Home/Front: Marla Ruzicka Invents A Role For Herself At War : Rough Translation Marla Ruzicka didn't belong in a war zone. Nobody in Afghanistan knew what to make of her. Until Marla started to solve a problem that no one thought could be solved.

Home/Front: Marla's War

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You're listening to ROUGH TRANSLATION from NPR and our special series Home/Front with reporter Quil Lawrence, all about the civilian-military divide. There's this question that I've been thinking about since we started this particular episode - who belongs in a war zone?

TARA SUTTON: We were sitting in the lobby. And it was such a scene, you know. You'd see Peter Jennings. And then you'd see Christiane Amanpour and, you know, and everybody being really cool, right? Because everybody's just like, you know, I belong here, right?

WARNER: Tara Sutton, freelance journalist, did not feel like she belonged in Baghdad when she got there in 2003 at the start of the Iraq War.

SUTTON: And then up bopped Marla, like, hi, I'm Marla.

WARNER: Marla Ruzicka in jeans and a long, Afghan-style sheepskin vest.

SUTTON: She looked like a hippie, you know what I mean? And she was skinny. And her hair was kind of uncombed. And she just looked bedraggled - cute, but bedraggled and just sort of like floating around, like, what are you doing here exactly?

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: The two women start talking. And Tara, the freelance journalist, says she's there writing an article about Iraqi children in war.

SUTTON: And Marla goes, I was just in Afghanistan and there's a lot of traumatized people there. And I remember, like, we were laughing. We were just like, there's a lot of traumatized people in Afghanistan, like, no [expletive], you know?

LAWRENCE: And your thoughts were...

SUTTON: What a ding-dong. Like, who is this person?

LAWRENCE: I mean, the first impression of her was mystifying.

WARNER: My co-host, Quil Lawrence, had met Marla more than a year earlier in Afghanistan, when she'd inexplicably popped up at the beginning of that war.

LAWRENCE: Like, how did she even get here? I mean, most of us took a pretty arduous route. Either people came across land from Pakistan or got on some of the early flights that flew into an abandoned airstrip north of the capital. How is she surviving here, where all of us have trucked in a boatload of cash to try and get by? She's come here without a place to stay, without a driver or a security detail or...

WARNER: And she's already couch surfing at this point, right?

LAWRENCE: Yeah. And she didn't act like the rest of us. She didn't look like the rest of us. She didn't fit.


WARNER: And by the rest of us, he means the four kinds of people that usually show up at the beginning of a conflict.

LAWRENCE: If you are in Kabul in winter of 2001, 2002, and you're a foreigner, you are either a diplomat or soldier or some sort of, you know, U.N. official, humanitarian or you're a journalist. And Marla did not fit into any of those boxes.

SUTTON: She didn't have that air of self-importance that everybody else had, I think, right? And she didn't seem to take herself that seriously. And she just came off as sort of silly.

CAT PHILP: Yeah. She seemed like kind of a good-time girl. She didn't give off like a super professional vibe.

WARNER: Cat Philp is a war correspondent for the Times of London.

PHILP: I think it's part of what made people - some people - underestimate her when they first met her.


MARLA RUZICKA: When I went to Afghanistan, you know, some people you probably thought I was a little naive. Like, what was I doing there, you know?

WARNER: What was Marla doing there, anyway?

LAWRENCE: She's from this anti-war protest group called Global Exchange.


RUZICKA: I don't want to sound like bold or anything, but I try to be the voice for the victims. And I'm just one person. And I just do one little thing, but I want to do it well. And I want to be, like, really proud of what we do.

WARNER: This is ROUGH TRANSLATION's Home/Front. I'm Gregory Warner. By the end of her time in Afghanistan and Iraq, Marla Ruzicka would change the lives of all the people you just heard from. And she'd help change how the military talked about one of war's oldest and thorniest problems - what to do about civilians accidentally hurt in war.

MARC GARLASCO: Marla's vision was revolutionary. She planted the seed that today now is something that we have an expectation for.

