« Get to Know Ahmed Omar Abu Ali: You're Gonna See a Lot of Him | Main | Iraqi Irregulars »

February 22, 2005

Comments

She tells the entire story at her link. As Tacitus likes the say, the pretty orange colors aren't just for decoration.

just one little phrase would have solved this problem Phil and Jes left it out.

just one little phrase would have solved this problem Phil and Jes left it out.

What, you mean the phrase "More at my journal"? So sorry, I thought I included that.

Some additional background on "being taken", would have been helpful.

Some additional background on "being taken", would have been helpful.

Indeed. And there is more at my journal.

For those who might have missed it, the recent "Frontline" documentary, "A Company of Soldiers" offered an in-depth view of what things were like for troops on the ground in November, one of the most violent periods since the fall of Saddam's regime.

It is extraordinarily compelling television, the sort of stuff you just don't get from snippets on CNN or Fox. You get to see soldiers at their best and at their worst under very difficult conditions, you get put in the middle of an ambush, you get to see how the soldiers relate face-to-face with the Iraqi public (with very mixed results), you get to see just what happens when the soldiers set up a roadblock, and how they deal with their own security in the congested city streets. It is very humanizing, and made me both incredibly proud of the professionalism of many of our troops, and simultaneously disturbed at the extent to which some of them find it necessary to shoot first and ask questions later.

Obviously there is no substitute for actually being there, but this is as close as most of us will probably ever get. Streaming video can be found here.

Timmy: Some additional background on "being taken", would have been helpful.

As I said, Timmy, there is plenty more additional background at my journal, complete with clickable links (if you use them at all).

However, this is actually an answerable question, as opposed to "you should have told the whole story in one comment", which is merely an unreasonable demand. (If you want the whole story available at Obsidian Wings, Timmy, you'll have to ask the kitten to post it for you: I'll happily make my post available.)

Giuliana Sgrena was being driven to Baghdad airport in a car with three Italian secret service agents. One of the agents was killed by US soldiers firing into the car: he died shielding Sgrena with his own body. Both Sgrena and the other two agents were wounded. The US military claim is that they tried to get the car to stop: the survivors say that a light was shone on the car and the patrol fired without warning.

Il Manifesto mourns Nicola Calipari:

When at the check-point, before the Baghdad airport, from and American car (yes, American, Usa), the first shots were fired against the car which was bringing Giuliana towards the airplane which would have brought her back to Italy, Nicola reacted humanly, immediately, for a reflex unwritten in the rules of his service, he shielded Giuliana’s body, and he was killed. Last night Giuliana was in the hospital because she was wounded in her shoulder, but she will come out of the hospital and will come back here to Rome, in Via Tomacelli. The joy for Giuliana is big, but even bigger is our pain, of all of us of il manifesto, for the death of Nicola Calipari. He was not wounded in service, but because he has been extremely generous, which we of il manifesto cannot forget. To his two children and his wife a big hug from all, really all of us. link

There are three reasonable possibilities to consider about the death of Nicola Calipari (which is being investigated by Italian prosecutors as a murder).

We can dismiss the US military's account (they claim the patrol signalled the car to stop and it didn't: this agrees with none of the survivors' eyewitness accounts, nor with plain common sense: the car had already passed several checkpoints safely, and was being driven by a member of the Italian secret service: further, this standard excuse "we gave them warning and they didn't stop" has been used before in similar circumstances, and has never been borne out by any non-US military eyewitness).

1. Pure accident. US military patrols are in the habit of setting up ambushes and firing on civilian cars. It just happened that this time, instead of killing Iraqi civilians with no outside connections, they killed an Italian secret service agent, wounded two more, and the life of the Italian journalist who had just been rescued from Iraqis holding her hostage was saved only by the heroism of the agent who was killed.

2. Impure accident. The US military authorities deliberately did not tell US military patrols in that area that Sgrena and her rescuers were leaving for the airport at such-and-such a time, in a car according to this description. Whether because they were incompetent, or because they rather hoped something like this would happen, we're unlikely ever to know, if this is the truth.

3. Deliberate assassination attempt. Sgrena says the last words of her captors to her were: "Be careful because the Americans don't want you to return."

Possibility (3) is of course the worst, and the one that most people (me included) will be inclined to dismiss immediately. Possibility (2), that the US military authorities simply did not care whether or not Sgrena survived to make it home, and therefore warned no patrols in the area to look out for her car, seems more in tune with the US military callousness towards unembedded journalists' lives.

Possibility (1) seems, on the face of it, the most plausible: just another drive-by shooting on the part of the US military, and "bad luck" for that patrol that instead of their targets being Iraqi civilians about whom no effective inquiry would ever be made, they killed a man for whom an important ally of the US will demand someone take responsibility.

And since no one further up the line is likely to want it, responsibility seems likely to descend - as with the torturers of Abu Ghraib and other US prisoners - to the lowest-ranking soldiers who can possibly be held responsible for this unconscionable act.

