THE HANDSTAND

MAY 2005


aid worker uncovered america's secret tally of Iraqi civilian deaths

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
The Independent
20 April 2005

http://signs-of-the-times.org/signs/signs.htm  

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. Iraq Body Count, a group that monitors casualty reports, says at least 17,384 have died. But the group bases its totals only on deaths reported by the media, and says it can therefore only "be a sample" of the total actually killed. Its website says: "It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war."

A peer-reviewed report published last year in The Lancet and based on an extrapolation of data suggested that 100,000 civilians may have been killed during the invasion and its aftermath. One of the report's author, Dr Richard Garfield, professor of nursing at Columbia University, said: "Of course they keep records and of course they pretend they don't. Why is it important to keep the numbers of those killed? Well, why was it important to record the names of those people killed in the World Trade Centre? It would have been inconceivable not to. These people have lives of value.

"We are still fighting [to record] the Armenian genocide. Until people have names and are counted they don't exist in a policy sense."

Ms Ruzicka, from California, was killed in Baghdad after her car was caught in the blast of a suicide bomber who attacked a convoy of security contractors on the road to the city's airport. She was in Iraq heading, Civic, the organisation she set up to record and document civilians killed or injured by the US military, and to seek compensation. She carried out a similar project in Afghanistan.[...]

afghanistan
2003 San Francisco Chronicle

An unofficial survey she undertook in Afghanistan confirmed 824 dead. Returning to the United States, she lobbied Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to insert language in an appropriations bill that would provide $3.75 million to help victims.

In July, the money started trickling in to the devastated country.

Leahy, who in 1989 established the Leahy War Victims Fund, a $10 million annual appropriation used to provide medical, rehabilitation and related assistance to civilian victims of war, thinks highly of the young activist. "Marla is an exceptionally determined, energetic and brave young woman who has traveled to the front lines to focus attention on an issue that too often gets ignored," he said. "Civilians bear the brunt of the suffering in wars today, but there is no policy to help them. Marla and her organization have helped put a human face on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by identifying the victims and their needs, and by lobbying for assistance."

"I've helped Marla navigate the system," added Leahy aide Tim Reiser. "We've been working on this issue for years, but it's a delicate one. Asking for assistance for victims is like asking the Pentagon to admit they made mistakes. Fortunately, their offices in Iraq see the advantage of helping. They're seeing the anger and resentment that happens when bad things happen to the wrong people."

Reiser says he's noticed a change in Ruzicka in the last two years since they started working together.

This has meant cozying up to a military she had formerly excoriated. "I'm constantly hitting them up for help, and I have learned that for the most part, they are anxious to help," she said. "The Marines have nicknamed me Cluster Bomb Girl because I would hear of places where they had gone off, and I would ask them to help me clear the area."

It was between her post-war sojourns to Afghanistan and Iraq that Ruzicka split amicably from Global Exchange to start her own organization, CIVIC (www.civicworldwide.org). Though there is the ongoing worry over money, Ruzicka is getting better at finding grants, and she was given a boost when ABC's "Nightline" aired a piece on her work in Iraq.

'The public must know how many have died'

This is an edited extract of an article written by Marla Ruzicka a week before her death:

In my two years in Iraq, the one question I am asked the most is: "How many Iraqi civilians have been killed by American forces?" The American public has a right to know how many Iraqis have lost their lives since the start of the war and as hostilities continue.

In a news conference at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in March 2002, General Tommy Franks said: "We don't do body counts." His words outraged the Arab world.

During the Iraq war, as US troops pushed toward Baghdad, counting civilian casualties was not a priority for the military. Since 1 May 2003, when President Bush declared major combat operations over and the US military moved into "stability operations", most units began to keep track of civilians killed at checkpoints or during patrols by US soldiers.

Here in Baghdad, a brigadier general explained to me that it is standard procedure for US troops to file a spot report when they shoot a non-combatant. It is in the military's interest to release these statistics.

A number is important not only to quantify the cost of war, but as a reminder of those whose dreams will never be realised in a free and democratic Iraq.

slain u.s. activist's project stalls
By JAMIE TARABAY, Associated Press Writer
Sat Apr 23, 3:37 AM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The 12-year-old orphan remembers Marla Ruzicka as a smiling blonde apparition who gave him a glass of juice and changed his clothes when bullet splinters in his spine made it painful to move and walking virtually impossible. The American activist took up Rakan Hassan's cause, securing a surgeon in the United States to perform the operation he needs to recover from the attack that killed his parents. But Ruzicka died before she could complete her mission, cut down by the same relentless violence that has shattered the lives of the many Iraqis she tried to help.

