Connecting The Dots
By Larry Kelley
"If you can't help people, try not to hurt them."-The Dali Lama
She was young, energetic and beautiful. But most importantly, she really cared. And she was making a difference, in a place where making a difference usually gets you killed. Her only weapon was a cell phone but she helped more innocent civilians than any American in Iraq.
She could have come home whenever she wanted, but she stayed and stayed until finally it was too late. Her last words were, "I'm alive." Optimistic to the very end.
Marla Ruzicka, the 28-year-old humanitarian and political activist from Northern California, killed in Baghdad April 16, made civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan her life-and death.
According to US Embassy officials in Iraq, Ms. Ruzicka became one of those civilian casualties when a "suicide bomber" allegedly attacked a "convoy of security contractors" that happened to be passing next to her vehicle on a Baghdad airport road.
Co-workers and journalists who knew her were impressed by her tireless energy and charismatic personality but she was considered a "constant gadfly to the US military," according to the New York Times. And she got results, helping to win US Congressional approval for $30 million in civilian aid to Iraq and Afghanistan, while giving the world one of the few well-researched accountings of the cost in innocent lives,
Important work considering the US military's policy of not accounting for civilian casualties, estimated to be well over 100,000.
She recently had obtained new figures from the military, somehow, and she was "eager to talk," said her friend, reporter Robert F. Worth whom she had contacted the evening before her death. Her friend of 10 years, Michael Shellenberger, said, "She was trying to get a precedent set where militaries pay for civilian victims." Lately she had been interviewing Iraqi women detained in Abu Ghraib and other prisons.
Details of her death are nebulous to say the least. An American Army officer, Brig. Gen. Karl Horst arrived at the scene shortly after the attack. He said Ms. Ruzicka was "still alive and conscious" when he arrived, according to the New York Times, and quoted a medic who treated her as saying her last words were, "I'm alive."
Her friend, reporter Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor, wrote, "I found out that Marla had died several hours after she didn't show up for a party that she planned at the Hamra, a hotel occupied mostly by foreign journalists."
"We got a call from the US military saying a woman fitting her description had been in an accident, but that she was in the military hospital and in good condition. We were relievedÉthen we received another call. It was the military again. This time they said the woman was dead on arrival."
So far there has been no report of casualties in the convoy that allegedly was the intended target, and no identification of the "suicide bomber" or his vehicle.
At a time when the International Red Cross and the United Nations were leaving Iraq, Ms. Ruzicka, whose family lives in Lakeport, Ca., founded CIVIC-Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict-and received support from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. in winning congressional approval of civilian aid worth $10 million in Afghanistan and $20 million in Iraq, said Leahy aid Tim Rieser.
Reporter Jill Carroll wrote that if her friend Marla were still alive, "she would point out that this happens to Iraqis every day and no one notices or even cares. There are no newspaper articles or investigations into what happens to them. For most of them, there was only Marla."
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President Bush has hired his friend Karen Hughes to head an "outreach program" aimed at changing and promoting the US image in Muslim countries, reports the Washington Post. Chances are, Muslims will not be as easily swayed as Republicans.
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The Bush Administration recently won congressional approval for $81 billion more for the war, pushing the grand total over $300 billion. Meanwhile, the Pentagon now admits that $9 billion is missing from Iraq.
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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recently met with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow, telling him "not to fear democracy." She added that recent trends in Russia's struggle to become a full-fledged democracy "were not positive," citing increased central control of state governments and the broadcast media, according to the New York Times. Putin suggested that Ms. Rice give her boss the same message regarding the US.
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Vote fraud pioneer Bev Harris, of BlackBoxVoting.Org., reports that to hack into and change the numbers on Diebold voting machines, one need only know the password which, for the last election, was, believe it or not, "Diebold."
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Help is on the way. For $8.95 you can buy a "Fox Blocker" for your television.
Now, all we need is a "Bush Blocker."
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