Marla Ruzicka, Rachel Corrie and “Credibility”

by Alexander Cockburn
Whatever sour emotions I entertained while reading accounts of the funeral of Marla Ruzicka had nothing really to do with the death on April 16 of a brave young woman in Baghdad. On many accounts and I have had a detailed conversation with a close friend of Marla’s whose judgment I respect she was an idealistic person whose prime political flaw seems to have been the very forgivable one of naivety.

Both in Afghanistan and Iraq, in furtherance of her humanitarian schemes, Marla Ruzicka elected a stance of studious neutrality in ascribing responsibility for the victims of US bombings and ground fire. This pursuit of “credibility” certainly yielded its ironic reward in the political range of those who publicly mourned her.

A US senator Barbara Boxer attended Ruzicka’s funeral in Lakeport, northern California. Bob Herbert of the New York Times poured out an emotional column honoring Ruzicka. So did Robert L. Pollock, a writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. ” America has lost a peerless and unique ambassador,” Pollock wrote on April 19. “[S]he stood out from the crowd of journalists and self-proclaimed humanitarians–far too many of whom believed their mission was to bear witness to an American misadventure in Iraq that would, and should, fail.”

The sourness in my soul stemmed from a contrast. Almost exactly two years earlier, on March 16, 2003, another brave young woman in a foreign land lost her life, not to a suicide bomber, but under the blade of a 47-ton bulldozer made in America by the Caterpillar company specifically for house demolitions and driven by an Israeli soldier. Maybe, in the last seconds of his life, that suicide bomber in Baghdad never even saw Ruzicka. The soldier in Gaza surely saw Corrie, clearly visible in her fluorescent orange jacket, and rolled the bulldozer blade right over her.

No US senator attended Rachel’s funeral after her parents brought her home to the state of Washington. Both US senators ran in the opposite direction. Later the Corries disclosed that after their return to the US with their daughter’s body, they contacted their US Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, and told them how their daughter had been deliberately murdered while peacefully demonstrating against house demolitions, which are violations of international law. Murray and Cantwell, the Corries recall, were quick with expressions of outrage and promises of investigations. The Corries never heard from Murray or Cantwell again.

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