WARNER: How did a total outsider like Marla cross the civilian-military divide to become a kind of trusted advocate to the military?

SUTTON: It's like she was honing in, piecing together some kind of puzzle that she never got to finish.

WARNER: What Marla learned about the rules of war and what that crossing cost her when ROUGH TRANSLATION's Home/Front returns.


WARNER: We're back with ROUGH TRANSLATION. I'm Gregory Warner. Here's Quil Lawrence.

LAWRENCE: Marla seemed really unguarded in person, but in interviews, she would hardly talk about her personal life, except we did find this one cassette tape.


RUZICKA: Can I have a beer?


RUZICKA: So fun.

LAWRENCE: It's an unpublished recording made by a friend she met in Afghanistan, Spanish journalist Alfons Luna. And she did talk more candidly and more, really, than in any other interview I've heard.


RUZICKA: The town I was raised in was called Lakeport.

LUNA: Lakeport.

RUZICKA: Lakeport, Calif., which is a couple hours north of San Francisco.


RUZICKA: My parents were Republican. Every morning, we would do like a hug. We'd all climb in bed and hug. I grew up Catholic, you know, treat others like you want to be treated. My mom would talk to me like, you know, you have to love everyone as much as you love your brother.

LAWRENCE: Her mom told me with some pride that Marla got half of her middle school class to walk out in protest against the first Gulf War in 1991.


RUZICKA: I got all the kids to walk out because we don't want innocent civilians to die. Everyone...

LUNA: Was that your first...

RUZICKA: Political thing, yeah. I was going to get thrown out of my position as school president, but I was very popular, so they didn't throw me out.

LAWRENCE: And that experience taught her something.


RUZICKA: I would, like, throw parties on the weekends with my friends. And then instead of like being rejected, like that weird girl, my friends were kind of like, all right, Marla's cool.

LUNA: Was that public relations...

RUZICKA: Yeah. You know, you got to have fun and love life and be good to people.

LAWRENCE: And I think this actually explains a lot of her strategy later in Afghanistan. She learned in high school that if you have a lot of friends and you throw good parties and people like you, you can get away with quite a bit. But as soon as Marla got her driver's license at age 16, she started to make regular trips down to San Francisco to find the people who cared about the things she cared about. And she started embedding herself in the anti-war community.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: My name is Medea Benjamin. I started a couple of organizations, one called Code Pink, a women's activist group, another called Global Exchange, where I met Marla.

LAWRENCE: When Marla became an intern at Global Exchange, she really took to their media strategy.


RUZICKA: Turn back the clock, like last year when you made $142 million. Is that what you'd like to do? Turn back the clock one more year.

BENJAMIN: Well, the great thing about Marla is that she had very little fear. So we would bust into the offices of the Public Energy Commission.


RUZICKA: When you make that much money? No. I work for an organization. Every day...

BENJAMIN: Marla wanted to do everything that I wanted to do, whatever it was. She just soaked everything in. I would be going out on speaking engagements. She'd want to come. She'd easily make friends with all of my friends or with brand-new people that I just met. And I think my own kids became jealous of her because Marla and I spent so much time together.


ROBERTO LAZANO: This is Lake County Radio, community radio for Lake County, Micropower radio. I want to introduce our dear friend, Marla Ruzicka. Hi, Marla.


LAZANO: And I...

LAWRENCE: Marla had a big heart. That was definitely her strength. But it also weighed her down, just thinking about all the suffering in the world.


RUZICKA: Really, like, hurt. Like, my heart was really, really, really broken. And so I was going through my hurt time. And then...

LAWRENCE: If Medea understood Marla's gifts, she also understood what those gifts cost her.

BENJAMIN: She had times of depression. And she had her ups and downs. She wasn't always sparkling.

LAWRENCE: And she'd call you in those moments.

BENJAMIN: She was constantly calling me wanting advice and, how should she deal with it? I felt like she was a daughter.


RUZICKA: And just a little plug for Global Exchange. They've kind of been like my activist family that's really done a lot of great things. So...