RETORT

The "drive by shooting" was a little out of line but I wasn't surprised; btw how many American soldiers have died at checkpoints?

Something else you seemed to have missed

So, you go with possibility (1), Timmy - it was just another drive-by shooting on the part of US soldiers who had no idea who was in the car, and why it was going to get them into more trouble than just shooting up a car with Iraqi civilians?

Fair enough.

First Jes, drive by shooting (intent is the key driver) as well as ambush has an entirely different context than soldiers manning a checkpost in order to provide security.

Second and related, the Italians may not have told the Americans.

Looks more and more like Timmy's right: it was just another drive-by shooting on the part of US soldiers, without regard for civilian life.

New York Times article (so will suffer from linkrot within two weeks):

Accounts of the incidents vary widely, as they have in the incident involving Ms. Sgrena, with the American command emphasizing aspects of drivers' behavior that aroused legitimate concerns, and survivors saying, often, that they were doing nothing threatening. Since few of the incidents are ever formally investigated, many families are left with unresolved feelings of bitterness.

American and Iraqi officials say they have no figures on such casualties, just as they say they have no reliable statistics on the far higher number of civilian deaths in the fighting that began with the American-led invasion nearly two years ago. But any Westerner working in Iraq comes across numerous accounts of apparently innocent deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers who drew American fire, often in circumstances that have left the Iraqis puzzled as to what, if anything, they did wrong.


Timmy, a "hidden checkpoint" - which it appears this was, ie one which drivers on the road cannot and are not meant to see - is commonly referred to as an "ambush".

So Jes, which story are you running with.

Sgrena told colleagues the vehicle was not travelling fast and had already passed several checkpoints on its way to the airport. The Americans shone a flashlight at the car and then fired between 300 and 400 bullets at if from an armoured vehicle.

The patrol signalled the car to stop and it didn't (and this now hiddened).

Unraveling at the speed of light.

Timmy: First Jes, drive by shooting (intent is the key driver) as well as ambush has an entirely different context than soldiers manning a checkpost in order to provide security.

When soldiers man a hidden checkpoint and fire on cars without warning, it is necessary to ask "To whom are they providing security?" Certainly not to Iraqi civilians, as the article from the NYT I linked to describes.

The question that was lost by the right-wing blogmobbing of Eason Jordan was: Why are media workers being killed in such high numbers in Iraq, higher than in comparable recent conflicts?

It looks as if Italy will press for an answer: and the answer may be, simply:

Because US soldiers are firing on civilians in trigger-happy fashion, killing them in high numbers. Media workers are being killed by US soldiers not because they're specifically media workers (not yet proven, of course) but because they are civilians, and the US military is undertrained and inexperienced in preserving civilian lives.

Certainly there appears to be no thought among US soldiers firing on an approaching car (or any other Iraqi civilian) that they are there in Iraq to protect Iraqi civilians: that soldiers ought not to kill civilians in order to avoid the slightest risk to their own lives. (It's possible, of course, that readers on this blog will disagree: will feel that an American soldier ought to kill an Iraqi civilian without question, because no Iraqi life is worth preserving at the cost of an American life, and the question of civilians deserving protection by soldiers doesn't come into it at all.)

But yes: the practice of firing on cars without warning, shooting to kill the people in the car, appears to have become normal among US soldiers in Iraq, judging by frequent reports of Iraqi civilians being killed as a result. Only, if that's what happened in this instance, for the first time it killed someone whose death mattered to many, many more people than just their family and their friends - and most of them non-Iraqis, and some of them able to demand a proper investigation.

Timmy: The patrol signalled the car to stop and it didn't

None of the survivors from the car say that the American soldiers who fired at the car gave any signals for the car to stop. A searchlight came on, and the patrol started firing. That's it.

Further, given that the car had passed several other checkpoints safely, we can assume that the driver (also an Italian secret service agent) would have stopped, had the patrol given him a chance to do so.


A searchlight came on, and the patrol started firing.

How may bullets hit the car? The story was 300 to 400 and you've seen the picture of the car. Is there an confirmation on the other checkpoints?

From a livejournaller's translation of an Italian news source (ie, I haven't read the original, and don't know what their source was) the US military have now very conveniently lost the car that Sgrena was in.

Is there an confirmation on the other checkpoints?

Huh? You do have a knack for asking questions so phrased that it's unclear what you actually want to know. The car was about 700 meters from the airport at the time the US patrol fired at it: there are several checkpoints on that road: we may conclude the car had passed them all safely without being shot at until nearly at the end. As far as I know, the only response from the US military has been the claim that the patrol warned the car to stop and it didn't.

The story was 300 to 400 and you've seen the picture of the car

OK . . . the snarky way of saying this is, "Do you even read your own links, Timmy?" The polite way of saying it is, "Are you aware that Captain's Quarters updated the post you linked to, and the car they pictured there is not the car that was involved in this incident?"

