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March 07, 2005

Comments

I agree that if the goal was to assassinate Sgrena, the soldiers involved were incredibly incompetent. However, I'm not sure that someone who has shot up a car with 300-400 bullets can really claim that it was an "accident". It was the deliberate shooting of an unarmed vehicle carrying civilians. Whether the shooters knew that they were shooting Italians who would get media coverage instead of their normal targets of Iraqis whose deaths would be ignored by the western media I don't know from the description given.

Edward, I have to agree.

I wrote (and updated several times) a post on my journal where I finally came to the conclusion (which I may change if further information comes by) that this 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 that's likely to be the poor sods of shooters on the spot, not anyone senior in the hierarchy who was aware that US soldiers were killing civilians in cars without trying to warn them first, and made no attempt to change this.

There are a fair number of links from my journal that provide interesting further reading.

This is a report on how confusing the checkpoints can be, on both sides.

You're driving along and you see a couple of soldiers standing by the side of the road - but that's a pretty ubiquitous sight in Baghdad, so you don't think anything of it. Next thing you know, soldiers are screaming at you, pointing their rifles and swiveling tank guns in your direction, and you didn't even know it was a checkpoint.

If it's confusing for me - and I'm an American - what is it like for Iraqis who don't speak English?

In situations like this, I've often had Iraqi drivers who step on the gas. It's a natural reaction: Angry soldiers are screaming at you in a language you don't understand, and you think they're saying "get out of here," and you're terrified to boot, so you try to drive your way out.

[...]

The essential problem with checkpoints is that the Americans don't know if the Iraqis are "friendlies" or not, and the Iraqis don't know what the Americans want them to do.

I always wished that the American commanders who set up these checkpoints could drive through themselves, in a civilian car, so they could see what the experience was like for civilians. But it wouldn't be the same: They already know what an American checkpoint is, and how to act at one - which many Iraqis don't.

I posted this on the Eason Jordan thread, but that's going to drop out of sight soon:

Anybody who wants to see an actual U.S. roadblock in action should watch part one of this Frontline documentary. 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.

Keep in mind, Ed, that a 5.56 mm round is very small and that a car is very big. And she herself said that the Americans stopped shooting when they found out that the people in the car were Americans. So yes, it sounds like a colossal pooch-screw to me.

You could, of course, always go with the sinister explanation, with the evil (Pseudo-)Fascist Americans striving to cover up their Unspeakable Crimes with a targeted hit.

Though I must mention that one of the reasons that I cannot stand the Bush administration is that they have over the last year made it increasingly difficult to dismiss accusations of nefarious deeds on the part of American military and intelligence personnel.

I don't read Italian, but a lot of sources say that the Italian press is absolutely convinced that this was a deliberate assassination attempt.

Y'know, it would have been a lot better if the reaction to Eason Jordan's comments hadn't been "Burn the witch!" but "You know, US soldiers are killing an awful lot of media workers in Iraq. Hey, perhaps we'd better look into that, maybe see if we can do something about stopping it..."

Of course, it would have been a lot better if that had happened back when US forces bombed the al-Jazeera office. Or attacked the Palestine Hotel. Or shot Mazen Dana.

I'd like to formally lodge my distaste for the term "drive-by shooting" in this context. I don't know how that term is used in the UK, but here it nearly always implies malicious criminal intent. Having said that, I'm sure that's exactly why Jes chose it, it being the most imflammatory possible term. If one can frame an argument in one's preferred terms, one is halfway to winning.

Hard choices are made on The March to Freedom.

Thank God, men of good character are there to make them.

amen

I agree with Phil. Stick to the facts, Jes. There's enough there to raise serious questions without going off the rhetorical deep end.

I'd second the motion that this was an accident. If it was an assassination attempt (the supposed motive of which I cannot fathom), then it would have been fairly simple to provide a coup de grace at the scene to finish the job.

The roadblocks in Iraq sound extremely chaotic. For every heart-rending episode involving civilian casualties that I've read about, the soldiers involved sound horrified at what's happened, and seem to try to do as mmuch as they can to save the victims. Horrible, all round, these guys are going to be carrying a heavy emotional load for the rest of their lives.

Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity. Or here, it seems, like a combination of adrenaline and fear.

And that's one hella link there, Gromit. Thanks very much for it.

Still watching that first bit Gromit, but wanted to second Anarch's thanks.

Awful for all involved.

I use the term "drive-by shooting" to place the blame squarely where it belongs. There appears to be a strong will to blame the Italians: they must have been driving badly, they must have been speeding, they must have refused to stop, it was their fault.

Hell if. This wasn't an accident: the soldiers deliberately shot at a civilian vehicle with the intent of killing. They knew that if the people in the car were Iraqi civilians they'd get into no serious trouble - not even an embedded journalist was present, after all, so it would be their word against the Iraqis in the car, if the Iraqis survived, so why bother trying to give a warning? Shoot first.

The accident is that the victims weren't just four Iraqi civilians who could live or die with no international interest.

If this was an assassination, why didn't they kill her? You would think if there were 400 bullets, one more to her head wouldn't have been that hard. And frankly, if you shoot a car 400 times and don't kill the passengers, I would take that as a very very very strong indication that you weren't trying to kill the passengers.

..."one of the reasons that I cannot stand the Bush administration is that they have over the last year made it increasingly difficult to dismiss accusations of nefarious deeds on the part of American military and intelligence personnel."

While I would agree with your sentiments, Andrew, I would take issue with the assertions, as expressed. Mainly because, since the beginning of the Iraq War, the Bush Administration has itself been in the forefront of those "dismissing" allegations of misconduct by US troops/personnel (well, maybe not so much "dismissing" as just "ignoring"). The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is vitually the only instance of any sort of serious official probing into accusations of US abuses/mistakes in Iraq, and then only because horrific pictures got published (and even so only a few low-rank grunts got punished).
And of course, the Administration rarely even needs to address these issues much, since it can ususally count on a shrill chorus of right-wing talk-radio/blogosphere apologists to dismiss/ignore any allegations of misconduct "misconduct", usually by demonizing/vilifying the victims and/or critics, and loudly and rapidly changing the subject - typically with arguments that boil down to "We're in a War. Shut up."