LAZANO: So can I ask a question? I'm curious what's in the works for up the road a few years.

RUZICKA: So you sound like my father.



LAWRENCE: What was up the road was 9/11.

BENJAMIN: The U.S. invaded Afghanistan and I was watching it on television...


DAN RATHER: The State Department has put out a briefing paper in which it emphasizes - and I quote - "these operations are designed with care and precision to avoid civilian casualties and go after..."

BENJAMIN: ...With these commentators talking about precision-guided bombs. And I said, I don't believe they're not killing civilians. I'm sure they're killing civilians. We should go and find out what's happening.

LAWRENCE: This was a time when all of the newspapers were profiling 9/11 victims and their families.

BENJAMIN: You know, you'd read those stories and you'd cry, everyone that you'd read - what that person was like, what were their favorite things in life? And we thought we have to do the same thing for the people in Afghanistan who are killed. We have to try to get their pictures. We have to try to get the stories of, what they were like? What was their favorite food? What was their favorite music? What did their parents or relatives have to say about them? What did they leave behind? Doing the same kind of documentation that The New York Times was doing for everybody who was killed on 9/11.

LAWRENCE: Medea comes up with a plan that she hopes will turn Americans against this war. They're going to infiltrate another place that they don't belong to get media attention, but instead of that place being an Enron shareholder meeting or Nancy Pelosi's holiday party, it's Afghanistan.

BENJAMIN: So the mission was to go to the places where the bombs had hit, to find out who got killed, to go to their houses, to talk to them, and to send those pictures and the stories back home so that we could try to get the media to cover them.

WARNER: It's like you've been spending eight years kind of training and growing - not training. I don't want to use such a militaristic analogy. But there is some - there is something - sense of deployment.

BENJAMIN: Absolutely. It - this was like what she had been being groomed for.

WARNER: Among many things, Marla didn't speak Dari. And she'd never been to Afghanistan before. The mission feels quite huge to then profile these families.

BENJAMIN: Yes. But it was Marla (laughter).


RUZICKA: I told my mom I was going to London.

LAWRENCE: Wait. You just called her up and said, I'm going to London?

RUZICKA: Yeah, on the phone. And I was in San Francisco. And then the day before, I said Pakistan just because I had a lot of preparing to do before I left. And I didn't want lots of frantic phone calls. But she was very understanding.

WARNER: But almost as soon as Marla makes it to Kabul, things do not go according to plan.

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: All right. Can you guys hear us?

AREFA: (Speaking Dari).

WARNER: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can hear you. (Speaking Dari).

AREFA: (Speaking Dari).

WARNER: Twenty years after she met Marla for the first time, Arefa, who only goes by one name, still remembers the encounter in front of her house on the outskirts of Kabul. It was some weeks after Arefa's whole life had been upended. A U.S. airstrike had missed its target and killed eight members of Arefa's family, including her husband. Now winter was coming. And she was struggling to feed her children.

AREFA: (Speaking Dari).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: "So Marla was in my neighbor's house. And the neighbors came to me and told me that - come meet this lady. She is the pilot of the plane herself."

WARNER: Oh, wow. So they told you she's the pilot of the plane that dropped the bomb on your family?


AREFA: (Speaking Dari).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: "Yeah. They were telling me that she's the one who had bombed the house. And she probably can help you."


WARNER: There was nothing about Marla that suggests that she was an Air Force pilot, no uniform, no military insignia. And Marla never told Arefa that she was a pilot. But Arefa didn't know what to think about this woman asking her so many questions about her life. Arefa had been interviewed by journalists. But this didn't feel like that. She was so curious to know more about Arefa's family.


WARNER: Arefa told Marla about her son Ramazan.

AREFA: (Speaking Dari).

WARNER: Who, at age 12, had taken a carpet weaving course. And then each night after class, he would sit with his mom to teach her what he'd learned.

AREFA: (Speaking Dari).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: "Slowly, slowly, I sat with him and learned how to weave. And when I learned it, my other daughters, everybody was trained,"

WARNER: Ramazan was killed along with his father. Marla seems so much more sympathetic almost to the extreme and said again and again how sorry she was, almost like she was responsible.

