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Marla Ruzicka, civilian victims and reconciliation

Yesterday was supposed to be Marla Ruzicka's 29th birthday. The humanitarian extraordinaire from Washington State California was the founder of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC). According to United Press International (UPI) she worked with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,

to put money in the annual Foreign Operations spending bill -- providing a total of nearly $40 million dollars for individuals and communities in Afghanistan and Iraq that suffered what the military calls collateral damage. In the latest bill, passed over the summer, the civilian assistance program was named the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund, in her honor. (…) The funds are used to provide in-kind assistance, such as medical care, equipment to start a business, or the replacement of damaged or destroyed property like homes and schools, said the Leahy aide, Tim Rieser. And millions of dollars in cash have also been paid out by the military, under U.S. regulations that give unit commanders access to a special fund to "respond to urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction requirements." In many parts of Iraq, the U.S. military uses these funds to run programs generally paying out up to $2,500 per victim to the families of those killed, and smaller amounts to those who are injured or have property destroyed or who were detained. (…)

Ruzicka assisted families in negotiating the application process for both cash and in-kind compensation, which she said could be equally daunting for stricken relatives. She was on her way to a meeting about such a case when she was caught up in a suicide car bomb attack against a U.S. convoy on Baghdad's notorious airport road.

At the end of December, Congress passed another piece of legislation promoted by Marla Ruzicka: The military is now, according to the same UPI article, required to report to Congress about what information it collects on civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marla got along very well with the military. Her work was and still is advancing US interests in Iraq as well. Senators and military leaders have now realized that a compassionate response to civilians accidentally injured or killed due to U.S. military action is important for gaining trust, winning hearts and minds and stabilizing Iraq. Right after Marla's death in April, The American Prospect wrote:

Marla's idea isn't just the right thing to do for moral reasons. Military expert Arkin argues that there is no longer a contradiction between military effectiveness and civilian protection, and that the military fully understands the direct and indirect effect of civilian casualties. "The United States' practice of stiff-arming civilian victims and ignoring civilian casualties has enormous negative consequences," he said. "We’re seen as craven. We’re seen as indifferent to civilian life. It harms our ability to operate on the ground."

The Rolling Stone has written a heart-wrenching biographic article about Marla "Bubbles" Ruzicka, who "stands as a youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost American idealism." What a shame that the media hardly ever writes about the many successful humanitarian and relief workers in war and natural disaster zones around the world, while they are alive. Happy Birthday, Marla.

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Done With Mirrors on : Marla Remembered

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Atlantic Review bills itself as a "press digest on transatlantic affairs edited by three German Fulbright alumni." Since I discovered it a few days ago, it's been provocative without being nasty and since I love both the U.S. and Germany and deplore the darkness that the German media weaves about America, I'm rooting for this site. It was worth the discovery if for no other reason than this tribute to the most tragic death of 2005, Marla Ruzicka. That post linked to this excellent "Rolling Stone" article on her life. I can't remember the last time I wrote the phrase "excellent 'Rolling Stone' article," since the damned thing seems unreadable to me now, the newsletter of the Bush Derangement Syndrome

Atlantic Review on : "Sweet Relief" - A New Book about Humanitarian Activist Marla Ruzicka

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Various search engines continue to send many readers to the Atlantic Review's past posts about Marla Ruzicka, which indicates that there is fortunately still a lot of interest in this "youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost Americ

Atlantic Review on : Doubts about Death Numbers in Iraq, but not in Darfur

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Between 392,979 and 942,636 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred, is the conclusion of a survey by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at the Johns Ho

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David on :

Marla was truly a courageous American, but it will take a million Marlas to address the human tragedy in Iraq. The Sunday Times (London) reported that the US military is dramatically increasing airstrikes ahead of US troop withdrawals this spring (in advance of the fall elections in the US). This is taking a toll on the civilian population: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1965182,00.html Every non-combatant death at the hands of the US military only fuels the insurgency.

David Frankel on :

I believe Marla was from California. Her work also continues through CIVIC - www.civicworldwide.org - I too raised a glass to toast Marla's b-day ~ she was incredible ~ namaste ~ EDITORS NOTE: Thank you. I have corrected my mistake.

Stephen D. Smith on :

I have been confounded, confused, embarrassed, fighting mad, and sometimes sleepless to think that so many Americans agree that we invaded Iraq without "just cause" (there's an echo of another disaster), and yet no one, least of all the media or government, seem to care at all about who we killed in this war, their names, their situations, their families. First, we owe them our deepest apologies, and after that we owe them so much more: financial aid, relocation assistance, job training, and on and on and on. Why is none of this mentioned in the presidential campaign? Not sexy enough? Too distasteful and "off message"? We should all be profoundly ashamed.