It's my understanding that as soon as the U.S. Army completes their job of assassinating all journalists in Iraq, their cunning plan calls for the killing of all the puppies in the land.

Both goals, after all, make perfect sense. And let us always follow the guideline of attributing to maliciousness whatever might conceivably be a careless or ill-executed policy. Thirdly, let us always, always, always assume that reports that confirm our preferences must be correct, whereas reports that don't support our preferences are obviously wrong. Thus will we find our way to truth.

Lastly, let us always rush into print with our judgments, no matter that we can't possibly have enough solid information to be sure; because, on the internet, what's important is speaking up early, rather than waiting to get more information. Time and time again we see that this philosophy is the best approach, whatever our ideology.

"If the goal was to murder Sgrena, why not finish the job when they realized she was still alive?"

Witnesses and deniability, which would be much easier if she was still in the car. One assumes a crowd had gathered on the periphery by the time the Americans determined she was still alive; and you might not even want American soldiers watching while you killed a major celebrity.

Not my belief or theory, just a possible explanation. Another possibility is she had pictures or documentation about Fallujah that were taken:mission accomplished, and she had been adequately warned. She would damage her credibility by claiming this without proof.

Understanding Neo-Imperialism

Jim Henley is good on this story. The lives of American soldiers in Iraq are vastly more valuable than the lives of Iraqi civilians, by American decree. History will judge.

What would Jesus do, if he was manning a checkpoint for Rome?

"This wasn't an accident: the soldiers deliberately shot at a civilian vehicle with the intent of killing."

If our soldiers can shoot a vehicle 400 times and not kill the occupants, it is extremely strong evidence that they did not have the intent of killing. If you want to kill the occupants of a vehicle, you don't even need 400 shots. You aim at the windows and doors and you can get them with far fewer shots.

This episode, coming as it does on discussions of Eason Jordan, epitomizes so much of those issue.

1. Jumpy Americans at checkpoints wasting innocent Iraqi civilian vehicles because of a suspicion that the vehicle might be a threat. The 300 to 400 shots simply evidences that once someone opens fire, everyone is going for overkill to take out the "threat." These are not police who are schooled to minimize the use of deadly force once it is employed -- rather they are trained to do the opposite. But the notion that they are shooting just to take out the engine block is nonsense.

2. "Official" reports that seem to whitewash what is going on. Some minimal effort at warnings is probably usually given, but as Gromit's reference above demonstrates, those warnings are frequently ineffective or have little chance of avoiding an incident. The notion that the victims are typically shot because of their carelessness in not heeding warnings does not wash.

3. What is "suspicious" activity is actually what normal Iraqis must do to survive. It just so happens that people must speed in the approaches to the airport (which are notoriously insecure) in order to avoid being taken out by insurgents and/or criminals. So spotting a speeding vehicle means nothing, and shooting at it for that reason (even though that may be a legitimate threat profile) means you are going to waste a lot of innocent civilians.

4. The journalist views this as a deliberate attack on media -- is there any basis to speculate that this was a deliberate hit on the journalist, rather than another typical screwed up shooting? So what motivates the journalist to make this leap? Her comment that they were traveling at a slow speed contradicts other reports (even from the Italians) and makes no sense. Obviously she is speaking from her emotional trauma, but there is an obvious willingness to invent facts to fit the "kill media" line. This goes beyond "bias."

"If you want to kill the occupants of a vehicle, you don't even need 400 shots. You aim at the windows and doors and you can get them with far fewer shots."

Unless, of course, the car is coming at you. In which case, the majority of the bullets would likely strike the front of the car.

That being said, I don't think this was an intentional "assassination" attempt. At worst, I agree with some of the upthread posters who labeled it a "business as usual" situation until it turned out the occupants of the car were Italian Press and military rather than Iraqis.

"I use the term 'drive-by shooting' to place the blame squarely where it belongs."

Possibly you are unfamiliar with the fact that "drive-by shooting" means people in a car drive by and shoot at those standing still; it has never meant the reverse.

Also, I'm reassured you know where blame "squarely" belongs; could you use your powers to tell me where my brown socks have gotten to, please?

If it isn't clear, I'm perfectly prepared to believe that the soldiers fired with little visible warning to those in the car, just as I'm prepared to believe that the car may not have slowed down when approaching the checkpoint and may not have seen the checkpoint. I'm perfectly prepared to believe quite a number of other possibilities, as well. What I'm not prepared to believe is that anyone, including eye-witnesses, let alone someone relying on newspaper reports, has a sufficient grasp of what went on from both points of view to "know" what happened yet; such a claim is ludicrous, ignoring as it does that it's common in a situation of violence or war for first-hand accounts to honestly disagree wildly, and that witnesses are in almost every case far more unreliable than reliable; it also ignores the fact that first reports of incidents in war are typically erroneous in various fashions. To claim "knowledge" that one account is fact, and another account is false is to claim something only a deity would be capable of; anyone who makes such a claim clearly has little credibility in so doing.

Note, by the way, that these observations don't "defend" the American soldiers in the slightest.

Gary,

look behind the dryer.

Anarch: And that's one hella link there, Gromit. Thanks very much for it.

Best thing on television, Anarch. Their documentary "Ghosts of Rwanda" is absolutely wrenching, though it doesn't appear to be available online.

Sebastian Holsclaw: If our soldiers can shoot a vehicle 400 times and not kill the occupants, it is extremely strong evidence that they did not have the intent of killing. If you want to kill the occupants of a vehicle, you don't even need 400 shots. You aim at the windows and doors and you can get them with far fewer shots.

I'm not jumping to any conclusions one way or another (except that I very much doubt the assassination angle), but from Sgrena's description, had it not been for the body guard shielding here, dying in the process, she very likely would have been killed as well. So while intent to kill the occupants is not certain, it is also far from implausible.

Gary, they're under the sofa, where you kicked them after you took your shoes off.

"If you want to kill the occupants of a vehicle, you don't even need 400 shots. You aim at the windows and doors and you can get them with far fewer shots."

I don't know, but I would suspect the civilian vehicle being used by Italian secret service had some after-market armor protection.

