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there was no checkpoint
March 28, 2005 3:33 PM   Subscribe

From her perspective, it was just opening fire by a tank. Giuliana Sgrena, the freed Italian journalist who was shot at by American troops upon her release, sets the record straight: there was no checkpoint, she was on a secure VIP road that runs directly from the Green Zone to the Baghdad airport, and her car was shot at from behind. Transcript, audio, and video of an interview with Naomi Klein, who talked to Sgrena in Rome.
posted by muckster (40 comments total)

 
Well, that sucks.
posted by graventy at 3:41 PM on March 28, 2005


yup. i posted the Naomi Klein thing to the original thread but no one saw. : <

The whole story has been total bullshit on our side, and we're not letting them examine the car either.
posted by amberglow at 3:46 PM on March 28, 2005


Oh, come on. The US troops finally found a commie - can you blame them for being a bit triggerhappy?

Unarmed female commie journalists, unlike camel-jokeys insurgents, don't shoot back.

At least not if you shoot them in the back.
posted by spazzm at 3:53 PM on March 28, 2005


Just to be clear - sarcasm, people.
posted by spazzm at 3:53 PM on March 28, 2005


Isn't this what she said from the beginning?
posted by smackfu at 3:56 PM on March 28, 2005


US troops finally found a commie

j. edgar must be sooooo jealous.
posted by quonsar at 4:03 PM on March 28, 2005


If you read some on the entries on google, you could almost get the impression that shooting unarmed female reporters in the back and killing high-ranking allied officers is a praiseworthy deed.
posted by spazzm at 4:08 PM on March 28, 2005


Isn't this what she said from the beginning?

yes
posted by Substrata at 4:41 PM on March 28, 2005


Sets the record straight

Or further muddies it. The record will never be straight. She has one perspective (that of somebody who was in a very traumatic situation and got shot). The soldiers have another (that of somebody who might be trying to avoid landing themselves in the brig). Unless somebody produces a video then the record will never be straight.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 4:46 PM on March 28, 2005


Umm.. if you run a checkpoint don't they kind of have to shoot you in the back?

Not to mention the questionable sources but thank god theres links to an interview to someone who gave an interview to the source.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:50 PM on March 28, 2005


Unless somebody produces a video then the record will never be straight.

Simon
posted by Substrata at 4:51 PM on March 28, 2005


she didn't run a checkpoint at all--she was on a secured road, not the dangerous highway.
posted by amberglow at 4:51 PM on March 28, 2005


she didn't run a checkpoint at all--she was on a secured road, not the dangerous highway.

exactly
posted by Substrata at 4:56 PM on March 28, 2005


I love Amy Goodman. She isn't always pleasant, and she has an agenda, but she she keeps the focus on some of the most important stories of the day. This is but one more example. We give a pretty fair amount of money to WBAI and Pacifica, and Amy is to blame for almost all of it.

Al Jazeera reported something along these lines the day after the shooting, although it lacked the shooting in the back and secured road aspects. I wanted to post this story myself yesterday, but I still have some doubts about Sgrena's story. She is not a neutral party here, and now she has had a rescuer shot down by the very forces she so despises. Nevertheless, something is fishy about this whole incident and it is clear that the US military is not telling the whole story. This is one where a little more evidence might enlighten. Has access to the vehicle really been denied? Let's have some independent investigators take a look. Shot from behind? That would look bad if true. Which road was this really on, the public road or the secured road? Answers please.
posted by caddis at 5:03 PM on March 28, 2005


A "secure road" in Iraq is an oxymoron
posted by bitdamaged at 5:03 PM on March 28, 2005


Klein is peddling rumors and romance, as usual. The issue is just not significant enough to merit any further attention, IMO.
posted by ori at 5:07 PM on March 28, 2005


She was interviewed on television midweek (on the program Ballaro) and made a point to clarify that she'd never said she was targeted for assassination. She simply noted that the shooting had the "mechanics" of an ambush. Funny how the victim herself suggests a lack of conspiracy, yet certain MeFites with limited knowledge of the incident have been positive all along she was killed for being a 'commie journalist'. Vindication of Eason Jordan, and all.

Again: what would tank operators on the ground know about Italian journalists? Why would soldiers deliberately risk destroying the US's relationship with Italy? I want to hear answers from our gov't, too, but in the process I'm finding it counterproductive to leap to any 'juicy' conclusions about journalist-targeting.

BTW: Counterpunch, DemocracyNow and the victim herself are not exactly unbiased sources likely to "set the record straight" at this point, muckster—that's pretty dicey wording.
posted by dhoyt at 5:07 PM on March 28, 2005


Umm.. if you run a checkpoint don't they kind of have to shoot you in the back?