Ruzicka was killed with her Iraqi translator and another foreigner on April 16 when a car bomb exploded as they drove in two vehicles along the treacherous road leading to Baghdad's airport. She will be buried Saturday in her hometown of Lakeport, Calif.

At first, the Hassan children were told Ruzicka died in a car accident, their relatives offering a more benign version of the truth to the youngsters still longing for their parents, Kamila and Hussein.

But Intisar Hassan, the eldest at 24, learned the truth when she watched the news that night on television. She began to cry.

"That woman who was killed was a nice woman," Intisar Hassan said by telephone from the family's concrete-block home in Tal Afar, 90 miles east of the Syrian border. "She was kind and nice, and we hoped at the time she would be able to help Rakan get better."

At the time of her death, Ruzicka was in contact with officials from the U.S. Embassy and State Department to arrange Rakan's medical evacuation. Since then, however, his cause has stalled. The embassy said Friday it was still processing his case.

Everyone who knew the 28-year-old activist - from the Iraqi families she helped, to the U.S. Senators and war correspondents she lobbied - extolled Ruzicka's relentless campaign for compensation for the innocent victims of war.

A one-woman human rights movement, Ruzicka was instrumental in securing millions of dollars in aid for distribution in Iraq. She'd been traveling to and from the country since U.S.-led forces invaded in March 2003, often going door-to-door to meet wounded Iraqis and collect the figures for her surveys on the number hurt and killed.

She badgered the military for numbers and Washington for money. She sweet-talked journalists and soldiers alike into helping her out. And everyone got a hug.

Ruzicka refused to accept the official line that the U.S. military does not keep track of civilian casualties, writing in an op-ed piece the week before she was killed that this position "outraged the Arab world and damaged the U.S. claim that its forces go to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties."

An Associated Press survey of deaths in the first 12 months of the occupation found that more than 5,000 Iraqis died violently in just Baghdad and three provinces. Since then, however, neither U.S. nor Iraqi officials have produced a complete tally.

Ruzicka thought she was close to uncovering the figures.

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to her claims.

Ruzicka was on her way to visit an Iraqi girl injured in a bomb blast when she was killed, according to her colleagues from the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, the organization she founded.

As for Rakan, he now lies motionless on a bed borrowed from neighbors, staring listless and depressed at the walls of a bleak, dank room, waiting for help to walk through the door again.

Rakan's parents were killed when a U.S. military foot patrol fired on the family's car one dark, starless night in January in the border town of Tal Afar. The incident was widely reported, but Ruzicka was one of few foreigners to risk traveling north to meet Rakan and his seven siblings earlier this month.

Comment: Remember the shooting in Tal Afar?



That shooting was the incident where the father's face was obliterated by machine gun fire from US forces as the children rode in the back seat.


Rakan said he felt sorry for Ruzicka's parents "because she cared about me. I should care about her family in return."

Still struggling with the loss of his own parents, Rakan said through a translator that he wanted to send a message to Clifford and Nancy Ruzicka, preparing to bury their much-loved daughter on the other side of the world.

"I say to her parents: God bless her soul, God give them strength to endure this tragedy," he said. "I lost her, they lost her and every poor Iraqi has lost her."


A Global Pact Against
  Depleted Uranium

  From Professor Francis Boyle
fboyle@LAW.UIUC.EDU
  4-24-5

          During September of 2004 I launched an international campaign to conclude a global pact against depleted uranium (DU) munitions by having every state in the world officially and publicly take the position that the Geneva Protocol of 1925 already includes within itself a flat-out prohibition on the use of DU in wartime, which they have no yet done.

So far the United States is the only government in the world that uses DU munitions during wartime. In addition to prohibiting "the use of bacteriological methods of warfare," the 1925 Geneva Protocol also prohibits "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials, or devices." Clearly DU is "analogous" to poison gas.[i] But we need every government in the world to legally and openly take that position. Then the entire world can pressure the United States to remove DU munitions from its arsenal.
>
          Politically, the easiest way to accomplish that objective is not the conclusion of a new international treaty prohibiting the use of DU, but rather simply having every state in the world submit an interpretative Letter to that effect to the Government of France, which is the official depositary for the 1925 Geneva Protocol. This latter approach would also avoid the need to have the respective national legislatures of every state in the world to approve a new anti-DU treaty and thus complicate and prolong the process. All that needs to be done is for anti-DU citizens, activists and NGOs in each country of the world to pressure and convince their respective Foreign Ministers to sign, date, and then file this model Letter with the French Foreign Minister as indicated below. That task is eminently feasible.