Gary, as ever, is the voice of reason. Thank you, Gary. As I at least attempted to point out here, even the accounts of the passengers seem a little inconsistent at this point. In other words, I'm Waiting and Seeing.

And I disagree with bobzilla's comments; any US soldier in a standing position is going to be able to see and shoot at the driver and passengers.

But I don't have a sofa; the only seating here in my apartment is just a rocking chair, a bed, and my desk chair. And the porcelain altar. Please focus your psychic abilities on the bureaus or book cases or fireplace or skylights or balcony or the boxes or desks, please.

Probably the socks have merely mutated into clothes hangers; they do that, you know. Or it could be the Borrowers. Some might also suggest that it is militant Islamists who kidnapped the socks, whilst others believe the U.S. Army must be at fault for their many holes; I, of course, reserve judgment.

"You would think if there were 400 bullets, one more to the head wouldn't have been that hard."

Yep, I always thought the Sonny Corleone murder and the Bonnie and Clyde ambush went too far on the firepower.

My sources who have been in combat, as opposed to the movies, tell me 217 bullets will do the job.

Plus the taxpayer gets off easy.

Like they did for our rigorous combat training.

The ever reliable Washington Times is spinning it this way:

Italian agents likely withheld information from U.S. counterparts about a cash-for-freedom deal with gunmen holding an Italian hostage for fear that Americans might block the trade, Italian news reports said yesterday.

The decision by operatives of Italy's SISMI military intelligence service to keep the CIA in the dark about the deal for the release of reporter Giuliana Sgrena, might have "short-circuited" communications with U.S. forces controlling the road from Baghdad to the city's airport, the newspaper La Stampa said.

That's a confusing conclusion, however, because apparently

Mr. Calipari and another senior SISMI operative concluded the deal for her release on Friday in Abu Dhabi and then flew to Baghdad aboard a secret service Falcon executive jet to collect her, La Stampa said.

At the airport, they met an Italian military liaison office,r and U.S. military authorities issued them passes allowing them to travel around Baghdad carrying weapons, the newspaper said citing SISMI sources.

The sources said the Italians explained "the terms of the mission" and "the exact nature of the operation" to U.S. officials at the airport. Sources also said an American officer was instructed to wait at the airport for Mr. Calipari and the freed hostage.

According to the WT report, La Stampa did report that "vital information was withheld from the Americans" but doesn't explain what that "vital information" was.

Personally, I think I would attempt to pay a ranson around the government as well, if my loved one were behing held captive. I understand why the US opposes it, but if it were me, I wouldn't care.


Here's an latimes story (reg req'd) about that road:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/la-fg-airportroad7mar07,0,902949.story?coll=la-home-headlines

"Yep, I always thought the Sonny Corleone murder and the Bonnie and Clyde ambush went too far on the firepower."

The amount used at the end of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, however, was Just Right, as was the number of bullets Al Pacino expended at the end of Scarface. After all, it's the only way to be sure.

My own gut instinct on this is to suspect that you had a combination of American soldiers being too trigger happy and of the Italians suffering 'selective memory' so their memory of events makes them look completely innocent.

No one ever wants to take the blame; I expect they'd be telling the same story of their innocence even if it was all their fault. As it stands, I'm sure that there is likely some blame to go around on both sides.

so their memory of events makes them look completely innocent.

Might I suggest replacing "innocent" with "unresponsible" or something else that implies they didn't deserve to die?

My sources who have been in combat, as opposed to the movies, tell me 217 bullets will do the job.

Plus the taxpayer gets off easy.

Well, it's simple, innit? Just make like the Chinese Army and start charging per bullet.

John Biles: As it stands, I'm sure that there is likely some blame to go around on both sides.

Why? The Italians were driving down a secure road. They had already passed two checkpoints safely, which indicates that when US soldiers made it clear they were to stop/slow down, they did so.

Why must it be assumed that the victims must be in some way to blame?

* Does shooting out an engine block normally require 300-400 rounds of ammunition. And how lousy a shot are the folks firing?

I´m not sure about the 300-400 rounds.
It´s possible I suppose if the soldiers (in a panic?) just fired whole magazines into the car.
But who counted them?
Did they found the car again and counted bullets or holes?
IIRC Yahoo news on Saturday (AP story) mentioned that AP reporters asked to see the car and US army officials told them that they had no idea about the location.
Or did the US army count spent munition in the meantime and gave that information to the Italians?

And lousy shots...

It was evening in Bagdad, right?
Maybe already dark?
And one Italian newspaper mentioned "heavy rain"?
(as support to the claim that the car wasn´t speeding.)
If both are true then I suspect that given the low visibility shots will miss the target.

Of course low visibility would also mean that "hand and arm" signals are pretty much useless and senseless.
In fact IF it was dark and raining I would question if the US soldiers really used them.
Why use hand signals if you know that nobody can see them?
Light signals on the other hand make sense.

* If the Italians were supposed to notify the Americans they were on the road to the Airport, as Sgrena reports, did that information get to the checkpoint, and if not, why not?

From what I´ve read this was a "mobile" checkpoint and not a stationary one. And only in that location for 1-2 hours.
Assuming that the Americans were informed, it is possible that this group was simply not informed because nobody thought of them.
Not part of the regular schedule...

That communication fact though seems to be still unclear.
One Italian newspaper "La Stampa" alledgedly said yesterday that the Americans were informed and that an American colonel was waiting with another Italian group at the airport.
But IIRC another Italian newspaper ("La Repubblica" I believe) wrote this weekend that according to an anonymous source in the Iraqi government, neither the Iraqis nor the Americans were informed. Allegedly because the Italians wanted to avoid Giuliana Sgrena getting interrogated by anyone.

Additionally some newspapers say that these soldiers only arrived in Iraq a short while ago. If it was their first round, maybe they simply lacked experience.
(Not to mention the fact that reportedly there was a terrorist attack in the same region one week ago.)

* If the goal was to murder Sgrena, why not finish the job when they realized she was still alive?

Now I personally don´t believe this conspiracy theory.
I think Sgrena is - understandably - pretty much shaken up.
But just for the sake of an argument. :)
"...why not finish the job..."