Umm, no, and if our soldiers let a car running at a checkpoint get past them, they'd be dead, as the suicide bomber would detonate when he got there. Being shot in the back completely invalidates the idea that she ran a checkpoint.

Klein is peddling rumors and romance, as usual

Of course, the eye-witness account of how a victim was shot is of no consequence, and is nothing more than romantic rumor. What a stupid thing to say. And the Italians might disagree with you about this being completely unimportant -- they'll probably end up leaving the coalition over this.
posted by teece at 5:19 PM on March 28, 2005


"Klein is peddling rumors and romance, as usual. The issue is just not significant enough to merit any further attention, IMO."

Ori, are you saying that if indeed she was on a secured road, or was fired on from behind this isn't significant?

I have mixed feelings about Naomi Klein, but just because she reported a story is no reason to dismiss it.

How much is an opinion worth when the information is not yet public?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:22 PM on March 28, 2005


she didn't run a checkpoint at all--she was on a secured road, not the dangerous highway.

Bombs still explode and mortar rounds still fall inside the Green Zone. No place in Iraq is 100% secure. I don't think the location of the attack has much bearing on this.

Not releasing the car for investigation, however, is rather suspicious. Although I think at most it would reveal evidence of a huge mistake rather than a conspiracy to whack a journalist.

and if our soldiers let a car running at a checkpoint get past them, they'd be dead, as the suicide bomber would detonate when he got there. Being shot in the back completely invalidates the idea that she ran a checkpoint.

That assumes the checkpoint in question (if it in fact existed) was the target. It would be, however, perfectly justifiable to shoot at a fleeing vehicle that you had reason to believe had malicious intent somewhere else.
posted by Cyrano at 5:24 PM on March 28, 2005


I'd love to see any documentation that gives lie to Sgrena's account. I guess we'll have to wait until mid-April.
posted by Hat Maui at 5:32 PM on March 28, 2005


If she was on a 'secure road', then its safe to assume that there would be some sort of checkpoints at either end of it. Obviously the car would have had to go through the first checkpoint at the start of the road and they must have failed to radio ahead to tell the guys in the tank to expect Sgrena's car.

We don't know what this road looks like, weather it is a streight road or if the tank would have been able to spot the car coming from where it was situated at. For all we know they may not have seen it coming and only opened fire when they realised a car had passed them unexpectedly. One reason the tank could have opened fire on them is to try to protect the checkpoint at the end of the road???

Also, I don't understand how Calipari could have died in Sgrena arms if the bullets came from behind. I'd imagine Calipari would have had to jump behind Sgrena as she ducked out of the way from the bullets. I'm not questioning the idea that Calipari saved her. Its just another loose end to this story that needs to be tied up.
posted by Po0py at 5:42 PM on March 28, 2005


For all we know they may not have seen it coming and only opened fire when they realised a car had passed them unexpectedly. One reason the tank could have opened fire on them is to try to protect the checkpoint at the end of the road???

Would you consider a checkpoint effective if the giant tank was completely hidden from the road so that even people in the tank couldn't see approaching vehicles until after they were already past? Would you also consider it effective if a checkpoint consisted of said hidden tank with the orders "if a car passes you, blow it up." ?

Also, I don't understand how Calipari could have died in Sgrena arms if the bullets came from behind.

Perhaps he was shot -before- dying as she held him? This seems pretty obvious to me. She wasn't cradling him before he was shot.
posted by odinsdream at 6:02 PM on March 28, 2005


In retrospect, I don't think there was a conspiracy simply because it would have been a lot easier to just stop the car with some expedient (another car crashing or whatnot) and RPG it ; blame the terrorist, end of story, "troublemakers" vaporized.

On the contrary, it is very likely that it was a very bad error ; blame the trigger happy soldier, which is immune from criticism thanks to jingoism anyway, end of story. At worst if it really becomes a trouble the soldiers or petty officier will pay for officier/boss incompetence, as usual.

At very worst, use the jingoistic expedient that reporters aren't supposed to be there doing reporting, because they're endangering the soldiers and/or being accidentally shoot at by soldiers.
posted by elpapacito at 6:06 PM on March 28, 2005


The issue is just not significant enough to merit any further attention, IMO.

You're right. We should get our attention back on Schiavo et al today, because things in Iraq happen very, very, very far away.
posted by davejay at 6:06 PM on March 28, 2005


Again: what would tank operators on the ground know about Italian journalists? Why would soldiers deliberately risk destroying the US's relationship with Italy? I want to hear answers from our gov't, too, but in the process I'm finding it counterproductive to leap to any 'juicy' conclusions about journalist-targeting.

