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April 18, 2005

The War Snuffs Out Another Light In The Darkness: Marla Ruzicka

-- by Thomas Leavitt

"God bless her pure soul, she was trying to help us," said Haj Natheer Bashir, the brother-in-law of an Iraqi teenager Ruzicka was trying to evacuate to the San Francisco Bay area for surgery. "She was just a kind lady."

I am furious, and very saddened. This miserable fiasco of a war and occupation has claimed two more lives of note, including someone I knew personally, someone who was making a difference in the world.

Marla Ruzicka, the founder of CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), was the victim of collateral damage from a suicide car bomb aimed at a U.S. military convoy in Iraq (the irony of this is immense). The opening picture on the organization's home page is just as I remember her - a little blonde spitfire with bags under her eyes from not enough sleep. Faiz Al Salaam, the driver of the vehicle and CIVIC's lead staff member in Iraq, was killed in the same incident. You can read several letters from him on the CIVIC web in "Marla's Journal" - he and Marla were dedicated to the same cause.

This is what Marla and Faiz were doing in Iraq: "working tirelessly in Iraq to help the many innocent victims of the U.S. invasion" (Alternet). Now, she has become one of them.

I met Marla during Medea Benjamin's campaign for U.S. Senate in 2000, when I offered to host a fundraising event at my home. She was one of several smart and saavy young women who accompanied Medea everywhere she went, part of what I assumed was Medea's own personal form of affirmative action. We exchanged email several times afterwards, following up on various details, and I saw her name mentioned her and there afterwards. I am not at all suprised by what she accomplished in the ensuing five years, nor by where her life took her - she was clearly someone who was going to make a difference in the world.

There is nothing profound in her death, nothing graceful that can be said to mitigate the utter waste of seeing a life cut short whose potential had only begun to be realized.

CIVIC was founded out of Marla's desire to see the impact of U.S. military action (and aid) fully accounted for - our military does not keep track of the number of civilians killed and wounded as a result of its actions. Therefore, Marla's death will not be accounted for in any "official" statistic related to the war in Iraq - exactly what she was working to change.

This needs to change. I ask you to honor her life, and work, by making a donation to CIVIC (this can be done on-line), and by writing Senator Patrick Leahy, the primary sponsor of legislation related to her work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and urging him to continue working on behalf of the innocent victims of war in Iraq and elsewhere.

Dear Senator Leahy,
I was one of the many people whose lives crossed Marla Ruzicka's path and were enriched by the experience. In her memory, I ask that you continue the work she started, attempting to ensure that the deaths of civilians killed as a result of U.S. military actions are fully accounted for, and that compensation is made beyond simple cash payments.
As Marla no doubt made you aware, her death and that of Faiz Al Salaam, will be nowhere accounted for in U.S. government statistics about the toll of the war in Iraq. This needs to change, and I hope you can rally the support in the Senate and House to make it happen.
The true cost of war cannot be measured without accounting for *ALL* the lives lost as a result of military actions.
Regards,
Thomas Leavitt

Here is a list of links to various articles about her and her work that arrived in my mailbox along with the news of her death:

COUNTING ON MARLA
Tai Moses, AlterNet
Politicians and government officials learned the hard way
how relentless this sweet-faced girl, barely out of her
teens, could be.
http://www.alternet.org/story/21779/

ONE OF A KIND
Don Hazen, AlterNet
To say Marla was unique may seem a cliche, but in my many
years of political work and journalism, I have never known
anyone quite like her.
http://www.alternet.org/story/21777/

REMEMBERING A FRIEND KILLED IN IRAQ
Medea Benjamin, Kevin Danaher, AlterNet
Marla Ruzicka was a bright, shining light whose work focused
on trying to bring some compassion into the middle of a war
zone.
http://www.alternet.org/story/21778/

MOURNING MARLA
Jill Carroll, Christian Science Monitor
Intrepid humanitarian aid worker Marla Ruzicka died in
Baghdad Saturday when her car was caught in an insurgent
attack.
http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/21780/

YOUNG ACTIVIST'S LIFE CUT SHORT IN IRAQ BLAST
By Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/la-fg-marla18apr18,0,6091685.story?coll=la-home-headlines

BAY AREA TRAGEDY IN BAGHDAD
MARLA RUZICKA, WHO LED HUMANITARIAN AID MOVEMENT IN IRAQ, DIES IN CAR-BOMING
By Charles Buress, San Francisco Chronicle
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/04/18/RUZICKA.TMP

SLAIN ACTIVIST PRAISED FOR WORK IN IRAQ
Associated Press
http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/04/17/activist.killed.ap/index.html

HUMANITARIAN GROUP FOUNDER KILLED IN IRAQ CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/04/17/iraq.main/index.html

----------------------------

MARLA RUZICKA, FOUNDER,
CIVIC, Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflict,
http://www.civicworldwide.org/about.htm

AT DEATH'S DOOR: AMERICAN WOMAN TRAVELS DOOR TO DOOR TO COUNT IRAQI
CASUALTIES
By David Wright, ABC News
May 28th, 2004
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/American_woman_052803.htm

MARLA RUZICKA: 26 YEAR-OLD DOING 'THE RIGHT HUMANITARIAN THING'
By Jane Ganahl, San Francisco Chronicle
December 20th, 2003
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1230-08.htm

LETTER FROM IRAQ
By Marla Ruzicka, AlterNet.
November 6, 2003
http://www.alternet.org/story/17135/

HUMAN COST OF WAR
BBC NEWS WORLD EDITION
July 8th, 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/3052726.stm

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at April 18, 2005 1:05 PM

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Comments

Here's what Marla said at an Open Society Institute Forum:

Though her efforts have focused on Afghanistan and Iraq, Ruzicka believes the system that she has developed could have broader applications. "My long-term goal is to get a desk at the State Department that looks at civilian casualties," she said.

http://www.soros.org/initiatives/cep/events/iraq_200400206/summary

Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at April 18, 2005 3:15 PM

May George W. Bush be damned for all eternity. But the dirty little lying fucker will live in luxury for the rest of his goddamned life. He should be in jail.

Posted by: Vinnie at April 18, 2005 4:32 PM

More Marla stuff... here is a site publishing the results of the survey she took:

http://www.civilians.info/iraq/

Postings from folks who worked with her in Iraq:

Raed Jarrar (publisher of the site above):
http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/2005/04/marla-ruzicka-killed-in-baghdad.html

Justin Alexander:
http://www.justinalexander.net/2005/04/innocent-victim.htm

Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at April 19, 2005 2:32 PM

There's a memorial/tribute site to Marla, at:

http://marlaruzicka.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at April 23, 2005 11:40 PM

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