AREFA: (Through interpreter) Yeah. We thought so - that she will be the pilot (speaking Dari, through interpreter) you know, because she's feeling guilty. And she will be the one who could help me. And she was very kind.

LAWRENCE: Marla filled Arefa with hope. For the first time since she lost her family, she believed that someone was here that could get her help. But at this time in Kabul, in the press corps anyway, we just know Marla as the undisputed queen of the Kabul social scene.


LAWRENCE: She knew everyone.


LAWRENCE: She'd keep track of your birthday and make sure there was a party and dancing. And she was just really great fun. But those parties were also how she got people to help her out with her work. She'd be salsa dancing with you. And then she'd say, hey. How about you give me a ride up to Mazar-i-Sharif? I know you're going up there. Will you take me with you? And she wouldn't take no for an answer. And I ended up driving her up to Mazar-i-Sharif.


LAWRENCE: All of a sudden, she's in the van with me. And we're driving over the snow-covered mountains in the Hindu Kush.


LAWRENCE: We're never going to make it (laughter). The tunnel's closed.

RUZICKA: So we can sleep in the car.

LAWRENCE: We could sleep in the car. We could. We could sleep in the car.


WARNER: Did you ever date her?

LAWRENCE: No. I didn't. She was a little sister. That happened pretty instantaneously.


LAWRENCE: (Singing) Bells ring...

RUZICKA: (Singing) We'll conspire as we sing...


LAWRENCE: (Singing) Na-na-na-na.

RUZICKA: (Singing) Da-da-da-da.

LAWRENCE: Oh, that's - I thought we were singing "Let It Snow." But that's...


LAWRENCE: That's...

RUZICKA: (Singing) We're walking...

LAWRENCE AND RUZICKA: (Singing) In a winter wonderland.


And she did that with all of the journalists. She borrowed translators and drivers. And she slept on couches. And that way, she could go out and meet more Afghan families.


RUZICKA: I saw images that I just didn't want to see. And I was in Tora Bora.

LAWRENCE: This is Marla talking about one visit to a hospital near Tora Bora.


RUZICKA: When U.S. airplanes missed their intended target of bin Laden and unfortunately hit some villages, one woman had lost both her eyes. Both of her arms are broken. Both of her legs were broke. And when she was turned over, literally blood spilled out of her. And her relative said to me, you're American. What are you going to do to help?


RUZICKA: So that's when I kind of wrestled my brain and thought that there needed to be a fund or some kind of program to assist people such as her.

LAWRENCE: Marla had shown up in Afghanistan, quite improbably, as an anti-war activist, trying to get Americans to turn against the war.


LAWRENCE: But the people she met and the stories they told made her feel like just being anti-war wasn't enough.


RUZICKA: I learned something very transformative in my time in Afghanistan. It was really easy for people to come, being a peacenik from San Francisco, and to sit with a family who lost eight people and just be like, war is so bad. Americans are so bad. That was easy to do. But to go to the Americans and say, OK, war is bad, but I want to help this family, and try to figure out how to help that family - that's a chore.

WARNER: Maybe if Marla had come to Afghanistan with an official job title, if she could have said to people that she belongs here in this war zone because she was a blank - a humanitarian helping people, a journalist publishing stories or even a diplomat brokering relations - it might have been easier for her to hear these stories of suffering and think to herself, that's not my responsibility. But Marla did not have any defined role to fall back on. And so she kind of started to invent one for herself.


RUZICKA: So this is Hamina. She has about 400 compensation claim forms from everywhere from Kandahar to Herat.

LAWRENCE: In April of 2002, she brings Arefa and some other Afghan families and a few reporters right up to the gates of the U.S. embassy.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

LAWRENCE: Back then, you actually could walk right up to the gates. There weren't all of these concrete barriers and checkpoints.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Non-English language spoken).

