also don't see her attacking it either. If she had, there exists a very good chance she would have had her visa revoked and expelled. That's not unique to Iraq. It also happens in Zimbabwe, Indonesia, etc. It is easy to critique from a distance after the fact.

As for myself, I'm going to Afghanistan soon, with that evil empire Dyncorp and the kid goes to Iraq in 45 days. We'll do our part for what we believe in. Will you do yours?
by Toni Costello
So '' Joel ' isn't just some misguided G.I. who thinks he's fighting for ''Freedom'' in Iraq , he's a ''security contractor '' i.e. a Mercenary, a 'Soldier of Fortune '' one of the 'Dogs of war '' that Shakespeare wrote about ! One of the guys that make 100k next to a Soldier making 15-20 k . Who's ranks include fomer members of some of the vicious secret police agencies in the planet. (According to Tariq Ali ,British-Pakistani antiwar leader and author ,one of Stephen Biko torturers and murderers ''serving ' in Iraq as a 'Security contractor' recently was klled ) Anyway we should have a dialogue with this Joel the Dyncorp merc ? Why stop there ? Why not have a e-chat with Sammy 'the Bull' ,the notorious Mob hitman , later on Federal snitch ? Sammy probably has less innocent blood on his hands that many international ''mercs''!
by aaron
<<one of Stephen Biko torturers and murderers ''serving" in Iraq as a 'Security contractor' recently was killed>>

proving that "good" things sometimes happen to bad people!

by CP Repost
Whatever sour emotions I entertained while reading accounts of the funeral of Marla Ruzicka had nothing really to do with the death on April 16 of a brave young woman in Baghdad. On many accounts ­ and I have had a detailed conversation with a close friend of Marla's whose judgment I respect ­ she was an idealistic person whose prime political flaw seems to have been the very forgivable one of naivety.

Both in Afghanistan and Iraq, in furtherance of her humanitarian schemes, Marla Ruzicka elected a stance of studious neutrality in ascribing responsibility for the victims of US bombings and ground fire. This pursuit of "credibility" certainly yielded its ironic reward in the political range of those who publicly mourned her.

A US senator ­ Barbara Boxer ­ attended Ruzicka's funeral in Lakeport, northern California. Bob Herbert of the New York Times poured out an emotional column honoring Ruzicka. So did Robert L. Pollock, a writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. " America has lost a peerless and unique ambassador," Pollock wrote on April 19. "[S]he stood out from the crowd of journalists and self-proclaimed humanitarians--far too many of whom believed their mission was to bear witness to an American misadventure in Iraq that would, and should, fail."

The sourness in my soul stemmed from a contrast. Almost exactly two years earlier, on March 16, 2003, another brave young woman in a foreign land lost her life, not to a suicide bomber, but under the blade of a 47-ton bulldozer made in America by the Caterpillar company specifically for house demolitions and driven by an Israeli soldier. Maybe, in the last seconds of his life, that suicide bomber in Baghdad never even saw Ruzicka. The soldier in Gaza surely saw Corrie, clearly visible in her fluorescent orange jacket, and rolled the bulldozer blade right over her.

No US senator attended Rachel's funeral after her parents brought her home to the state of Washington. Both US senators ran in the opposite direction. Later the Corries disclosed that after their return to the US with their daughter's body, they contacted their US Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, and told them how their daughter had been deliberately murdered while peacefully demonstrating against house demolitions, which are violations of international law. Murray and Cantwell, the Corries recall, were quick with expressions of outrage and promises of investigations. The Corries never heard from Murray or Cantwell again.
Cindy Corrie's mailbox filled with disgusting letters abusing her for being a bad mother, and the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd began an unrelenting campaign of abuse of Rachel, to the overall effect that she had it coming to her, that "She was defending terrorists who smuggle weapons across the border to kill Israelis", that the International Solidarity Movement of which she was a member, was a terrorist symp group.

As Professor Steve Niva of Evergreen State College in Olympia wrote on this site shortly after Corrie's death, "There is no evidence that Dr. Samir Nasrallah, whose house Rachel was defending, or anyone in this neighborhood were concealing any tunnels or were engaged in any attacks on Israelis. The Israeli army doesn't even make this insupportable claim. His house was being demolished because, like dozens of others that have been bulldozed in Hay Salaam, his home was near the 'Apartheid Wall' Israel was building. Moreover, the ISM has a policy of only protecting homes that are not suspected to be involved in tunnel activities."