Well, because it was supposed to look like a "horrific accident"?
And since someone in the car was allegedly speaking on the phone with Berlusconi? (or some other Italian back home)at the moment of the shooting, it would have looked slightly suspicious killing her and the other agent(s) later on? Knowing that they survived the actual shooting?
Or maybe the soldiers didn´t know they were supposed to kill her? Need to know?
Just give them a warning that a car suicide bomber might be coming for them this night?
And hope for the best?
Cause of death for Calipari for example was - according to the autopsy - one head shot.


As I said, I think it was a horrific accident.
But I´d like to know some things too.
Was there communication between the Italian agents and the Americans at the airport?
(I´ve read that Italian investigators want to examine the phones to determine with whom the agents spoke in the hours before the shooting.)

What exactly is "speeding" for the US army?
If only Sgrena were saying the car was going slowly, I might discount it. But the Italian agent is saying the same thing.
(Coupled with that how many agents were in the car? I´ve read about two or three in the last days.)

It´s difficult to believe that none of the SISMI agents would be paying attention to the road and surroundings.
This airport road is reportedly dangerous.
And at least Calipari had experience in Iraq.
(He already negotiated the release of the "two Simonas" in the past.)
So for them to see or hear nothing of the warning signals and shoots...

So for now I´m going with the "Der Spiegel" (German weekly magazine) theory from Saturday.
They speculated that "darkness, communication problems and green troops at the checkpoint" were the reasons.

Detlef,

Was there communication between the Italian agents and the Americans at the airport?

Not sure what time period you're asking about here, but reportedly La Stampa offered:


Mr. Calipari and another senior SISMI operative concluded the deal for her release on Friday in Abu Dhabi and then flew to Baghdad aboard a secret service Falcon executive jet to collect her, La Stampa said.

At the airport, they met an Italian military liaison office,r and U.S. military authorities issued them passes allowing them to travel around Baghdad carrying weapons, the newspaper said citing SISMI sources.

Also, good point about the combination of "hand signals" and low visibility.

Why? The Italians were driving down a secure road.

As the latimes story I attempted to link to above shows, that road is hardly secure.

Maybe you guys need a Grassy Knoll Section or something.

I strongely suspect that this was over-reaction, mistake, jumpiness on the part of the soldiers, not a planned attempt to kill an individual. However, the claim that 400 shots doesn't constitute a real effort to kill someone seems like a stretch to me. Clearly the soldiers did intend to kill the passengers. And they did kill at least one.

"The Italians were driving down a secure road."

The road from Baghdad to the airport is "secure"? You might want to look into that a bit.

"Why must it be assumed that the victims must be in some way to blame?"

It can't be assumed.

But when you say "It was the deliberate shooting of an unarmed vehicle carrying civilians," why must it be assumed that such an act is inherently wrong? How would it be possible for anyone in the vicinity of a moving car to determine whether or not the passengers are or are not armed? Would it be reasonable, based upon the situation in Iraq, for soldiers to assume that a car speeding towards them must be non-hostile, and not carrying weapons or explosives?

Now, if you want to pull back to the general argument that the U.S. shouldn't have invaded Iraq, and shouldn't have soldiers there who have good and sufficient reason to be in fear of their lives and thus standing orders to shoot at cars that appear to threaten them, that's one thing, but to argue that, once there, it's simply inherently unreasonable for said soldiers to ever shoot "civilians" is another. Is noting that the Italians were "civilians" an attempt to distinguish them from the well-known uniformed army fighting the Americans?

To put this into statement form, I'd suggest that while any given shooting by the U.S. (or "coalition") forces in Iraq may be perfectly reasonably questioned, it simply isn't reasonable to assume that anyone who isn't in a uniform and armed who is shot must have been killed because of criminal negligence or worse. (Whether US rules of engagement are insufficiently protective of Iraqis is a legitimate question, of course, but assuming the answer is not so much.)

A note on the driving not long before the checkpoint shooting:

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.

The timing isn't clear in her account. Did the checkpoint shooting occur right after the out of control driving? Did the driver slow down significantly after almost causing an accident in the rain? It is clear that at some point on this outing the driver was driving quite quickly. It isn't obvious at what point.

Jes: Why must it be assumed that the victims must be in some way to blame?

I'm not sure that's the intention, Jes. From what I've read, US troops are pretty jumpy about car bombs (I know I would be if I were them). The fact that 400 rounds didn't kill all of the occupants of the car indicates to me that the intent was to disable the vehicle.

This doesn't mean the the victims were to blame, nor does it excuse the shootings. It simply means that Iraq is an extremely dangerous place.

I'm thinking that there's a lot to be said for the theory that the Italians didn't want to admit they had paid $10 million to terrorist hostage-takers, and so decided to spirit the reporter out without notifying coalition forces. If so, a major share of the blame falls on them.

As for the incident itself, I find Cox & Forkum's take to be a good one. Moral of the story: don't try to speed through checkpoints manned by soldiers who are nervous about suicide bombers--it'll get you killed.

In order to resist giving in to my darkest, most paranoid fears, I'm going with the hypothesis that this is one of hundreds of similar cases where civilian cars have been shot and civilians killed. These have been happening since the invasion, with no letup. The very commonplace-ness of such shootings makes it the most reasonable hypothesis, though a sad commentary on the position in which this government has placed the Iraqi people and U.S. troops.

However, even if there was no intention to kill the car's occupants, and no knowledge of who they were, there was afterwards a cover-up or effort to take advantage of the shooting to penetrate the Italians' intel on the hostage-taking: The Italians' cell phones were taken by the Marines, and as far as I can tell have not yet been returned.

...don't try to speed through checkpoints manned by soldiers who are nervous about suicide bombers--it'll get you killed.

That is speculative. As far as I've seen, when these incidents happen, it's not because people are trying to speed through a checkpoint, it's because they don't know a checkpoint is there, or because they misunderstand the procedure, or because they try to clear the area when warning shots are fired and head in the wrong direction.

As anyone who tries to get through a construction zone knows, these things get confusing. Add to that language difficulties, concealed and jumpy well-armed soldiers, risk of car bombs, and terrified drivers, and it's not difficult to see how these things happen.

