Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Sgrena Code, Part II 

Updated: scroll down.

I wrote yesterday that "[we're] not at the stage yet where Giuliana Sgrena's version of events has more holes in it than her car, but it's getting there."

Today, the Italian media has finally published the photos of the car in which Sgrena was traveling on the way to the Baghdad airport, when it was riddled with the now-infamous volley of 300-400 American bullets, killing the Italian intelligence agent and wounding Sgrena herself. The photos appear to show one bullet hole in the lower right-hand corner of the windscreen, next to the wiper.

Thanks to LGF reader Thomas for hosting the pics.

Now it definitely looks like Sgrena version of events has more holes in it than her car.

"[Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini] said the car was traveling no faster than 25 mph, and disputed the U.S. military's assertion that several warnings were given... But, according to the senior U.S. military official, the car was traveling at speeds of more than 100 mph. The driver almost lost control several times before the shooting as the car hydroplaned through large puddles."
Having lived in Italy, I'm skeptical about any assurances which start with "We weren't speeding, really..."

Sgrena's captors, the Islamic Army of Iraq have also came out to say that they have
refused to accept the ransom for the journalist. Why wouldn't they? Sgrena has proven to be quite priceless.

Update: Reader Hagel translates an article from the Dutch press written by one of Sgrena's colleagues (original here):

Journalist Sgrena didn't like the Yanks
Filed on 3/8/2005 06:53
By Harald Doornbos

BEIRUT – "Be careful not to get kidnapped", I said to the female journalist sitting next to me on a small plane flying to Baghdad. "Oh, no", she said, "we are on the side of the Iraqi people. No Iraqi will kidnap us."

Eight days later this woman, Giuliana Sgrena, was kidnapped by armed Iraqis during a visit to the university of Baghdad. A month later she is freed. But don't ask how. For four weeks she was in captivity, appeared crying in a videotape, begging for her life and the withdrawal of Italian forces from Iraq. She also said that "Iraq wasn't a place for journalists". Then followed negotiations between Italian authorities and the group of kidnappers, who threatened to behead her.

It's highly likely that ransom was paid Friday, after which Italian security agents picked her up. But the trouble didn't end here. Just after Sgrena was freed, her car was shot at when, on the way to the airport, the driver drove too fast towards an American checkpoint. One bullet hit Sgrena in the shoulder and one of the secret agents died.

Sgrena, who arrived in Rome Saturday, claims that the Americans tried to kill her. The member of the secret service received a state funeral yesterday and is revered as a hero in Italy.

It doesn't sound nice to attack a colleague. But Sgrena's attitude is a complete disgrace to journalism. Didn't she say, sitting next to me in the airplane, that "normal journalists like you" don't stand behind the Iraqi people. "The Americans are the biggest enemies of mankind", the three women told me, because Sgrena traveled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who also disliked the Yanks.

When I told I wasn't going to sit in Baghdad, but travel as an embedded journalist, I was treated as the Big Traitor. "I just don't want to be kidnapped", I said. "That is the only reason I go with the Americans."

Jeering. "You don't get the situation. We are anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, communists", they said. The Iraqis only kidnap stooges of the Americans, the enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear.

Now I told them that I thought they weren't sane. You cannot deny that Al-Qaeda-like groups operate in Iraq, who specifically target western journalists. And Al-Qaeda warriors are the Arabic equivalent of fascism: anti-American, anti-Jewish and – above all – anti-communist.

But well, the three knew better. When we arrived in Baghdad, I waited on an American jeep which was going to pick me up. I saw how one of the three Italian women walked around crying, because an Iraqi had stolen her computer and television equipment. Shivering they stood outside, waiting for a taxi to bring them to Baghdad.

With her total prejudice Sgrena didn't only put herself in danger, but because her conduct an Italian security agent is dead and the Italian government spent millions of euros trying to save her life. Let's hope Sgrena chooses another job. Propagandist or parliamentarian maybe. But she should quit journalism immediately.

I won't accuse Sgrena of being a willing accomplice to her kidnap and the subsequent anti-Coalition, pro-insurgent media circus, but her apparent belief that her anti-American and anti-war position will act like a magic talisman protecting her from trouble makes her, on the most generous reading, naive beyond reason in light of the long string of kidnappings and executions of Italian, French and other journalists and activists who were "on the side of the Iraqis [read: Iraqi insurgents]" as much as Sgrena.


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