Niva duly received a torrent of e-mailed abuse.

And how did the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd on the Evergreen campus react? Did Corrie's murder prompt them to any serious reflection on Applied Zionism in Gaza? No. Niva tells me that after some initial heartfelt expressions of sadness for Corrie, the small Zionist groups began complaining that they felt uncomfortable as Jews to be on campus, and a few started raising concerns about alleged anti-Israel and possibly anti-Semitic sentiments getting a free pass at Evergreen. They started to peddle charges about the Middle East Studies faculty--and rumors began to circulate at the local synagogue that there was a "crisis" regarding Jews at Evergreen. Slurs against Niva continue to this day, as they do against Corrie.

Mother Jones ran a 7,000 word attack on Corrie and ISM, later convincingly demonstrated by Olympia's Phan Nguyen to have been plagiarized from extreme right sites and sources. Nor was there measured lamentation from the Wall Street Journal's editorial page which surpassed itself in foam-flecked savagery in a piece by Ruhama Shattan, which managed to blame Corrie for the bombing death of the State Department officials that occurred in Gaza in October, 2004! Shattan's piece had already run in the Jerusalem Post and actually prompted the press attache in the US embassy in Tel Aviv, Paul Patin, to write a letter to the Post denouncing it as "hateful incitement" and "disgusting abuse of the anniversary of the death of this American citizen". Maybe this letter is what prompted the WSJ's editorial page editor, Paul Gigot to see Shattan's diatribe as suitable material for his pages.

Marla Ruzicka decided to work within the system, as they say. Maybe, given the aims of her organization, CIVIC, that was an appropriate choice. I'm not inclined to pass judgment on that. The "system" duly mourned and honored her. Rachel Corrie saw that the "system", with all its innumerable and fraudulent roadmaps, negotiated solutions, Oslo frameworks, processes of peace and so forth had no stopped, nay, was encouraging the daily outrages of demolitions of Palestinian homes and kindred barbarities. Corrie stood in the path of that system and died, and her murder was covered up by Israel and by the government of her own country.

Across the thirty years that I have written about the vast injustice done to Palestinians by successive Israeli governments, condoned and paid for by the US, I have read a thousand admonitions to support what peace plan was in train, to espouse solutions with "credibility". And here we are now, when all the peace plans and roadmaps stand definitively revealed as the frauds they always were. Any imagined evacuation of Israeli settlements from Gaza is pure distraction. The story lies in the new settlements stretching out from East Jerusalem, amputating any conceivably viable Palestinian state. In this enterprise, there's no "case for Israel" beyond violent, illegal occupation and eviction. Two years after her murder I honor Rachel Corrie and enquire of those supposedly reasonable voices on the Zionist side of the aisle here in the United States, What have you got to say for yourselves now?
by Norman Solomon (repost)
American news outlets provided extensive -- and mostly laudatory -- coverage of Marla Ruzicka after she died in Baghdad on April 16. The humanitarian aid worker’s undaunted spirit and boundless dedication had endeared her to a wide array of people as she strived to gain acknowledgment and compensation for civilians harmed by the war in Iraq.

Ruzicka was determined to help Iraqi victims and loved ones. “Their tragedies,” she said, “are our responsibilities.” Her funeral, at a church in her hometown of Lakeport, California, was a moving occasion as friends and co-workers paid tribute to a woman whose moral energies led her to take great risks and accomplish so much in a life of 28 years.

By all accounts, she was a wonderful and inspiring person. Yet after I left the funeral, some key themes of the media eulogies and other testimonials kept bothering me. We were being encouraged to celebrate Marla Ruzicka’s life, her work and her message. But -- in the context of a continuing war -- what was her message?

There may be no more succinct summary than the words that Ruzicka wrote just days before she died, in an article published posthumously with a Baghdad dateline in USA Today: “In my dealings with U.S. military officials here, they have shown regret and remorse for the deaths and injuries of civilians. Systematically recording and publicly releasing civilian casualty numbers would assist in helping the victims who survive to piece their lives back together.”

During the last two years of her life, Ruzicka found an accommodation with the American military. In sharp contrast to previous antiwar activism, she didn’t oppose the U.S. war in Iraq. “I decided not to take a position on the war but to try to do the right humanitarian thing,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2003. Increasingly, she found common ground with the Pentagon.

