In Defense of Marla Ruzicka

by , April 28, 2005

People all across the political spectrum, encompassing all possible views on the Iraq war, stopped for a moment of rueful silence when the news broke that Marla Ruzicka was killed by a suicide bomber the other day. Well, almost everyone, that is, except for one Debbie Schlussel, a right-wing columnist who tries to market herself as a kind of third-rate Ann Coulter (complete with a bad dye job and a come-hither sulk). She is glad that Marla is dead. She said so in her column. So is David Horowitz, the neoconservative demagogue who makes $180,000 a year (and more) cashing-in on his Communist-Marxist past (he’s sorry, oh-sooooooo-sorry!). He published Schlussel’s hate-filled screed on his smear site. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but the neocon crazies have reached a new low. Here’s a taste of Schlussel’s poisonous brew:

“When The New York Times, Nightline, and CNN nominate a young blonde for sainthood ahead of the Pope, it’s time for a reality check. Especially when that blonde, Marla Ruzicka’s sole purpose is to legitimize our enemies, cause problems for U.S. troops already in harm’s way, and morally equate dead terrorists with victims of 9/11.”

Ruzicka spent the final years of her life trying to compensate the maimed, comfort the families of civiliancollateral damage,” and heal at least some of the “liberating” wounds inflicted by U.S. military action in Iraq. Go here and here and here, read her firsthand accounts of her work in Iraq, and you tell me if she’s there to “cause problems for U.S. troops” and “equate dead terrorists with victims of 9/11.” Children missing limbs – these are “terrorists”? Only in the twisted, hateful world of Debbie Schlussel and her enablers and fans like David Horowitz. What’s truly sickening about Schlussel’s slime, however, is the sheer envy that emanates from it like a bad smell wafting up from her prose:

“A 28-year-old San Franciscan, Ruzicka was in Iraq ‘to help the Iraqi people,’ proclaim the multi-orgasmic mainstream media memorials to her. Even the Wall Street Journal’s normally excellent Robert Pollock mourned ‘Ambassador Marla’ for being a less gnarly America-hater than the others. … With her cascading blonde hair and youthful looks, Ruzicka didn’t look like your average greasy-haired, pot-smoking, hackey-sack-playing, crunchy radical. And the media swooned over her, the newly-anointed Vanity Fair pin-up in Birkenstocks.”

Yeah, Debbie, Marla was a real blonde – unlike your haggish self. And she was young – again, unlike yourself, in spite of the few pounds of makeup you slosh on your tired old forty-if-you’re-a-day face. But recognizing the roots (if you’ll pardon the expression) of Schlussel’s schadenfreude would require a “reality check” on Debbie Dye-job’s part, which is not about to happen. Apart from outright envy, however, what exactly is Schlussel’s beef? She writes:

“Marla Ruzicka was no mere peace activist. She formed the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), the goal of which was anything but CIVIC during the War on Terror or ever. Ruzicka’s aim was to force the U.S. government to get an ‘accurate’ count of ‘innocent civilian’ deaths by U.S. Troops and blackmail America into paying monetary settlements for each death.”

To begin with, the idea that a mere slip of a girl like Marla could “force” the U.S. Government to do anything it didn’t want to do is laughable, at best. Secondly, as the Washington Times pointed out in an article on CIVIC published before her death,

“Miss Ruzicka’s work is not purely academic research. It is required by U.S. law. The final version of the $78.5 billion emergency-spending bill passed by Congress in April requires that the U.S. Government ‘provide appropriate assistance’ to Iraqi civilians for war losses. Though the money is to come out of the $2.5 billion the Pentagon has set aside for Iraq reconstruction projects, it has not been decided how much of it will be spent for compensation.”

Was it really “blackmail” for Marla to seek compensation for an 8-year-old girl with a severed arm, who cried when Marla came to her door because she was “embarrassed by her deformities”? What about her teenage brother, whose legs are so injured by shrapnel from American bombs that he may never play his beloved game of soccer again – doesn’t he deserve to have his medical bills paid by the people who did this to him? It isn’t charity – it’s justice.