I strongely suspect that this was over-reaction, mistake, jumpiness on the part of the soldiers

Given the circumstances of facing armed foes that will defy ALL conventions, from suicide bombs to fake surrenders under white flag to randomly killing innocent bystanders, how earth could soldiers afford to under-react or error in favor of an approaching unknown? Unless you want those guys to take a suicide pact, they have no choice but to be deliberate and decisive. That isn't the soldiers' fault; the terrorists put everyone at incredible risk because of their defiance of the rules of war and humanity.

That isn't the soldiers' fault; the terrorists put everyone at incredible risk because of their defiance of the rules of war and humanity.

Resisting (and failing, apparently) the urge to point out that the whole Iraq invasion violated international rules of warfare, I'd have to point out that one of the aims of the insurgency must be to force the US troops into acts that target innocent civilians. It's a standard tactic that makes the occupation forces unpopular. Insurgencies have used that kind strategy since before the Romans. It's effective, and very much to be expected.

Resisting (and failing, apparently) the urge to point out that the whole Iraq invasion violated international rules of warfare

I'd recommend you resist the urge, given that you would be wrong.

It's a standard tactic that makes the occupation forces unpopular. Insurgencies have used that kind strategy since before the Romans. It's effective, and very much to be expected.

It's also a tactic that sometimes backfires and makes insurgents very unpopular.

how earth could soldiers afford to under-react or error in favor of an approaching unknown? Unless you want those guys to take a suicide pact, they have no choice but to be deliberate and decisive. That isn't the soldiers' fault; the terrorists put everyone at incredible risk because of their defiance of the rules of war and humanity.

I'm not 100% in agreement with this "blame the terrorists" take on the incident, Mac. As Jim Henley notes (via the link Bob was kind enough to provide)

Here is the Highest Law in Iraq today: Thou shalt not frighten an American soldier. Not “kill,” not “attack.” Put in fear of his (or her) life. This is a capital crime subject to immediate arraignment, instantaneous investigation and summary execution of sentence. If your most important goal is to safeguard the lives of American troops, this law makes perfect sense. It was not propounded by Iraqis, though, who were not even consulted about it and have, still, no veto power over it. It was not adopted with the consent of the governed. How did that come about? We decided. No country where such a law obtains is “free” in the sense that the US is free, or, well, Italy is free. No Iraqi jury, nor even Iraqi bureaucrat will pass judgment on the actions of the soldiers at that checkpoint. Americans will.

It is dangerous for a people to arrogate that much power to themselves, even, or especially, when they see themselves as Doing Good. When we still had conservatives in this country, they knew that.

I'll still insist that a pre-emptive war changes all the rules with regard to ensuring innocent civilians don't get killed. If we were not ready to take on that extra burden of protecting their lives, we had no business going in. For me, it's easy: imagine a similar incident here in the United States. Terrorists are bombing our roads, checkpoints are put up, innocent families, confused by this new arrangement get shot to death. Do we say, Oh well, it's the terrorists fault, we can't expect more of the folks on the roadblock?

Hell no. We'd insist that less dangerous methods were used to enforce the checkpoint security. The Iraqis (and all other civilians in Iraq) have the same right to insist on that.


Hell no.

Under like circumstances, you're "hell no" is not only speculative, but rather unlikely.

or "your"

dang it. I normally screw that up the other way 'round.

you think Americans would tolerate the shooting of families and reporters and the like by soldiers on our highways? Really?

you think Americans would tolerate the shooting of families and reporters and the like by soldiers on our highways? Really?

Under truly like circumstances, where innocent American civilians were consistently getting blown up randomly, and lots of soldiers were being killed by suicide bombers at checkpoints.

Me: Resisting (and failing, apparently) the urge to point out that the whole Iraq invasion violated international rules of warfare

Macallan: I'd recommend you resist the urge, given that you would be wrong.

From the UN Charter: All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
News Item: International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

M. Scott Eiland: As for the incident itself, I find Cox & Forkum's take to be a good one. Moral of the story: don't try to speed through checkpoints manned by soldiers who are nervous about suicide bombers--it'll get you killed.

Are these checkpoints clearly marked? Are they piled up with sandbags like in that idiotic and offensive little cartoon you linked? Do they even have "STOP" signs? It is possible that it isn't representative, but the road block in the Frontline video doesn't appear to be marked. From all I can tell, it consists of some armed soldiers in desert fatigues (which, incidentally, camouflage them) standing by the road with a desert camo HMMV shooting at a car that could easily be a quarter mile away. Do we know anything at this point about the checkpoint at which the Italians were shot?

Now, I can't pretend to know what it's like to move around in Baghdad, where there are folks with guns from many groups shooting at each other, and a bullet fired could come from an American warning you to stop, or to keep moving, or to get out of the way, or could come from an American firing at the insurgents behind you, or from insurgents trying to kidnap you, or from a wedding party. But I know that if I'm driving down the street here in the U.S., and I hear gunshots, the LAST THING I'm going to do is slow down the car. In fact I would probably speed up, which is just what many of these folks whose cars get shot up by U.S. troops do. Moreover, do you really think the Italian Secret Service is trained to STOP THE VEHICLE when shots are fired?

Yeah, the troops have reason to be jumpy. But did it ever occur to you that civilians have just as much reason to occasionally drive really fast when trying to get from place to place in a WAR ZONE, and that shots fired won't always translate to "stop the car, and we promise we won't keep shooting at you!"

Do the Israelis, who are reguarly bombed and blasted by suicidal terrorists, shoot-up innocents (other Israelis, Palestinians) at Israeli checkpoints with the same apparent frequency that Americans shoot-up Iraqi innocents at American checkpoints?

double-plus-ungood here's another link">http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=lang_en&safe=off&c2coff=1&as_qdr=all&q=+%22Gulf+War+Peace+Treaty+Signed%22&btnG=Search">link

Also, presumably, the US media would take pains to tell the public about proper procedure for approaching checkpoints and thereby reduce casualties in that manner. These incidents have been happening for some time--I'm at a loss as to why so many Iraqi citizens haven't gotten the message yet. Then again, a substantial number of American citizens die each year because they haven't figured out that it's a bad idea to race a train to a crossing or to play on railroad tracks, so it's a bit unfair to blame Iraqis for having their own blind spots.

"These incidents have been happening for some time--I'm at a loss as to why so many Iraqi citizens haven't gotten the message yet."