Um...why would the tank operators know anything about anyone they're instructed (no, make that ordered) to shoot at? Isn't that how it works? Someone higher up says, "hit that house, hit that car, hit that market"...? How often are explanations given?
posted by amberglow at 6:20 PM on March 28, 2005


There's way too much missing here- we're all going to just fight over missing details. It's troubling that there would be interest from the parties involved (the injured reporter) to skew the story to them, but the bias needs to be laid out before working with the rest of this situation.

You will not be able to speak to the soldiers about this- they had their orders- I'm sure it was something like 'rogue insurgent vehicle gained unauthorized access to embassy-'safe zone' road. Search and destroy. And that, they did. They followed orders.

The big ticket here is the fact that US will not let the Italian's have their car back. It's the only piece of evidence we have that would corroborate the story that the reporter is telling, versus the current party's line about it being a checkpoint stop, they were approaching, etc.

I fear the car will not be released, but perhaps destroyed or mangled further to complicate the issue.

Ultimately, this yet another excellent story that does it's truly intended job: divide the people.
posted by id at 6:25 PM on March 28, 2005



Umm, no, and if our soldiers let a car running at a checkpoint get past them, they'd be dead, as the suicide bomber would detonate when he got there. Being shot in the back completely invalidates the idea that she ran a checkpoint.


bullshit. checkpoints are placed in front of sensative targets, usually several hundred yards in front of a target with a clear field of fire behind it so that if someone does run it, they get shot. There's no way to know someone is dangerous until they get past it.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:27 PM on March 28, 2005


I agree completely, id. We need more facts, and the U.S. government is being characteristically cagey. The secrecy is doing no one any good at this point.

There have been so many distortions in our media and Arab media. It's hard not to throw up our hands and give up. I'd like to hear from the driver as well. The car will eventually have to be released to the Italian government, won't it?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:32 PM on March 28, 2005


Well the secrecy is because the US government never wants to place blame on its troops for things that they do. (I'm not blaming the 19 year olds who are put in these situations, but the general rules of justice just don't apply, to our shame.)

They can't fess up and say that there was a mistake because the Italians will demand someone going to jail, which the US government wont do. Remember all those Abu Ghraib higher ups in charge who got arrest- oh right nerver mind.

Anyways the Italiens are going to press, and the US is going to obfuscate, but I know one thing. This won't ever come out in the mainstream news .
posted by stratastar at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2005


The power of the internet is awesome! People now have the ability to say what actually happened in a few chaotic seconds half a world away.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2005


Secured road? I'm not saying the US army didn't totally fuck up, but saying that the highway is 'secure' is utter bullshit. It doesn't have moats or barbed wire fences surrounding it, and I don't even think that public traffic is kept off. Instead, it's secured in the sense that it's regularly patrolled: groups of soldiers go out and watch for suspicious activity (eg a speeding vehicle that's not in a convoy) and locate/defuse any new improvised explosive devices that they find. In terms of the normal places civilians go in Iraq, it's probably the most dangerous.
I'm trying to piece together what happened based on details from a trip my father took there over the summer and the Joe Sacco piece from Guardian Weekend which was posted here a few weeks ago. The standard procedure for dealing with a car that does not respond to signalling or shows alarming behavior (eg does not pull to the side) is to fire a few 'warning' shots into it and see if it pulls over; if that doesn't happen then it's engaged fully. More generally, any suspicious behavior is grounds for engagement.

Near as I can tell (conspiracy theories aside), one of the following happened:

1. The Italians called ahead and were expected, but this didn't get passed on to the patrol.
2. The Italians didn't call ahead and weren't expected.
3. The patrol was notified but didn't make the connection somehow (surprise? inattention?)

Next: the Italians' cars speed down the highway, passengers jazzed up from the the hostage recovery and the remaining danger. They approach an American patrol parked on the side of the road which is not expecting them. Something about the Italians' behavior alarms the Americans, probably that they don't stop as they draw near. Maybe a signal is given, maybe not; if it is, the Italians do not respond in a way that satisfies the Americans. Maybe there's warning shots (directed at the vehicles, not over them); if so, the Italians don't interpret them as such or are wounded by them. Not expecting to be shot at, they react in a way that makes the Americans even more alarmed (swerving, speeding up?) and are shot at again. Either way, the passengers are all badly hurt.

Up to this point, I don't see too much disagreement between the explanations offered, except in the motivations offered.