LAWRENCE: There's this young girl who's lost 16 members of her family.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Non-English language spoken).

LAWRENCE: A 9-year-old boy who's been blinded by an airstrike.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Non-English language spoken).

LAWRENCE: What Marla has done is maybe the first field survey of civilian casualties of the war.


RUZICKA: Maybe some of the other family members want to ask some questions.

LAWRENCE: And this embassy official comes out.


UNIDENTIFIED EMBASSY OFFICIAL: (Non-English language spoken).

LAWRENCE: He speaks Farsi. And he starts talking to the families.


UNIDENTIFIED EMBASSY OFFICIAL: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

LAWRENCE: And Marla just goes after him.


RUZICKA: But you told them you're going to help them.


RUZICKA: And when you say you're going to help them - how? - besides just submitting it to the Department of Defense.

UNIDENTIFIED EMBASSY OFFICIAL: I'm sorry. You don't seem to understand, do you?


LAWRENCE: To me, it sounds like she's still using those Medea Benjamin strategies, where she calls out U.S. officials, in public, in front of the press, and tries to shame them or at least get publicity for the people she wants to help. But it doesn't work.


UNIDENTIFIED EMBASSY OFFICIAL: You don't seem to understand, do you?

RUZICKA: No, I understand, but we need more. These people have been hurt for six months.

UNIDENTIFIED EMBASSY OFFICIAL: I need more time with them, not with you. Thank you.

LAWRENCE: These families don't get anything. And just after that, Marla says goodbye to Arefa. And then she flies to the United States. But she doesn't go home to Lakeport, and she doesn't go back to be with Medea in San Francisco.


RUZICKA: Like, well, who am I going to talk to in San Francisco? I went and I slept on couches in Washington, D.C.

LAWRENCE: One of those couches was mine.


RUZICKA: Because I had $100 in my checking account. And I just made things happen in D.C.

LAWRENCE: And then I remember a point like a year - probably it was only like a year later where someone was like, get a load of this.


LAWRENCE: Marla got a million dollars for civilian casualties out of the Senate foreign operations budget. Are you kidding me? Marla, wow. Marla.

WARNER: Actually, it was 10 million. Marla, the outsider, was about to go way inside. That story, when ROUGH TRANSLATION's Home/Front continues.


WARNER: We're back with ROUGH TRANSLATION's Home/Front. I'm Gregory Warner. When Marla was once interviewed about her humanitarian heroes, she first said Nelson Mandela, maybe Mother Teresa, but finally settled on...


RUZICKA: Tim Rieser. Like, nobody's ever heard of him.

LAWRENCE: Tim Rieser is a senior aide to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.


RUZICKA: He's my humanitarian hero.

LAWRENCE: I've known Tim Rieser for coming on 20 years. I don't think I've ever seen him eat, except in the Senate cafeteria. He's always wearing jeans in there, even though all these people in suits keep on coming up to him and asking him for stuff. And he once told me that when the Democrats are in the majority, he's got several billion dollars to play with.

TIM RIESER: That's accurate. Now, we manage a budget of a little over $50 billion.

LAWRENCE: Tim was part of the international campaign to ban land mines that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. And he wrote the Leahy Law, which cuts off foreign militaries from U.S. funding if they violate human rights. In the fall of 2002, he gets a call from his friend Bobby Muller, who's a Vietnam vet and an anti-war activist. And Bobby tells him, there's somebody you got to meet.

RIESER: I can't remember if she came in on rollerblades that time or not, but she had a habit of rollerblading down the hallways of the Senate office buildings because it's very smooth marble floors. And in any event, she came in and, you know, I could quickly see that this was someone unlike anyone I had met before.

LAWRENCE: She starts telling him all these stories of the families she's met in Afghanistan.

RIESER: These incidents where a whole wedding party is wiped out by some bomb that missed its target or a village half-destroyed or a family killed at a checkpoint or all kinds of things like this. And it wasn't anything that we hadn't read about. But here was someone who was actually looking for a way to do something about it, which, up till then, nobody else really was.