This has been one of my areas of confusion. Are we not publicizing checkpoint procedure and the dangers of not following it because we don't like to admit there have been problems? Do Iraqis not understand what is going on with checkpoints? What is up with that?

These incidents have been happening for some time--I'm at a loss as to why so many Iraqi citizens haven't gotten the message yet.

Are you being serious? I actually can't tell.

Sebastian,

Didn´t you read the early post from Edward?

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0307/p01s04-woiq.html

"You're driving along and you see a couple of soldiers standing by the side of the road - but that's a pretty ubiquitous sight in Baghdad, so you don't think anything of it. Next thing you know, soldiers are screaming at you, pointing their rifles and swiveling tank guns in your direction, and you didn't even know it was a checkpoint.

If it's confusing for me - and I'm an American - what is it like for Iraqis who don't speak English?"

"These incidents have been happening for some time--I'm at a loss as to why so many Iraqi citizens haven't gotten the message yet."

This has been one of my areas of confusion. Are we not publicizing checkpoint procedure and the dangers of not following it because we don't like to admit there have been problems? Do Iraqis not understand what is going on with checkpoints? What is up with that?

Given that we can't seem to standardize and then communicate to the public what the TSA airport procedures are at any given moment (e.g. do I or do I not have to take off my shoes; and responding that I don't have to take them off but if I don't I will have to go through extra screening, makes it seem like I do), it doesn't surprise me that we can't do so where there's a huge cultural and language gap and where the checkpoint encounters can be much more deadly.

double-plus-ungood here's another link

Oh, well, it's all legal then. I stand admonished.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to throw a rock through the window of a noisy neighbour that I haven't signed any treaties with.

What I find upsetting is that here we are nearly two years after the fall of Baghdad and the security situation is so bad that our troops have very good reason for shooting any car that moves in their direction. Car bombs can do a lot of damage, even to a tank if they get close enough. There are nearly daily car bombings in Iraq.

I do not blame our soldiers. I do think that the failure to admit how bad things are has made matters worse.

Let me third the recommendation of the Henley post and the CS Monitor Edward linked to.

(Oddly enough, I know the reporter--I interned at the magazine she was working the summer after college graduation. So I can personally vouch for her credibility--she's great.)

It seems that the checkpoints, at least the temporary ones, are anything by clearly checkpoints, which may be by design, but obviously is adding to the confusion.

take two

at least the temporary ones, are anything by clearly checkpoints,

Should be

at least the temporary ones, are anything but clearly marked as checkpoints.

Well...

According to the "Washington Times":
http://www.washtimes.com/world/20050307-120131-5769r.htm

There were conflicting reports on the extent to which Italian authorities had informed their American counterparts about the operation, in which a reported $6 million was paid for the journalist's release.
Mr. Calipari and another senior SISMI operative concluded the deal for her release on Friday in Abu Dhabi and then flew to Baghdad aboard a secret service Falcon executive jet to collect her, La Stampa said.
At the airport, they met an Italian military liaison officer and U.S. military authorities issued them passes allowing them to travel around Baghdad carrying weapons, the newspaper said citing SISMI sources.
The sources said the Italians explained "the terms of the mission" and "the exact nature of the operation" to U.S. officials at the airport. Sources also said an American officer was instructed to wait at the airport for Mr. Calipari and the freed hostage.
But La Stampa also quoted diplomatic sources saying vital information was withheld from the Americans.
"Italian intelligence decided to free Sgrena paying a sum to the kidnappers without informing American colleagues in Iraq who, if they had known about this, would have had to oppose it, to have impeded the operation," sources said.
"If this was the case, it could explain why American intelligence had not informed the American military commands about the operation and thus the patrol did not expect the car with the Italians."

So according to the "Washington Times" the Italians "explained "the terms of the mission" and "the exact nature of the operation" to U.S. officials at the airport."
Allowing them to drive around Bagdad carrying weapons.
Even including an "American officer was instructed to wait at the airport for Mr. Calipari and the freed hostage".

But they didn´t mention the ransom. Ohh!!!
(IIRC a ransom was paid for the "two Simonas" too. So any "intelligent" American intelligence officer might have known that Italy was paying a ransom this time too.
That was pretty obvious.)

But that might "explain why American intelligence had not informed the American military commands about the operation and thus the patrol did not expect the car with the Italians."

You know, if that is true, I might have to revise my opinion that it was just a tragic accident!
IF American intelligence had not informed the American military commands of the operation because they "would have had to oppose it"...

This news item is on-topic:

Jawdat Abd al-Kadhum was not surprised that U.S. troops opened fire at a car carrying a freed Italian hostage to safety. He lost a leg to an American bullet fired from a convoy traveling ahead of him.

The 23-year-old says fear, confusion and misunderstandings on all sides have made roads in Iraq's capital perilous. Now he says he makes sure that any car he is in stops when a U.S. military convoy transporting soldiers or equipment nears.

"There is no safety on the roads. Everyone should expect anything to happen on these roads. Foreigners, Iraqis we are all exposed to the same risks," said al-Kadhum, his left tracksuit trouser leg tied around the stump of his leg.

[...]

The U.S. military says it cannot discuss the rules of engagement -- procedure for dealing with threats from suicide bombers or car bombs -- due to "operational security issues."

But ex-army officers say cars should be at least 50 meters away from any convoy, never overtake and that if a car speeds toward a checkpoint soldiers will shoot at the engine block to make sure the vehicle comes to a standstill.

They say unnecessary shootings happen when hand signals -- a fist to stay back -- or linguistic misunderstandings take place. Cultural differences can also prompt panic -- driving slowly for an Iraqi is not necessarily the same as for an American.

Seems to reinforce what many are saying here.

99.9 % of the people in Iraq are not terrorist. While a majority may be anti-american only a tiny fraction of the population actually engages in terrorist activities.

Likewise over 99% of the vehicular traffic on any one day is not a car loaded with explosives seeking a target.

But when American shoot and kill Iraquis for failing to heed their checkpoint or patroll warnings how many of these are actually guilty of being terrorist? Very, very few. In fact, statistically, the odds are that any time American soldiers fire upon an Iraqui vehicle they are firing on innocent people.