What is truly disgusting about Schlussel’s bile, however, is the ironic quote marks around the words “innocent civilians.” As Schlussel puts it:

“Ruzicka had the gall to insist that these Afghani and Iraqi dead, terrorists or not, get recognition and sympathy equal to victims of the 9/11 attacks.” [Emphasis added].

A normal person might ask: Why shouldn’t they get our sympathy if they aren’t “terrorists”? Because, in Debbie’s World, there are no innocent civilians in the Middle East – except in Israel (of course!). All those damned Ay-rabs are guilty, in her view, and deserve death, or at least a good maiming.

You can’t get much sicker than that – or so you might think. But Schlussel is just getting started with her bill of particulars. After screeching about Marla’s alleged invocation of “moral equivalence” between the “terrorists” and the pathetic victims of both American state terrorism and the amateur variety practiced by Zarqawi and his goons, Schlussel asks:

“Where was Marla Ruzicka on 9/11? Hint: Not asking al-Qaeda for money to count and compensate U.S. victims of terror.”

Talk about moral equivalence! It is Schlussel who is here equating Bin Laden & Co. with the U.S. She’s so utterly clueless, however, that she doesn’t even realize how badly she contradicts herself – and, what’s more, it’s doubtful that she cares. Smearing and defiling the dead is all the ghoulish Schlussel is after, as she goes on to cite a long list of organizations – Rainforest Action Network, the “far left” Human Rights Watch (yeah, right!), Global Exchange, and “Code Pink” – Marla had some association with in her short life. As a high school student, Marla traveled to Cuba with a group of activists, in defiance of the trade sanctions: this, to Schlussel, is proof that she supported Fidel Castro. Yet there are plenty of people who oppose the sanctions who hate Castro’s guts: I don’t think even Schlussel can get away with trying to label Pat Buchanan a “commie,” and yet he came out against the sanctions during his 2000 run for the White House, as has the libertarian Cato Institute [.pdf]. (If it matters: from reading this, I don’t think she was a red.)

Schlussel resorts to a series of brazen lies in a frantic effort to smear the fallen Marla, starting with the canard that she was helping the insurgents in Iraq:

“In Iraq, where Ruzicka traveled with the group, Code Pink functioned as a pro-Saddam – and now pro-‘insurgent’ – group of anti-Americans. … Remember the Americans burnt to a crisp and hung from a bridge in the Fallujah uprising? Code Pink donated over $650,000 to those Fallujah terrorists (Code Pinkos call them ‘refugees.’)”

Bloodthirsty neocon ideologues of Schlussel’s ilk use quote marks to banish inconvenient facts from their purview – but the reality is that at least 60,000 refugees fled the U.S. assault on Fallujah at one point, pouring into Baghdad. The city was emptied at the direction of the U.S. military, which warned the inhabitants to get out of what had become a free-fire zone. It’s hard to believe that Schlussel is really denying this, but then again the War Party is in total denial about lots of things these days – including that there are any civilian casualties worth counting in Iraq.

Because, you see, to admit this horrific reality – which Marla faced every day – would be politically inconvenient for Schlussel and her fellow neocons, and therefore it becomes politically incorrect to even raise the subject. Ideology trumps humanity, always with these political fanatics – whose bloodthirstiness increases the further away they are from the battlefield.

Code Pink and Marla were trying to help the refugees – who may not have greeted the Americans with showers of rose petals, but who weren’t (and aren’t) “terrorists” by any means. Indeed, the sight of Americans trying to help them in a concrete material way would generate pro-American sentiment, if anything – but this obvious point completely eludes the hate-mongering Schlussel, who no doubt felt cheated that every man, woman, and child in Fallujah had somehow escaped being pulverized by American firepower.