In the aftermath various stuff happens, notably this car thing. In part, I agree with Stratastar: My theory is that it's probably to protect the soldiers involved from scrutiny, especially that of the Italian press but maybe that of the Italian or international courts as well. Here I differ: they probably followed the rules, but made some kind of error in judgement which caused the situation to play out a lot worse than it could have. The military doesn't want its reputation impunged, of course, but even more than that they don't want soldiers to be cautious. On the battlefield, soldiers have to make decisions very quickly on incomplete information, and callous as it sounds false positives are way better than false negatives. I don't have any more proof for this than the imperialist plot theory, though.

So. Now the I Can't Believe These People Are On Our Side part. Someone needs to remind the counterpunch types, and the rest of our mouth-breathing brethren, of the following fables:

1. The Boy Who Cried Wolf
2. The Boy Who Cried Wolf When The Actual Emergency Was Much Less Serious
3. The Boy Who Continually Attributed The Wolf's Actions To Malice When Other Explanations Were Seemingly Better

First point: Outrage is a great tool, until you blunt it. Outrage should be delivered infrequently, but in scathing, logically consistent laser beams, not this dribbly screeching Amerikkka bullshit (or its milder but equally crappy equivalents).

Second point: I was thinking about mentioning Occam's Razor, but I realized that in many world-views the conspiracy theory is actually simpler. So elaborating on the last item above, I'm going to state a (probably plagarized) rule of thumb, which I call Occam's Mach 3 Razor Cartridge: If you consistently attribute events to malice where error or stupidity would suffice, there is likely something wrong with your assumptions.

On preview:
Stratastar:
This won't ever come out in the mainstream news .
The front page of the New York Times (well, the website, up in the top stories) isn't mainstream?

Pardonyou?: (interropause?) Agreed, though there's always some inferences you can make (duh.) Otherwise, what's news good for?
posted by monocyte at 8:43 PM on March 28, 2005


The Boy Who Continually Attributed The Wolf's Actions To Malice When Other Explanations Were Seemingly Better

A wolf who harbours malice directed at sheep? I think we can find a more likely explanation than that. Preposterous!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:48 PM on March 28, 2005


The power of the internet is awesome! People now have the ability to say what actually happened in a few chaotic seconds half a world away.

It goes hand in hand with instant typography skills.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:27 AM on March 29, 2005


As much as I would like to believe that the US government is hiding yet another fuck up, I'll play devil's advocate for a second. What would you remember after you've been rescued from a month long encounter with insurgents, speedily driven around dangerous streets, and shot at and wounded. My bet is that your memory might be confused about some of the facts with all of that adrenaline & shock. I'm just trying to say that people in situations like this can't always be trusted to give an unbiased account of the story because they are so involved in the action of said story.

The only way we're going to get any more of the facts is to have an independent investigation with access to the vehicle, this particular stretch of road, and access to interview all of the individuals involved, not by guessing what happened from the safety of our inter-net.

Perhaps that tank had a video camera on it (don't they do that now?).
posted by password at 6:18 AM on March 29, 2005


well i was wrong eh, i figured shaevo's impending death would be page 1 for a while.

but regarding the highway, it makes sense that the US would WANT a secure highway no? Especially with the baghdad highway being a mad max death pit...

So it would make sense that a tank that sees a rent-a-wreck, iraqi type car speeding through the supposed secure highway would over react, because hey there are only supposed to be government type vehicles.

password: independent investigation?? maybe the UN, or the ICC will investigate no?
posted by stratastar at 1:19 PM on March 29, 2005


Iraqi Information Minister holding on line 1.
posted by jmccorm at 1:53 PM on March 29, 2005


password: independent investigation?? maybe the UN, or the ICC will investigate no?

I'd much rather go with simply not questioning our government (the U.S.), it's much more patriotic.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:52 PM on March 29, 2005


They can't fess up and say that there was a mistake because the Italians will demand someone going to jail, which the US government wont do. Remember all those Abu Ghraib higher ups in charge who got arrest- oh right nerver mind

sadly, it's all there is to say about this killing. the US will never admit a mistake because then some of the trigger-happy, scared-shitless kids would have to be punished, and that would destroy morale even worse than it already is. they'll just stonewall. I mean, after all the Abu Ghraib pictures most Americans don't give a fuck. I doubt a video of Calipari's murder would do much to change things.

oh, and of course the famous US liberal mainstream media isn't letting this very embarrassing story disappear.

heh.

oh, and I bet Italy won't leave Iraq until Berlusconi loses his job. the elections are next year, I'm quite sure at this point that the troops will stay at least until then, this killing (and the humiliating treatment received by American authorities after it) notwithstanding.
posted by matteo at 7:12 AM on March 30, 2005


Italian hostage blasts US report...US investigators were reported to have found the troops "not culpable" in a report which Italy has not endorsed. ... (BBC)
posted by amberglow at 7:34 PM on April 26, 2005


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