          As the Land Mines Treaty has already demonstrated, it is possible for a coalition of determined activists and NGOs, acting in concert with at least one sympathetic state, such as Canada, to actually bring into being an international treaty to address humanitarian concerns. This template Letter is for the use of concerned citizens, activists and NGOs worldwide, to pursue through universal governmental participation the complete and final elimination of DU munitions from the face of the earth:

>         

His Excellency Michel Barnier

          Foreign Minister
          French Republic
          37, Quai d'Orsay
          75351 Paris
          FRANCE

          FAX: 33-1-43-17-4275


          Dear Excellency:

          The Republic of X presents its compliments to the French
Republic.
I have the honor to draw to your attention the Protocol for the
Prohibition
of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of
Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 17 June 1925, for which the
Government
of the French Republic serves as the depositary. The Geneva Protocol of
1925
prohibits the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of
all analogous liquids, materials or devices, as well as the use of
bacteriological methods of warfare. The government of X believes that the
Geneva Protocol of 1925 already prohibits the use in war of depleted
uranium, uranium ammunition, uranium armor-plate and all other uranium
weapons. We respectfully request your Excellency to circulate this
communication to the other High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Protocol
of 1925.

          Please accept, Excellency, the assurance of our highest
consideration.



          Foreign Minister
          Republic of X

          Day, Month, Year

          ---------------------------


Note:          [i] International Action Center, Metal of Dishonor:
          Depleted Uranium (2d ed. 1999).


          Francis A. Boyle
          Law Building
          504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
          Champaign, IL 61820 USA
          217-333-7954 (voice)
          217-244-1478 (fax)
          fboyle@law.uiuc.edu
          (personal comments only)



"Depleted Uranium Casualties: Care Denied"

Dr. Doug Rokke, Ph.D.
Major (retired) United States Army Reserve
Former Director U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project

April 1, 2004

Although published U.S. Army regulations and "Medical Management of Unusual Depleted Uranium Exposures" (Headquarters, Department of the Army, October 14, 1993) require that military medical treatment facility personnel provide a radio-bioassay within 24 hours of depleted uranium contamination exposure and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs directives also specify completion of a radiobioasay followed by relevant medical care for all individuals who were exposed to uranium contamination via inhalation, ingestion, absorption, or wound contamination while:

"a. Being in the midst of smoke from DU fires resulting from the burning of vehicles uploaded with DU munitions or depots in which DU munitions are being stored.

b. Working within environments containing DU dust or residues from DU fires.

c. Being within a structure or vehicle while it is struck by DU munitions."

Medical care has been willfully denied to the majority of DU casualties who are supposed to receive care.

Gulf War Review (Volume 12, No. 1, and U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs) states that as of September 2003, only two hundred and sixty two (262) veterans had been tested for depleted uranium exposures. This is only a fraction of the 424 Gulf War 1 depleted uranium friendly fire and recovery team veterans who were exposed to uranium contamination during Gulf War 1 according to a September 28, 1998 briefing provided to President William Clinton's Presidential Special Oversight Board under Senator Warren Rudman by Office of Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses officials under the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

However the 424 number of exposed individuals is only a fraction of the thousands of U.S. and U.S. coalition forces who were exposed and it does not include thousands of Iraqi military personnel and none of the thousands of civilians and non-combatants who were exposed during combat operations, DU weapons manufacturing, or DU weapons testing.

While a small fraction of confirmed U.S. DU casualties have received medical care, all other confirmed or suspected DU casualties have been and still are being denied medical care. This required medical care must be provided to all exposed individuals independent of whether they are combatants or non-combatants. They must be provided immediate medical care now!
The excuses must stop! THE DENIAL OF MEDICAL CARE MUST STOP!

But even when very limited medical care has been provided to veterans, including myself, with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs service-connected disabilities they are billed for their medical care and prescriptions. Then when they refuse to pay the illegal bill they have received formal letters from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials threatening garnishment of their disability check to pay for service connected medical care. This practice must stop.