Another lie told by Schlussel is that Marla participated in Code Pink demonstrations at Walter Reed Army Hospital that were supposedly designed to “harass badly wounded American soldiers.” Only a malignant witch like our Debbie could twist the purpose of the Women for Peace night vigils for the wounded at Walter Reed, which are held, in the words of the organizers,

“To draw attention to the late-night arrival of seriously wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. These soldiers are the most seriously wounded – with shattered limbs, brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorders. They are delivered to Walter Reed (and Bethesda Naval Medical Center) under cover of darkness, at 10 p.m. or later. We believe the nighttime arrivals are scheduled purposely to minimize public attention to, and knowledge of, the flow of seriously wounded soldiers from the war.”

They bring in the wounded in the dead of night in order to engage in what the War Party calls “perception management” – i.e., hiding the true costs of the war. Truth is what Marla was after, not the prefab lies spread by Schlussel and her fellow war vultures. Along the same lines, she thought it was important to document the real Iraqi civilian casualty figures – to know not only the numbers but the faces of the wounded. She visited them, succored them, and fought for them to her dying day.

I want to apologize to my readers for making them wade through Schlussel’s river of sh*t – but we have to look straight in the face of evil if we want to be able to overcome it. I promise you we’re almost done, yet there’s one last matter to attend to here. Schlussel writes:

“While it’s a sad day when any American gets killed by Islamic terrorists, it’s measurably less sad when that American aided and abetted them – and belittled our troops.

“For Marla Ruzicka, some might call it, poetic justice.”

Schlussel dances on Marla’s grave, defying all the rules of logic and moral sense, shrieking all the while that the death of this young saint is “justice.” This is brazen evil: an uglier sight would be hard to imagine. Naturally, the malevolent troll Horowitz was one of the few conservative media outlets to publish this trash, and even many of his readers were horrified. Lucianne.com – run by Lucianne Goldberg, mother of National Review editor Jonah Goldberg – featured it as an “editor’s pick,” and the comments that accompanied the article were uniformly gloating in their glee at Marla’s death. Meanwhile, over at Free Republic, the online comment board for Bush-League neo-fascists, the shouts of joy at the news of Marla’s grisly demise were ecstatic.

That a woman like Schlussel has any voice, any forum, in which to broadcast her hate is scary in and of itself: that she does it in the name of “conservatism” ought to frighten the heck out of real conservatives, who hardly have an interest in associating themselves with someone so obviously crazed with bloodlust. David Horowitz, however, and the few neocon outlets that posted her putrid piece – like “Political USA” and “The American Thinker” (what a laugh-riot of a title that is!) – revel in slander, the more outrageous the better. It doesn’t matter that one of Horowitz’s own writers pointed out the facts about Marla’s courageous work – an account that contradicts Schlussel’s fabrications in nearly every particular. It doesn’t matter that CIVIC, as Marla pointed out before her death, didn’t even take a position on the war. It is convenient for the neocons to turn a saint into a devil figure – anything to keep their deluded followers so hopped up in a frenzy of hate that they won’t question the increasingly authoritarian impulses of their leaders.

It’s time to draw the line against this increasingly assertive evil – by making an example out of Schlussel. Her piece goes way over the line, and those who posted it and approved it have to take a share of the responsibility. It’s time to hold these people accountable for their ugliness, and force them to clean up their act – or else. Schlussel has a column at “Conservative Town Hall” and she writes frequently for the New York Post. Write to these folks, send them a copy of Schlussel’s “dance of death” column, and politely inquire as to whether this is the sort of columnist they think ought to be gracing their pages. Write to David Horowitz and demand an apology. That fat old gasbag, always so full of self-righteousness, ought to get down on his knees and beg forgiveness from Marla’s staunchly Republican parents, who are prostrate with grief.

Enough is enough. We’re long overdue for a little spring cleaning: let’s freshen the air and take this bitch down.

Read more by Justin Raimondo