Sunday, March 06, 2005

Checkpoint Tragedy

The death of Nicola Calipari (the Italian secret service agent) while helping Giuliana Sgrena (the kidnapped Italian journalist) get out of Iraq is horrible.

That said, the comments by Sgrena in utter rejection of the U.S. explanation (that they were speeding despite US soldiers yelling and flashing lights) to me seems a bit disingenuous:

"Sgrena, who works for the communist daily Il Manifesto, did not rule out that she was targeted, saying the United States likely disapproved of Italy's methods to secure her release, although she did not elaborate."

" 'The fact that the Americans don't want negotiations to free the hostages is known,' Sgrena told Sky TG24 television by telephone, her voice hoarse and shaky. 'The fact that they do everything to prevent the adoption of this practice to save the lives of people held hostages, everybody knows that. So I don't see why I should rule out that I could have been the target.' "

A description of the incident leading to Calipari's death, on the way to the airport:
" 'I remember only fire,' she wrote in Il Manifesto, which fiercely opposed the war in Iraq. 'At that point a rain of fire and bullets came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a few minutes earlier.' Sgrena said the driver began shouting that they were Italian, then 'Nicola Calipari dove on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me.' Suddenly, she said, she remembered her captors' words, when they warned her 'to be careful because the Americans don't want you to return.' " Sgrena wrote that her captors warned her as she was about to be released not to signal her presence to anyone, because 'the Americans might intervene.' "

Again, it is a horrible event, but this was obviously also traumatic in the extreme for the woman: could she be jumping to conclusions? that the US deliberately wanted her taken out for her governments tactics of rescuing prisoners??? Call me naively patriotic: I'm sorry, Guiliana, I want to believe you and I think you must have had an awful time and deserve all of your nation's and ours' congratulations and rewards for your bravery, but I simply cannot believe that the US is trying to keep the few allies it has by shooting them when they use a different set of policies for hostage rescue.

What seemed to me the most sensible piece to come out of the whole affair was this one in the Christian Science Monitor by Annia Ciezadlo: well worth the read. [Look at this one too.] Given Annia's comments, could it be that the advice Guiliana was given by her captors led to the US's misinterpretation of her vehicle's behavior? Could it be that this was the captors' intention??? Nah, couldn't possibly. Memo to self: when in hostage situation, always listen to what captors say: they have your best interests in mind.

Thank you, Annia, for rising above the chance to sling a fist of mud at public enemy of your choice and instead helping those of us who are sitting at home sipping a latte in slippers make some sense of the situation -- it stinks and doesn't make sense.

Go journalism, go!

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