Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Killing Fields

As Sherman said,

War is Hell.

It creates a cast of uncountable victims and heroes.

The Marla Ruzicka story comes to my mind and to our hearts.

Not one news organization gave her death the dignity it deserved by actually saying how many civilians have been killed in this war.

Media Matters picked up part of the story yesterday.

"In their coverage of the death of Marla Ruzicka, an activist conducting a door-to-door survey of civilian casualties in Iraq who was killed by a suicide bomber on April 16, network news programs failed to note that her research apparently contradicts the Pentagon's repeated claims that it does not track civilian deaths.

A Pentagon official reportedly leaked some casualty figures compiled by the Defense Department to Ruzicka, who founded the Campaign for Innocent Civilians In Conflict (CIVIC) and advocated the official release of all such figures.

But in reporting on Ruzicka's work on April 17, ABC News correspondent John Berman failed to note that she directly contradicted the Pentagon's claim that it does not keep track of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. ."

The Washington Post reported that "Pentagon officials say they do not keep tallies of civilian casualties" [10/29/04]. Similarly, retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, declared in March 2002: "We don't do body counts."

Yet other news reports suggest that the Pentagon does in fact track civilian casualties, a discrepancy that ABC and other media outlets failed to note in their coverage of Ruzicka's death.

Amongst all of the reporting and all of the clatter about how good she was, I have found that the purpose of her work, to determine how many deaths actually occurred, has rarely been mentioned and even more rarely enumerated.

Those numbers are here in this piece by Trudy Rubin in the Buffalo News.

"Civilian casualties are an inconvenient stain on the story line of Iraq liberation. The Iraqi wedding party bombed by mistake; the small girl shot dead by U.S. fire aimed next door; the family killed by nervous American soldiers at a checkpoint - all are often dismissed as unavoidable collateral damage.

U.S. officials don't give out any official figures on such deaths.

That leads to rampant speculation about numbers. Last October, the London-based medical publication the Lancet contended there were 100,000 civilian deaths as direct or indirect consequence of the Iraq invasion; this figure seems an exaggeration.

The project suggested just under 17,000 as of late 2004, based on deaths reported in the news media. There is no question that many thousands have died.

Iraqis can apply to the U.S. military for compensation, but the process is often arbitrary. If the death is deemed to be "combat-related," no payment is made."

And the actual reporting by news organizations on the violent event itself is virtually nonexistent, probably because no one knows what really happened.

Alternet says this:

It's still unclear exactly how Marla and her driver, Faiz, were killed. But early reports indicate that they were traveling on the dangerous route between Baghdad and the airport when a suicide car bomber tried to attack a military convoy. Faiz was an Iraqi Airways pilot, who at one time worked as an interpreter for Monitor correspondents in Iraq.

Others don't deal with at all.

CNN says its under investigation.

"The U.S. Embassy is investigating and hasn't been able to determine if the attack was a suicide mission or a bomb that was remotely detonated, the official said.

It's also unknown whether Ruzicka's vehicle was associated with a three-car convoy of a U.S. nongovernmental organization, National Democratic Institute, that was traveling along the same road, the official added. That convoy may have been the target of the attack."

The National Democratic Institute is controlled by liberal democrats not by the right wing or other elements.

Even Medea Benjamin doesn't know what happened:

"On Saturday April 16, our colleague and friend, 28-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. "

And just to add more pathos, there is this kind of stuff from the right.

"Although the MSM, her organization, her friends and family seem to want to spin her death as being "accidental," she didn't die from cross fire or from some errant suicide bomber - she died as the result of the actions of a homicide bomber, period. In other words, friendly(for Marla) fire!

Although I've got no problem with helping the innocent victims of war, the Marlas of the world somehow always fault the U.S. with the death of innocents, and never the terrorists, the insurgents, or the "freedom fighters" that are in fact, none of these things, they are just plain old vanilla - mindless and evil killers."

I guess I watched the movie the Quiet American too recently.

And maybe a few people are thinking what I'm feeling.

And in truth, it doesn't really matter.

Marla Ruzicka was lost in the killing fields of War.

She was a hero

Oh, and by the way.

There were no W M D

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Blogger Charlie Loving said...

War is indeed Hell.

I went to war because I was tired of training for war. I didn't have to go. I was rear echelon weather man who did the weather maps and that sort of thing for the B-52's from a cushy seat a mile underground in Hawaii. My weather unit also supported the 25ID AV.

As a 20 year old infatuated with the idea of adventure and fighting for my country I learned my lesson the hard way.

Remember that scene in "Full Metal Jacket" of the chopper flying low over the rice paddies and the gunner blasting away just for the hell of it? A lot of what happened in "The Nam" was just like that.

I was drawing cartoons at the time for the Army, Air Force and Navy as well as the Stars and Stripes Pacific edition. Being a worshipper of Bill Mauldin of WWII fame, "Up Front" I knew that to get the real picture you had to be there.

So when I had a chance to go with the Wolfhunds to Camp Cobra in Thailand I went. And when the 25th AV went to Nam I volunteered. The cartoons got better. A couple even made the front page of the publications. I got promoted and my propaganda drawings (retrospect here) were getting attention.

The one day I went out on a mission with a squad of ARVN. We mistakenly landed on a Hot LZ. Usually the ARVN told the bad guys we were coming so the could go away and we could drop in shoot a lot and send back a victory message. This time was different. I woke up much later addicted to morphine and stiched back together.

War, is for the young people to fight. The old people that are there get in the way and become collateral. The old people in Hanoi, Washington, Rome, Moscow and so forth give the orders for the damage to be done.

6:25 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

nice posts CL and K. thanks CL for your real war experience. check out the blog of CL, there is some very funny stuff there, or at least there was before some of it disappeared. the son of Nunzio is funny

8:45 PM  

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