Sunday, March 06, 2005

They shoot allies, don't they? 

"Don't believe a word of the U.S. version... There's an attempt to mask what actually happened. The Americans deliberately fired on the Italians." So says Oliviero Diliberto, secretary of the Italian Communist party about the wounding of the just-released Italian hostage, journalist Giuliana Sgrena, and killing of an Italian intelligence agent by the American troops in Iraq. Sgrena, by the way, writes for a communist newspaper.

Now, there are many people from around the world, from Eason Jordan to the management of Al-Jazeera, who think that the US army is actually targeting journalists in Iraq. But if you are of an less excitable predisposition, you have to ask yourself why on earth would the Americans want to kill the nationals of one of their staunchest allies in Iraq. But never mind why; I'm sure some nut will be pretty soon come up with an appropriate conspiracy theory; the real questions is - why that way? The critics think America Machiavellian enough to want to kill the Italians, and at the same time stupid enough to do it a way that created one of the more serious diplomatic incidents since the start of the war. Can't have it both ways, I'm afraid.

Meanwhile, conspiracies aside, we do have the American version of events, which Signore Diliberto implores us to disbelieve:

1) the Italians did not inform the Americans that they are transporting Sgrena to the airport;

2) the car was traveling at a high speed; and

3) it failed to stop at a checkpoint.

Maybe that's what happened; maybe not (Sgrena and the Italians are disputing all of these points); maybe there was a stuff up, a breakdown in communication on the higher level, followed by soldiers on the ground making a bad judgment call. Let the proper investigation have a look at the facts, though, before we start invoking Grassy Knolls.


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