In addition, the confirmed mismanagement and loss of individual military service medical records and personnel records that has occurred at the U.S Department of Defense National Records and ARPERSCOM / HSC under the command of Colonel Debra Cook, U.S. Army, located in St. Louis Missouri must cease.

As the confirmed Gulf War 1 casualty count that including our nation's finest sons and daughters exceeds 221,000 injured and/or ill with over 10000 dead and the confirmed Gulf War 2 casualty count exceeds 18,004 and over 600 dead as of March 30, 2004 it is time for President George W. Bush, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, and Secretary of Defense William Rumsfeld to solve the problems of denied, delayed, and ineffective medical care. It is time for them to stop the billing of our nation's heroes for medical care they earned while serving our nation!

WE MUST TAKE CARE OF OUR NATION'S VETERANS AND NOT CONTINUE THEIR ABANDONMENT

Charlie Jenks Traprock Peace Center
103A Keets Road, Woolman Hill
Deerfield, MA 01342

A Global Pact Against
>  Depleted Uranium
>  From Francis Boyle
fboyle@LAW.UIUC.EDU
>  4-24-5
>
>          During September of 2004 I launched an international campaign to
> conclude a global pact against depleted uranium (DU) munitions by having
> every state in the world officially and publicly take the position that
> the
> Geneva Protocol of 1925 already includes within itself a flat-out
> prohibition on the use of DU in wartime, which they have no yet done. So
> far
> the United States is the only government in the world that uses DU
> munitions
> during wartime. In addition to prohibiting "the use of bacteriological
> methods of warfare," the 1925 Geneva Protocol also prohibits "the use in
> war
> of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids,
> materials, or devices." Clearly DU is "analogous" to poison gas.[i] But we
> need every government in the world to legally and openly take that
> position.
> Then the entire world can pressure the United States to remove DU
> munitions
> from its arsenal.
>
>          Politically, the easiest way to accomplish that objective is not
> the conclusion of a new international treaty prohibiting the use of DU,
> but
> rather simply having every state in the world submit an interpretative
> Letter to that effect to the Government of France, which is the official
> depositary for the 1925 Geneva Protocol. This latter approach would also
> avoid the need to have the respective national legislatures of every state
> in the world to approve a new anti-DU treaty and thus complicate and
> prolong
> the process. All that needs to be done is for anti-DU citizens, activists
> and NGOs in each country of the world to pressure and convince their
> respective Foreign Ministers to sign, date, and then file this model
> Letter
> with the French Foreign Minister as indicated below. That task is
> eminently
> feasible.
>
>          As the Land Mines Treaty has already demonstrated, it is possible
> for a coalition of determined activists and NGOs, acting in concert with
> at
> least one sympathetic state, such as Canada, to actually bring into being
> an
> international treaty to address humanitarian concerns. This template
> Letter
> is for the use of concerned citizens, activists and NGOs worldwide, to
> pursue through universal governmental participation the complete and final
> elimination of DU munitions from the face of the earth:
>
>          His Excellency Michel Barnier
>
>          Foreign Minister
>          French Republic
>          37, Quai d'Orsay
>          75351 Paris
>          FRANCE
>
>          FAX: 33-1-43-17-4275
>
>
>          Dear Excellency:
>
>          The Republic of X presents its compliments to the French
> Republic.
> I have the honor to draw to your attention the Protocol for the
> Prohibition
> of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of
> Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 17 June 1925, for which the
> Government
> of the French Republic serves as the depositary. The Geneva Protocol of
> 1925
> prohibits the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of
> all analogous liquids, materials or devices, as well as the use of
> bacteriological methods of warfare. The government of X believes that the
> Geneva Protocol of 1925 already prohibits the use in war of depleted
> uranium, uranium ammunition, uranium armor-plate and all other uranium
> weapons. We respectfully request your Excellency to circulate this
> communication to the other High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Protocol
> of 1925.
>
>          Please accept, Excellency, the assurance of our highest
> consideration.
>
>
>
>          Foreign Minister
>
>          Republic of X
>
>          Day, Month, Year
>
>          ---------------------------
>
>          [i] International Action Center, Metal of Dishonor:
>          Depleted Uranium (2d ed. 1999).
>
>
>          Francis A. Boyle
>          Law Building
>          504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
>          Champaign, IL 61820 USA
>          217-333-7954 (voice)
>          217-244-1478 (fax)
>          fboyle@law.uiuc.edu
>          (personal comments only)
>
>