Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Strange Case of Giuliana Sgrena

Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena is back in Italy after having been taken hostage, released, and then fired on by American troops on her way to the Baghdad airport. The Italian secret service agent who negotiated her release, Nicola Calipari, was killed by the Americans. According to Sgrena, the man who rescued her died in her arms.

The editor of Sgrena's paper, Il Manifesto, wrote today:

Pochi minuti, tanto è durata la nostra gioia. Il tempo che passa tra una telefonata e l'altra: quella che ci annuncia la liberazione di Giuliana e quella che ci precipita nell'assassinio della persona che più di ogni altra ha lavorato per liberarla.

[A few minutes--that's how long our joy lasted. The time that passes between one phone call and another: one that told us of Giuliana's freedom and another that was occasioned by the assassination of the person who, more than any other, had worked to free her.]

Sgrena, whose reporting had been consistently critical of the American military's action in Iraq, insisted that the assault on the car in which she was riding was completely unprovoked. American sources say that the car was approaching a checkpoint very fast and ignored signals to slow down. But how likely is it that Italian secret service operatives would ignore signals to slow down when approaching heavily armed American troops in Baghdad?

Here, according to the Observer, is the Italian version of events:

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 it 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 do not want to believe it, but I fear there may be more to this story than we will ever see in the American press, nothwithstanding President Bush's promise to the Italians of a full investigation.