Would you like the polite one, or the snarky one?

we may conclude

You may conclude anything you wish, absent data. It doesn't make your conclusion valid, necessarily, but if it's instant conclusions you're after, just add water.

New York Times article (so will suffer from linkrot within two weeks):

Jes and sundry
check out this for linkrot proof NYTimes links. Here is an explanation

Thanks, lj. Have updated my journal with linkrot-proof link1

Slarti: You may conclude anything you wish, absent data.

True, but when we have data, we may as well draw conclusions from it, not ignore it, right?

The survivors do not report specifically what happened when they passed previous checkpoints: but they say they had passed previous checkpoints safely, and do not mention being fired on. It seems a safe conclusion that they were not fired on.

I'd just like you to point out to me where it says they'd passed several checkpoints, as opposed to concluding that they must have passed.

True, but when we have data, we may as well draw conclusions from it, not ignore it, right?

Testimony doesn't always equate to data, as any policeman or DA could tell you. It's particularly not data when one person's testimony contradicts itself. Were they traveling at moderate speed, or was the vehicle nearly out of control?

Slarti: I'd just like you to point out to me where it says they'd passed several checkpoints

I linked to several accounts of it from my journal: all of them say they'd already passed several checkpoints safely.

Were they traveling at moderate speed, or was the vehicle nearly out of control?

According to the survivors of the shooting, the car was travelling at a moderate speed. Again, as you'll find if you check the news reports of the incident linked to from my journal. If you take any interest in this at all, Slarti, I recommend doing just that. (Or seeking out the information for yourself, of course.)

The car kept on the road, going under an underpass full of puddles and almost losing control to avoid them. We all incredibly laughed. It was liberating. Losing control of the car in a street full of water in Baghdad and maybe wind up in a bad car accident after all I had been through would really be a tale I would not be able to tell.

I did read your entry, Jesurgislac. The only thing it says about passing all checkpoints was uttered by someone who wasn't in the car. Obviously I missed something, which is why I asked the question to begin with. How many more times am I going to have to ask it?

Well, in the LATimes, it reports the following

Scolari, who was not in the car but has been with Sgrena since the shooting, said the Italians had informed U.S. officials of their plans and had cleared one of the several checkpoints that led to the airport. But that could not be independently verified.

In addition, the plane picking up Sgrena was a special Italian military flight whose landing would have been known at some level of the U.S. military.

Scolaria is Sgrena's spouse who was waiting in Italy for her, so it is not clear if he was saying if they only cleared one checkpoint or if he was talking about the airport checkpoints separately. Most of the stories are referencing this

On the other hand, Sgrena said they had passed several checkpoints. From the Guardian

Italian reconstruction of the incident is significantly different. Sgrena told colleagues the vehicle was not travelling fast and had already passed several checkpoints on its way to the airport. The Americans shone a flashlight at the car and then fired between 300 and 400 bullets at if from an armoured vehicle. Rather than calling immediately for assistance for the wounded Italians, the soldiers' first move was to confiscate their weapons and mobile phones and they were prevented from resuming contact with Rome for more than an hour.

I was trying to find the La Stampa article referenced by the WashTimes article linked earlier (with the very misleading title of "Italians kept U.S. forces in dark", when the 'in the dark' part was concerning ransom, not concerning checkpoints) A wild shot, but does anyone have access?

Anybody who wants to see an actual U.S. roadblock in action should watch part one. The relevant part is nine minutes in (about 2/3 along the scrub bar). Literally about two seconds passes between the "warning shot" and a hail of gunfire. This for a car that looks to be quite some distance away (the camera has to go telephoto to get a good shot of it backing up at high speed). Anybody who's the least bit interested in what has been going on in Iraq should watch the whole 90-minute documentary, particularly since it gives a pretty good sense of just why the men are so jumpy, but this scene tells me more than any vague verbal description of these sorts of incidents ever could.

Following certain censorious changes on livejournal, I'm in the process of moving to greatestjournal.

Eason Jordan: What's the real scandal? seems to be the single post most linked to from anywhere, so I thought I would include a corrective link here.

(Reading down the thread, I notice Sebastian was saved by the shooting at Giuliana Sgrena's car from having to deal with the contradiction in his two claims. Likely he would never have admitted there was a contradiction, but it did serve as a convenient distraction.)

I note, since the inquest on Terry Lloyd has recorded a verdict of unlawful killing by US forces, that Sebastian still hasn't answered the question I posed to him several times in this thread:

I'm asking you if you meant by it that US soldiers are shooting at journalists - because, you think, they believe them to be insurgents, because insurgents are posing as journalists. Is that what you meant when you said: "Sure if they have a little flag that says journalist which they don't allow insurgents to hide under."

You keep not answering this question.


The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad