Freed Italian Journalist's Car Shot Approaching US Checkpoint
The Word Unheard out of Iraq today is that the car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was fired on after it failed to slow down approaching an American checkpoint following her release from captivity. Sgrena was shot in the shoulder, two other occupants were injured and one Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, was killed as he shielded her from incoming rounds. Sgrena was abducted February 4, 2005 and said to Italian media upon her return to Rome that her captives never treated her badly.
The news is bittersweet. Sgerna is free, but not before the tragic death of an Italian intelligence agent in what should have been a joyful and uneventful return to freedom. President Bush has promised the Italian government a full investigation that surely was underway in earnest before anyone in Washington or Rome was even aware of the events.
Once again, we have another vehicle failing to slow down for an armed checkpoint. Why does this continue to happen? Are the checkpoints not clearly visible and obvious? Are the 'rules of the road' around Baghdad not clear to everyone, let alone our own allies? Did the driver assume that the checkpoint knew who they were? Did the American soldiers clearly signal for the car to stop? All are questions that beg to be answered fully and addressed immediately.
According to the American military:
The U.S. military said the car was speeding as it approached a coalition checkpoint. It said soldiers shot into the engine block only after trying to warn the driver to stop by "hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots."
Curiously missing from any accounts available so far are the Italian driver's accounting of events. Why? Does his story parallel the American soldiers' accounts?
You are driving in a car approaching Baghdad. Nearing a checkpoint with armed and uniformed military personnel, warning shots are fired. What do you do? Let's assume the driver did not see or hear them. A couple of rounds strike the engine, still approaching an American roadside checkpoint. What do you do now? Slow down or crash the gates? Maybe even stop?
The only plausible explanation for the driver's actions is that he did not recognize the checkpoint as American and thought he was coming under enemy fire. If that is the case, how can it be possible that among three intelligence officers escorting a former hostage to freedom, none of them were aware of points of importance along the route? Where was the failure in communication?
The only other scenario available is that the Americans in Iraq are a bunch of trigger-happy loose cannons who need to be reigned in. That approach should be summarily dismissed out of hand. Apparently, with some it is not.
Reading the Associated Press article from the Chicago Sun-Times, The Word Unheard notes how swiftly the story shifts to a focus on anti-war protestations to both the incident and the Iraq War generally. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the 23 paragraph story read:
But Bush's phone call late Friday to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi did little to assuage anger In Italy, which has been holding its breath over Sgrena's fate for weeks. The shooting was likely to set off fresh protests against Berlusconi for keeping 3,000 troops in Iraq despite strong opposition.
"Another victim of an absurd war," said Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, leader of the Green Party. A communist senator called for a protest Saturday in front of the U.S. Consulate in Milan.
Gotta get that in early, otherwise the short-attention-spanned readers may never get that fed into their heads. Just how much anger is there in Italy over Italian participation? The Sun-Times would have you believe that Berlusconi is defying majority public will. Just how much of Italy do the two mentioned Green Party and Communist Party politicians actually speak for? Not the sizable chunk the typical reader is left to assume. Of course the Greens and Communists are going to protest. They protest anything American or Free Market. What's new? Nothing. Not even Chicago Sun-Times bias.
With car bombs galore in the persistently hot Sunni Triangle area, this cannot be spun as an American failure and aggressive over-reaction by hair-triggered blood-thirsty US soldiers manning roadside checkpoints.
But the Associated Press, the Chicago Sun-Times and others are surely trying. Still.
For the most thorough and up-to-date blogging on this, go here:
The Jawa Report: Multiple Updates & Very Current Coverage
Great job, Jawa!