LAWRENCE: Marla's idea actually sounds kind of simple - if we hurt people accidentally in war, we should compensate them.

RIESER: Having a conversation with Marla was fun, actually, because she - it was infectious, you know, boundless energy, afraid of nothing, believing in - that anything was possible.

LAWRENCE: Tim saw the same things in Marla that Medea had seen. She was fearless and eager to learn, and she soaked everything in.

RIESER: I mean, Marla was not someone who had any idea of how to engage with the U.S. government. I mean, she was an activist. She was from California. She'd never talked to people in the Congress or the administration.

LAWRENCE: When you were - did she crash at your place much?

RIESER: She did some - not a lot, but there were times, yeah.

LAWRENCE: Tim quickly became her mentor in the world of Washington. He helped her polish up her pitch and her soundbites.

RIESER: And that was the genesis of what became known as the Afghan Civilian Victims Assistance Program.

LAWRENCE: This program takes a few years to ramp up. But ultimately, it allocated $10 million a year in grants to NGOs in Afghanistan. And that program continues today. Arefa, the woman who lost eight members of her family, got housing assistance and a couple of sewing machines so she could have an income.

BENJAMIN: Instead of trying to convince the United States to stop killing people, she was focused on helping the people who had been killed.

LAWRENCE: Meanwhile, Marla's original mentor is also in Washington, D.C., organizing protests against the coming war in Iraq.

BENJAMIN: And I said, Marla, we've got to put all of our energies now into stopping the next war. You saw what this one did. But she never joined us in the protest against the Iraq War. She didn't see the usefulness of that. She didn't want to do what she considered, at this point, symbolic actions.

LAWRENCE: The drumbeat leading up to the war in Iraq is getting louder. For Medea, it's a battle of public perception in the press. So in February 2003, Medea organizes a trip to Baghdad. Her anti-war organization, Code Pink, goes in as, quote, "human shields."


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) All around Iraq, I'm going to let it shine. All around Iraq, I'm going to let it shine. All around Iraq...

LAWRENCE: Medea asks Marla to join them and she does. I mean, these were her friends. These are the people she's been organizing with since she was 16. Here's the strange thing - in the press coverage and in all the footage of the protests on this trip that I've seen...


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) No blood for oil. No blood for oil.

LAWRENCE: ...Women waving pink balloons and handing out candy to Iraqi children - I haven't found a single shot of Marla. And usually, Marla would be right out in front, like, the loudest voice.


BENJAMIN: I believe this war could be stopped if enough people who care...

LAWRENCE: And there's this one moment on the trip when Marla and Medea and some others are in the back of this car, and they're driving through what looks like Baghdad traffic. And it shows just how much Marla has changed.


RUZICKA: They don't want there to a war, but they have to plan. They have to be prepared.

LAWRENCE: She has an argument with these people who are telling her to use - you know, use your energy stopping the war, or you're part of the problem. And she was saying, just in case there is a war, I would like to do something to help the people who are inevitably going to be hurt by that war.


RUZICKA: I mean, the goal is to stop the war, but people are preparing in case there is a war...

BENJAMIN: OK, and they don't need you, Marla...

RUZICKA: Because if they don't...

BENJAMIN: ...They got a system that's working that has given them several months in advance.

RUZICKA: Well, I'm not asking for, you know, career advice. I'm just saying I'm paying attention and I'm learning about it 'cause...

BENJAMIN: Well, great.

RUZICKA: ...It interests me.

BENJAMIN: Well, we're more concerned about stopping people from dying right now, and other people are doing the work of...

RIESER: One of the decisions she had to make was whether she was going to focus her attention on criticizing the United States for the war or trying to work with those who could actually do something to help innocent people.

LAWRENCE: Do you remember what you said to her in terms of if you want to be this, you can't be that or...

RIESER: Yeah, I mean, I think that is essentially what I did say, that if you want to work with us, you can't just be blaming the U.S. military.

LAWRENCE: Tim told Marla, you can be a great anti-war activist or you can work with the government to help the people hurt by the war.

