Today, December 31st, was supposed to be Marla Ruzicka's 30th birthday. Marla has founded the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) and convinced Congress to create an Iraqi War Victims Fund. Lawmakers realized that financial compensation for families of civilians accidentally injured or killed by the U.S. military is important for helping them cope financially. A compassionate response might convince the families that Americans feel sorry about their loss; therefore they might not hate Americans, i.e. Marla was advancing US interests. Newsweek's Baghdad bureau chief wrote that "Marla was alienated from much of the human rights community because she chose to work with the military instead of always against it." As Peter Bergen wrote in the Washington Post:
Ruzicka initially came off like a blond surfer girl (she was much given to exclaiming "Dude!" and "You rock!"), but underneath the effervescent exterior was a tough-minded humanitarian advocate who had little tolerance for leftist anti-war demonstrators. Ruzicka understood that wars happen despite the demonstrations, and she wanted to do something concrete to alleviate the subsequent damage to human life.
Rolling Stone Magazine described her as a "youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost American idealism." It's a good, balanced and heart-wrenching biographic article.
Unfortunately, the media does not write much about the many relief workers in war and natural disaster zones around the world, while they are alive. The nameless aid and relief workers around the world who risk their lives to help others don't get awards or much press coverage. Time Magazine rather gives the Person of the Year award to folks like you and me, who spend a lot of time sitting comfortably in front of the computer. Exception: Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) received the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. "The American soldier" deserved the Time's award in 2003. The US military provides a lot of humanitarian aid around the world, primarily after natural disasters (like in Pakistan), but it is not their primary job.
Without the Iraq war, Marla Ruzicka would most likely be able to celebrate her 30th birthday today. And the nearly 3,000 US soldiers, who died in Iraq, would probably be alive as well. Estimates concerning Iraqi casualties range from a few ten thousand to close to a million.
Endnote: Associated Press interviewed scholars, veterans and other Americans about this poll:
Americans may question this war for many reasons, but their doubts often find voice in the count of U.S. war deaths. An overwhelming majority -- 84 percent -- worry that the war is causing too many casualties, according to a September poll by the nonpartisan research group Public Agenda. The country largely kept the faith during World War II, even as about 400,000 U.S. forces died -- 20,000 just in the monthlong Battle of the Bulge. Before turning against the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Americans tolerated thousands more deaths than in Iraq.
According to the Web site [url=http://icasualties.org/oif/]Icasualties[/url] US military deaths in Iraq just reached 3,000.
My thoughts and prayers on this New Year are with Marla's family and the thousands of families destroyed by this sensless war.