Pat Patterson on :

How many Americans agree that the invasion was without a "just cause?" And why post here on a thread that is almost three years old?

Stephen D. Smith on :

Hi Mr. Patterson. How many Americans agree that the invasion was without a "just cause"? I admit, I do not know. I am relying on the same news media that I malign in the post above. But I have a pretty good feeling that it is more than 50% of the country. And as to why I am responding to a 3 year old "thread" as you refer to it, I only just today heard of this person, Marla, who seems to have embodied all that I referred to when I said I was confounded, sometimes sleepless, etc. as to what we have done to innocent people whom none of us seems to formally care about. I am curious as to your take on the subject. Where do your opinions fall? Thank you, Steve Smith

Pat Patterson on :

A feeling? I was for the invasion, still see no reason to doubt my initial support and give money and a small amount of time to a group sponsoring badly injured Iraqis to come to the US for hospital care and also to expedite the admission of the translators who are under death threat.

Stephen D. Smith on :

Yes, a feeling, based upon the "polling" that is announced so often. But more importantly, I am against the war. I see it a bit like watching your young son start a fight with another kid, then rooting for him to win because he's your son. The whole rally chant to "support our troops" seems wrongheaded if you don't back the war. The troops volunteered after all. I'm sure it's impossible for a country to back down after they've started such an operation. To do so would make them appear weak. So on we go, trying to win a war we never should have started, all the while ruining our reputation and slipping steadily in the eyes of the world. Not to mention making new enemies daily who will get their revenge eventually, probably on our children. Did you support it initially to find and destroy the weaponry Iraq was supposed to possess, or were you on the side of rescuing the citizenry from their evil dictator?

Pat Patterson on :

Both and most of the others Pres. Bush argued in his Feb. 16th speech and then his address to Congress later that same month. Yet the current Gallup Poll shows almost a reversal of American attitudes in that the numbers supporting the effort though still down are creeping up on a monthly basis and the same improving numbers for question of whether we are making things better in Iraq. But considering the US has had two elections since the war started then relying on polls is a fairly undemocratic way of doing things. But the main bit of information from Gallup is that the American public rejects by a large margin a timetable regardless of what is happening in Iraq to one where the troops are withdrawn as circumstances and the Iraqis allow. I would suggest a reading of the polls before one annouces his feelings on an issue. As to the backing of troops but not supporting the war most of the left realized how much animosity towards themselves and their positions by classifying the servicemen as baby-killers or worse. So with that in mind they now proclaim their support for the servicemen but just not this war. If their was a total collapse in resistance in Iraq and then troops were sent to Afghanistan then the left would simply find something else to complain about and demand that war to end as well.

Stephen D. Smith on :

THANKS AGAIN for taking the time to answer someone who you probably don't agree with on any of this war talk. I have heard as well that the public may be turning a bit in support of our occupation, but suspect it could be stimulated by a lot of the "we are winning now" statements from the McCain sphere. As to polls, in another sense, what could be more democratic than trying to get well rounded opinions from the public? As to my own use of "feeling" and as you suspect, my not having read any real polls, as a means of forming my own opinions and beliefs, you are correct. I am allowing my persuasions to give way to a creeping and crumbly foundation for my positions. My fault. As to discovering the Marla girl, what are your thoughts on that subject, her attempt to deem it important enough to put legs to her concerns about who died, when, where, and why? Was she wrong? I sense a realpolitic in your writing that may find naive my concern for what we glibly label collateral damage. Why did Tommy Franks christen America's ship free of "body counts". That policy seems to have taken hold in this country. Let's say Iraq was a perfectly just war, and the majority agreed, would we then do counts? I have been reading the Atlantic Review since yesterday and will continue as it is obvious to me that I am out of my league intellectually and with respect to the subject matter considered in those pages. Fascinating. I was long a devotee of Christopher Hitchens, mostly to glean knowledge and admire his thought processes although voyeuristically. When he jumped on the band wagon of our Neocon adventure in Iraq, I was dumbfounded but still follow his work and try to understand why. I promise to go back and read those other reasons you mentioned that George Bush gave to justify our attack. Do you personally follow any of the reporting that attempts to find an accurate count of the number of dead Iraqi civilians? I know they vary greatly, but if you do follow that, I'd be curious to know which accounts you respect. As to our troops, I have not and would never call them as a whole "baby killers". I suspect that a lot of them are so young it is difficult for them to know what they believe and why. I know that group peer pressure is powerful and youth wants to believe in something and be a part of it. I'd also be curious as to your opinions of Colin Powell and his place in all of this. He's certainly been strangely absent for a long time now. Thanks for your fine thoughts and obvious respect for the truth as you know it and keep riding this wave of discovery of what humans do and why. Stephen Smith

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