A week before she was killed by a suicide bomber, humanitarian worker Marla Ruzicka forced military commanders to admit they did keep records of Iraqi civilians killed by US forces.
Tommy Franks, the former head of US Central Command, famously said the US army “don’t do body counts”, despite a requirement to do so by the Geneva Conventions.
But in an essay Ms Ruzicka wrote a week before her death on Saturday and published yesterday, the 28-year-old revealed that a Brigadier General told her it was “standard operating procedure” for US troops to file a report when they shoot a non-combatant.
She obtained figures for the number of civilians killed in Baghdad between 28 February and 5 April, and discovered that 29 had been killed in firefights involving US forces and insurgents. This was four times the number of Iraqi police killed.
“These statistics demonstrate that the US military can and does track civilian casualties,” she wrote. “Troops on the ground keep these records because they recognise they have a responsibility to review each action taken and that it is in their interest to minimise mistakes, especially since winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis is a key component of their strategy.”
Sam Zia-Zarifi, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, the group for which Ms Ruzicka wrote the report, said her discovery “was very important because it allows the victims to start demanding compensation”. He added: “At a policy level they have never admitted they keep these figures.”
Exactly how many Iraqi civilians have been killed in the last two years is unclear…link
I have my doubts about the accuracy of the figures she obtained, and am of the opinion that counting victims is spotty, at best, and that it is likely that the figures reported are extremely low.
However, her insistence that the Iraqis are human beings as opposed to vermin would have without a doubt firmly established her as a troublemaker at the very least.
It is extremely unlikely that the circumstances surrounding her death will ever be known.
Like so many of the Iraqis she defied America to help, she died horribly, burned to death, and not instantly.