Humanitarian principles and justice certainly demand “compensation” for the wounded and for families of the dead. Such measures are morally right -- but woefully insufficient. We should never forget that it is impossible to truly compensate for a life that has been taken. Solutions require a halt to the wounding and killing, not just fulfillment of financial obligations after each tragedy.

In the United States, the mainstream news coverage of Marla Ruzicka would not have been so favorable if she had been a vocal opponent of the U.S. military occupation during the past two years. It was not only Ruzicka’s warmth and charm that endeared her to American generals in Baghdad and policymakers in Washington. It was also the reality that her work came to be understood as pragmatically helpful to the war effort.

Five days after Ruzicka died, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin wrote: “Civilian casualties are an inconvenient stain on the story line of Iraq liberation.” The column went on: “Ruzicka understood that helping civilian victims is not just the right thing to do, but also is militarily essential.” When Iraqi civilians die from Pentagon firepower, the deaths stir emotions “that will make young men think about attacking U.S. soldiers.”

After Ruzicka’s funeral, the Los Angeles Times noted that “her efforts, carried in Congress by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), resulted in an unprecedented $30 million in aid to victims.” But Congress has just put about $80 billion more into the war pipeline, and there’s a lot more of such supplemental funding on the horizon. Today, the formula in place provides for millions of dollars to “compensate” for deaths and wounds inflicted on Iraqi people -- and billions of dollars to keep killing and wounding them.

This spring, before and after her death, Ruzicka’s work was instrumental in exposing the fact that -- contrary to Washington’s longtime claims -- the U.S. military has been quietly documenting many of the Iraqi civilian deaths caused by the Pentagon’s forces. Is the emergence of this information a step in the right direction? Yes. But at the same time, media spin promotes the illusion that the U.S. war effort in Iraq is becoming evermore compassionate and life affirming. Such story lines are good public relations for a massive U.S. military operation that continues to injure and kill more Iraqi people.
by Joel
Why are you all trying to avoid the basic issue? Sorry that Rachel Corrie died, but she could have stepped aside at any time. This woman was not given a choice, unless the choice was to quit her work and go home.
I've gathered so far, that no one here is a fan of the US military. Accept the fact that they are not leaving Iraq anytime soon. How would you have them operate? that's what the deceased was getting at.
You may not like what I do or who I am, but at least you can consider the message. In what ways would you improve on the situation?
Really think about that. It's easy to say quit and go home, but what's the answer to the problem there? What are you willing to do to?

by @
What I'm not willing to do is become a collaborator with the illegal occupation of Iraq. As for the Rachel Corrie smear, Marla was knowingly entering a dangerous war zone: she could have "stepped aside" by not working with an illegal occupation.
by joel
OK, I see how it is. Tough talk from the bay area. Rache Corrie died because she thought the rules of her home town applied, marla died because a future child molester misjudged his target. Oh, am I painting your heroes of the resistance in a bad light? The Iraqis I know, say the younger the better. This whole dialogue(cute phrase) is about you all disrespecting a person I never met. It does piss me off that you talk so much shit from a distance. Is it your fear of commitment, or your fear of giving up the amenities and luxuries you enjoy.
You feeling brave sitting at home writing your slanders of those you deem not worthy to be in your exclusive club. At 40 years old, I read your words with disdain. I see only pampered children whining that the world does not do what they think is right.
Apart from dying of stupidity, what did Rachel Corrie do? Which Palestinians did she help? You want to know a secret? The PA had a big chance to change all this, and yes asswipe, I advised a few individuals there how to do it. But blowing up kids was easier and more fun for them, so we went our seperate ways. I to will go my seperate way. Fuck you, little worm. pray to whatever god you recognize we never meet.
by aaron
One moment Joel's the most thoughtful little mercenary you could ever hope to meet in cyber-world.

The next he's firing his mouth like his comrades in Iraq fire their guns when they come under attack--scattershot style.

by @
Joel is simply applying the "Israel can do no wrong" principle to a young girl's murder.
So, Ruzicka would have the US military throw out a few 'compensatory' coins in the dirt at the feet of surviving Iraqi family members, as opposed to the hundreds of billions of dollars that the US is spending on its imperialist war machine that is destroying those families -- families otherwise literally torn apart by American cluster or flashette bombs, or burned alive by phosphorus bombs. And how will village families or orphans find their way to, or "qualify" for, those meager US coins? Will the US military say that those family's sons, daughters or parents were associated with "terrorism" or insurgent activity and thus don't qualify? Who will qualify for entire families wiped out by US bombs? Ruzicka was engaged in the height of feel-good, self-aggrandizing, professional "do-gooderism". It's public relations imperialist missionary work, as missionaries were always used to psychologically mollify the victims of Western imperialist targets. Ruzicka was way too cozy ("now you boys play nice!") with the US military for my opposition to empire.