Our soldiers are not dumb. They know full well that when they open fire at a 'suspicious vehicle' the most likely outcome is that they will kill some innocents. They do it anyway. Doesn't this tell you something of the nature of the people we have in the military?


The only thing I hope for, out of this mess, is justice for the orphans created on Bush' inauguration day at a similar checkpoint shooting. How many more innocent civilians have to be killed by American bullets?

"Our soldiers are not dumb. They know full well that when they open fire at a 'suspicious vehicle' the most likely outcome is that they will kill some innocents. They do it anyway. Doesn't this tell you something of the nature of the people we have in the military?"

No.

Our soldiers are not dumb. They know full well that when they open fire at a 'suspicious vehicle' the most likely outcome is that they will kill some innocents. They do it anyway. Doesn't this tell you something of the nature of the people we have in the military?

No, it tells us a great deal about you.

Have to agree with Mac and rilkefan, Ken. You're leaping quite some distance to come up with that conclusion, and it's really offensive to those of us with family in the military, as well.

bobzilla,

Unless, of course, the car is coming at you. In which case, the majority of the bullets would likely strike the front of the car.

Just curious. Would the "front of the car" include the windshield?

double +,

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to throw a rock through the window of a noisy neighbour that I haven't signed any treaties with.

Did you guys sign a conditional ceasefire?

ken,

Likewise over 99% of the vehicular traffic on any one day is not a car loaded with explosives seeking a target.

Would you say that 99% of vehicular traffic speeds up towards checkpoints?

How many more innocent civilians have to be killed by American bullets?

They will continue to be killed until the people doing the killing realize how wrong it is. The soldiers are the ones who are killing these people and if we let the soldiers know we do not approve of their behavior they can put the pressure on for it to stop. You and I are no more effective against this killing than is the average Iraqui.

Did you guys sign a conditional ceasefire?

Hey, I was just cracking up at trying to imagine which other neighbor the noisy one invaded, and why double + had a mutual defense treaty with that one. That's a unique neighborhood if you ask me.

Mac,

Heh, I wonder if the neighbor would come out and beat his for throwing the rock, or get a third party to mediate for a decade or so. Hm.

For every time a car bomb attack was thwarted by US soldiers killing the occupants of a vehicle approaching a checkpoint there are a hundred more vehicles shot at by US soldiers with innocents killed or maimed as a result.

Yet our soldiers continut to shoot at vehicles in which, statistically, they must know to contain innocent people. Why do they do this? How can they justify it?

US military policy is to minimize civilian casualties yet this policy of shoot first and cover up later leads to increased civilian casualties. Are they just that morally callus that the lives of innocent people mean nothing to them compared to their own protection? Where is the heroism in that? How can we be proud of people who do this sort of thing?

For every time a car bomb attack was thwarted by US soldiers killing the occupants of a vehicle approaching a checkpoint there are a hundred more vehicles shot at by US soldiers with innocents killed or maimed as a result.

Hundred? My sources say thousands. You got a cite?

Hey, I was just cracking up at trying to imagine which other neighbor the noisy one invaded, and why double + had a mutual defense treaty with that one. That's a unique neighborhood if you ask me.

Well, if you're suggesting that the invasion of Kuwait was the casus belli for the current invasion of Iraq, here's George Bush Sr's take on that:

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.
Emphisis mine. Seems pretty clear to me that his interpretation of the madate did not include regime change.

That UN mandate...did that predate or postdate the cease-fire?

I believe Regime Change became official U.S. policy after repeated violations of the ceasefire. For more information see Clinton, William J.

Thought I might add some translations via dkos of Italian newspapers.

From an article on la Repubblica:
http://www.repubblica.it/2005/c/sezioni/esteri/iraq45/dettagli/dettagli.html

Italian magistrates discard the hypothesis of an ambush
"The US did not know the details"

Nicola Calipari had given details about Sgrena's release only to a few other officials. Some clues from the agents' phones logs.

Killed by a single bullet, a shot fired at a distance of fifty or a hundred metres, while Nicola Calipari was shielding Giuliana Sgrena with his body. Yet, as has been reported officially by the Carabinieri major who was driving the car, "the shooting lasted ten seconds and shots were fired from several weapons". A hail of bullets, but Calipari was killed by a single shot and wounded by another.

Results of the autopsy add another element to the mystery of the journalist's release and the shooting on Friday night... The magistrates, Franco Ionta and Pietro Saviotti, are leading an investigation for voluntary manslaughter, that's the charge for the four members of the US patrol who opened fire. But they are not considering the hypothesis of an ambush, "an unfounded and illogical theory". The reconstruction of events is still unclear. The key passage relies on three elements: the logs of calls from Calipari's and the major's mobile phones; the service report from the General who has been in charge for a year of operations in Baghdad, one of the few people with whom Calipari had shared the details of the operation; and the version of the US command, who had, nonetheless, been informed of the basics.

... The phone logs. ... the investigators only have one of the phones so far, they're still waiting to get the other two or three that Calipari was using, and the one the Carabiniere major was using. Apparently they are at the Italian embassy in Baghdad and will be handed over to magistrates as soon as possible, together with the weapons that have been seized from the US patrol. The reconstruction of events so far says that, in the twenty minutes between the release of the hostage and the shooting, Calipari made two phone calls in Italian: one to the head of intelligence services, Niccolò Pollari; the second to his local head in Baghdad, one of the very few people informed in detail about the operation. The major instead made only one phone call, in Italian, to the airport to war: "There's three of us, we're coming". But the phones still have a lot to tell about the events of that day. There won't be problems in reading the logs for calls made to Italian numbers; there might be problems with calls to Iraqi numbers or other nearby countries. It seems certain that the Prime Minister will not ask for classified status over the phone logs.