RIESER: If you want to be building support within the U.S. government for ways to help people, then it's not going to work if you're perceived as just being an anti-war protester.


RUZICKA: I've changed so much from these roads that I've gone down. Because when I lived in San Francisco and I lived with the leaders of the anti-war movement and just being against the military to actually being with the victims - I'm not for the military, but I'm working with the military. I'm not for or against war. I think it's actually a luxury to be against war because war happens. And I think we have to change war. We have to change the impact that it has on civilians. And I ask these people...

BENJAMIN: She went into the Pentagon and had meetings there. She met with veterans' group (ph) who weren't necessarily anti-war veterans' groups.


RUZICKA: You know, I think trying to help Americans clean up their warfare is the most patriotic thing you can do.

BENJAMIN: We were all telling her that she had gone off the deep end. And she was, I think, very traumatized by it.

WARNER: Because these were her - this was her family.

BENJAMIN: Yes, and these were people that she had looked up to. And here, the young Marla was telling us we were naive and that she was more in the know and that she was going to help people more than we were able to. I - just picturing her speaking to higher ups in the military and using that charm that I always told her was her best asset to charm the military into giving money was just something that made me feel kind of sick.


BENJAMIN: And then - you know, so I said, I don't think we're on the same track anymore. We kept in touch with each other, but it was different. It was very sad, and I feel very sad even thinking about it now.

PHILP: I mean, there was great sadness later on that she had left behind an entire community of activists who couldn't accept the direction that she was moving in. And I think she sort of felt kind of cast out of her family in a way.

WARNER: Correspondent Cat Philp became close friends with Marla.

PHILP: And I remember once being in San Francisco with her. We flew from Washington to San Francisco. And she said, oh, oh, I could introduce you to all my old friends in San Francisco. And then she looked kind of sad for a second and said, except they don't speak to me anymore.


WARNER: Of all the people in Marla's life who knew her at this time, Medea is one of the very few who never underestimated her, who did not, even for a moment, discount her as too young or too naive or too unserious. Medea had always recognized Marla as her best weapon, her star protege, the one that she could send into Afghanistan to try to delegitimize what was then a very popular war. And Marla depended on Medea when things got rough. From now on, Marla was on her own.


WARNER: Or was she?

BENJAMIN: The closer she got to the people in the military, the more she realized there are really nice people in the military. And so I want to go to the nice ones and get help from them.

WARNER: Next week on Home/Front, we meet some of those nice people in the military and how Marla would find a way to recruit them.


WARNER: Today's show was produced and co-reported by Jess Jiang. Our editor is Lu Olkowski. The ROUGH TRANSLATION team includes Luis Trelles, Justine Yan. Our intern is Alicia Qian. Special thanks to Robert Krulwich, Jenny Lawton, Bruce Auster and Sana Krasnikov (ph) for your critical editorial input. Thanks also to Phil Klay, Farouk Tamim (ph), Shoaib Sharifi and Mahfouz Zubaidi (ph).

So many people shared their stories about Marla and sent us their videos and interviews with her. Thank you to Nancy, Mark and Cliff Ruzicka, Heather Ewing (ph), Reuben Brigety, Federico Borello, Sarah Holewinski, Peter Bergen, Omar Samad, Steve Gentry, Jessi (ph) Ginther, Jacqueline Soohen, Jennifer Abrahamson, Erica Gaston, Marla Keenan, Ivan Watson and Alfons Luna.

The ROUGH TRANSLATION executive high council is Neal Carruth, Didi Schanche and Anya Grundmann. Special thanks to Chris Turpin and Vickie Walton-James. Nicole Beemsterboer is our senior supervising producer. This episode was fact-checked by Jane Gilvin and Ayda Pourasad. Khwaga Ghani was our field producer and interpreter in Kabul. Mastering by Isaac Rodrigues. And retired Army Captain Kimo Williams composed Home/Front's theme song.


WARNER: I'm Gregory Warner, back next week with the last chapter of Home/Front from ROUGH TRANSLATION.


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