For more information on professional "do-gooderism", read, "Arundhati Roy explains NGO's" (like Ruzicka's CIVIC) and the public relations of how they make war almost palatable and placate opposition.

If Ruzicka had been any threat to, or challenge to, let alone any real critic of, US imperialism in Iraq or elsewhere, you can bet that the US Congress and the entire corporate media would NOT be lauding her. You didn't see major US politicians or the American corporate media lauded Rachel Corrie for trying to help innocent victims.
by Sefarad
Who Killed Marla Ruzicka?
By David Horowitz and Ben Johnson | May 3, 2005

Marla Ruzicka, a 28-year-old political activist, was killed in Iraq on April 16 when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of contractors on the airport road, blowing up the Mercedes she was in with her translator Faiz Al-Salaam. Ruzicka, whose ebullience earned her the nickname “Bubbles,” suffered burns over 90 percent of her body. Her last words, according to the medic who attended her, were, “I’m alive.”

Her tragic death was a tribute to her bravery since she knew the risks and her fate was thus almost predictable. Nine months earlier she had written in her online journal: “The ride is not pleasant. Military convoys passing every moment. Faiz and I hold our breath.” It was her third year of working the perilous epicenters of the War on Terror. She was in country on this occasion in behalf of the organization she had created a year earlier – the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), which in its practice meant civilian victims of America’s wars to bring freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet Ruzicka was a more interesting political study than so stark a summary suggests. In the last year of her short life, she had moved away from the agendas and organizations of extreme left that had originally directed her life path to the war zones in order to establish a path of her own. In her new endeavor she was guided partly by her genuine concern for the defenseless victims of the conflict and partly by political forces that continued to exploit those concerns.

Unlike Rachel Corrie, who lost her life in Gaza serving a solidarity movement with terrorists and who consequently became a martyr for the anti-American cause, Marla Ruzicka was respected and mourned not only by the left but by supporters of the war who knew her, and even by members of the Bush administration and military whom she first harrangued and then petitioned and who ended up in a partially voluntary cooperation with her endeavors.

by Ruzicka vs. Corrie
When David Horowitz mourns Ruzicka, that finally tells you all you need to know about her "contribution" to the war and occupation. It's hard to know which is more telling, Ruzicka being mourned and lauded by members of the Bush administration and military or Ruzicka being lauded and mourned by right-wing wackos like Horowitz. It tells you just how useful Ruzicka was -- as Richard says, "a humanitarian gloss" -- to the US government and military.

Sefarad, I don't know what kind of favor you've done Ruzicka by publishing Horowitz's "eulogy".
Bumped to the top.
by hmm
just get the hell out of IRAQ? The US (including activists from the left, military, etc) needs to stop getting into other peoples affairs, regardless if you believe you are doing good. Leave them alone! Stop imposing your western cultures on these poor people! And for those who try to act like them -- stop also!
Also see:

The Marla Ruzicka Story -- The *Real* Story

From Christian Parenti's book:

_THE FREEDOM: SHADOWS AND HALLUCINATIONS IN OCCUPIED IRAQ_ :paragraph at the bottom of page 55 ending at the top of page 56:

Marla Ruzicka is one of the occupation's NGO groupies. She is the type who gets 10 percent of that 10 percent that trickles down to the ground. Known for her dyed blonde hair and flashy style, Marla is talking up the fact that she leveraged $10 million from the US government so her organization CIVIC [The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict] can "aid" victims of US military action. She and CIVIC and the US occupation authorities do not use the term "compensate" because that would imply American culpability. The US government maintains that because Iraq is a war zone, its military is not legally liable when it kills innocents, and so the operative verb is "aid". I interview Marla at the Hotel Agadeer, a dive favored by Eastern European journalists and broke American freelancers. It turns out that Marla hasn't actually received $10 million; USAID captured the grant, and the money will not actually be disbursed as aid to the survivors of US military actions but will instead be spent on unspecified development projects that will _indirectly_ "aid" war victims. When I press Marla further it turns out that CIVIC is serving *ONLY FIVE FAMILIES* [caps and *'s added] who have been "negatively impacted" by US military operations.
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