The report. This is another key passage in understanding how the operation was planned, who knew and how how much in detail they had been informed. The report should also clear up once and for all the question of how many people participated in the operation: two cars, as was initially reported? Many details will remain covered by classified status. Such as the entity of the ransom, for instance - reportedly 8 million euros, paid in Abu Dhabi to an Ulema leader a few hours before the release. And the fact that the car that transported Calipari and the major, who has a good knowledge of Baghdad seen as he was a local head of operations, was escorted on Friday afternoon to an alley at the outskirts of the capital, where Sgrena had been dropped off by a car driven by the local mediator with whom relase had been negotiated. The report from the general of the intelligence services is fundamental above all to understand who had full knowledge of the operation. "The US command had been informed of the mission, but not in details, and definitely not about the details of the release itself", this is the version as recostructed by magistrates so far, as of last night. It means that the US knew that that Italian intelligence team was working for the release of the Italian hostage. As a consequence, so the investigators think, "there should have been an operation for protection [of the mission]". But when, starting at what time and until what time? The line of knowledge is thin and frail. The investigators state that "Calipari had restricted information to a minimum, and only he had been keeping all contacts". Five people is the number that's being suggested [ie. the people who Calipari was keeping closely in touch with]: Pollari and the undersecretary Gianni Letta from the government's office, the local head of intelligence, the major, and the mediator. A very low-profile choice to make the release as secure as possible. But perhaps, this at least is the working hypothesis, also resulting in an information "hole" and a "very unfortunate lack of communication".

The charge. Having excluded the hypothesis of an ambush ("it seems unfounded and illogical"), the current charges by magistrates are voluntary homicide and attempted murder. [not sure about translation of legal definitions - both murder and manslaughter are "omicidio" in Italian, the only difference is involuntary or voluntary]. "We have to understand if rules of engagement were respected", says one of the investigators. The major who was driving the car said they were travelling at a speed "between 60 and 70 km per hour" [37 to 43 miles per hour] and that he had spotted some "Jersey barriers but not a roadblock". Suddenly, under the rain, there was a "flash of light", but the "friendly" fire started immediately afterwards, "from the front, where there was a tank and a humvee". What about the other signals of warning and stop required by procedures?

I can´t say anything about the reliability of that translation, and the same is true for the reliability of that article.

However...
"Ten seconds of shooting" and "four members of the US patrol who opened fire".
What guns did those four members use to fire 300-400 shots in just 10 seconds?
Certainly not normal infantry assault guns?
Always assuming that the numbers of shots are right?

I´m certainly hoping that the investigation of the car and the investigation of the phone logs will clear this case.

Right now it seems to support the "darkness, communication problem and - maybe - green troops" suggestion.

Note though that this article mentions "rain" too.
Evening and rain ==> poor visibility.
"Hand and arm signals", even light signals from flashlights might not have been that visible.

Stan: Heh, I wonder if the neighbor would come out and beat his for throwing the rock, or get a third party to mediate for a decade or so. Hm.

Nah. I'm 6'5", 240 lb and look scary, and the noisy neighbor is merely an annoying pipsqueak, so I can pretty much do whatever I want without worrying about physical repercussions. There's a bit of a moral dilemma about being perceived as a neighborhood bully who doesn't need to pay attention to the rule of law, but by simply remembering that truth and justice is on my side, I can deal with it. Besides, the guy is an annoying pest, and I hear he abuses his kids, so anything I do is justified. Maybe all those other annoying neighbors will pay attention if I deal with this dirtbag.

Nah. I'm 6'5", 240 lb and look scary, and the noisy neighbor is merely an annoying pipsqueak, so I can pretty much do whatever I want without worrying about physical repercussions.

But wouldn't throwing that rock make you more enemies? :(

Stan,

After two years of occupation the US forces know that whether a vehicles speeds up, slows down, does a u-turn, or a complete stop the odds are that the occupants will be innocent Iraqis and the car will not contain explosives.

Why do they know this? Because experience has shown this to be the case. Ater they shoot at the 'suspicious vehicle' however they define it, they inevidiably find out that they shot and killed or maimed innocent people. The lucky ones, Iraqis and Americans both, get out of an incident like this with only the vehicle shot up and no one injured.

But what I don't get is why they still do this knowing the outcome is going to be the probable death of innocent people.

For more information see Clinton, William J.

Uh, Mac...Bush was re-elected. The expiration date on the "Clinton defense" has passed. Just sayin'...

But wouldn't throwing that rock make you more enemies? :(

6'5", 240 lbs, look real scary. Besides, I believe the standard response is, "So what, they'll hate me anyway, no matter what I do."

Correct me if the phrasing is wrong.

ken,

No cite? That's fine. I'll just take the name of the organization that did the study, then. Thanks.

But what I don't get is why they still do this knowing the outcome is going to be the probable death of innocent people.

I am confused. Are you referring to those who speed up, here?

After two years of occupation the US forces know that whether a vehicles speeds up, slows down, does a u-turn, or a complete stop the odds are that the occupants will be innocent Iraqis and the car will not contain explosives.

You're right. The slow down rule is absurd. In fact, checkpoints are absurd. Odds are...

double +,

Good point. Ofcourse there's always that chance that a bigger guy from a different neighborhood drops by and beats your ass...

Edward,

Bush was re-elected. The expiration date on the "Clinton defense" has passed.

I think he was responding to a specific point. Or certain facts are off the table now?

Ken: Why do they know this? Because experience has shown this to be the case. Ater they shoot at the 'suspicious vehicle' however they define it, they inevidiably find out that they shot and killed or maimed innocent people. The lucky ones, Iraqis and Americans both, get out of an incident like this with only the vehicle shot up and no one injured.

Ken, if I were a twenty-year old kid manning a roadblock in Iraq, I'd be a little freaked out about being shredded, maimed, or killed by a carbomb. I'd be worried about getting home to my family with my legs and arms still attached. I'd be worried about my loved ones having to care for a brain-damaged kid for the rest of his life.

I'd be a bit trigger-happy too. Which, I believe, is exactly the intent of the insurgents.

Good point. Of course there's always that chance that a bigger guy from a different neighborhood drops by and beats your ass..

Not if it's the only neighborhood, and I know everyone in it. And I spent more on weapons that the rest of the neighborhood combined.

We are on a slippery slope of bad analogies and will soon wind up off the rails in a ditch.

double+,

Weapons? Didn't realize you were pro 2nd amendment :P

Ofcourse your neighborhood is not the only one in the city. Sure, you can bully around your neighbors, because you know you can... I mean, who's gonna schlep all the way there to stop you? Not Frank,Genny, or Russel - that's for sure.

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