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Monday, April 18, 2005

Aid worker killed

In an e-mail message to a friend, Marla Ruzicka described the girl sitting on her lap in a Baghdad photo: "This is Harah, she was 3 mts old when her mom threw her out of the window of the car and all her family members died when a US rocket hit the car - now she is big and healthy - we help her - thought you would like to see the phot

An American Aid Worker Is Killed in Her Line of Duty

Published: April 18, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 17 - For more than two years, Marla Ruzicka worked to get help for innocent civilians caught in cross-fires here. A 28-year-old Californian with blond hair and an electric smile, she ran a one-woman aid group.

On Saturday afternoon, Ms. Ruzicka became a casualty herself. A suicide bomber attacked a convoy of security contractors that was passing near her car on the airport road in Baghdad, killing her and her Iraqi driver, United States Embassy officials in Baghdad said.

Ms. Ruzicka had worked in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. She took great risks, often traveling to talk to Iraqis without the guards and armored cars that reporters here tend to rely on. She also had an extraordinary gift for promoting her cause, whether in Iraq or Washington.

She worked with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, to get $2.5 million for civilian victims in Afghanistan, and later, $10 million for victims in Iraq. Last week another $10 million was authorized for the Iraq program.

"She was the one that persuaded us," Mr. Leahy said Sunday afternoon in a telephone interview. "Here's someone who at 28 years old did more than most people do in a lifetime."

Ms. Ruzicka was deceptively girlish in person. She often arranged parties for the foreign correspondents here and in Afghanistan. She was in her element, with her distinctive giggle always audible over the music. But she used the occasions to lobby reporters to write about the things that mattered to her.

The evening before she died, she visited this reporter in Baghdad to talk about civilian casualties. She spoke with affection about a 2-year-old girl she was helping, whose parents and other relatives were killed by a missile in 2003.
On the day she was killed, Ms. Ruzicka was visiting Iraqi families that had lost relatives to the violence here. She sent a text message to a friend saying the stories had been painful to hear.

An American Army officer who arrived on the scene shortly after the bomber struck said that Ms. Ruzicka's car was engulfed in flames, and that she was still alive and conscious, with burns over 90 percent of her body.

A medic on the scene treated her, said the officer, Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, and heard her last words.

"I'm alive," she said.

Some NGO folks walk around as if they have a halo protecting them.

They usually get killed.


Because, in the end, they see only the good in people, and if she hadn't died in a car bombing, some aggrieved party would have eventually killed her. Violence is violence and war is ugly. People trying to help people are seen as a threat.

She died in a horrible way, one she clearly didn't deserve. But war is cruel, relentlessly cruel and good, decent people burn to death as the byproduct of it.

A waste, a real waste.

posted by Steve @ 12:02:00 AM

12:02:00 AM

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