The Giuliana Sgrena Story

I have to confess that I’m utterly mystified by this story.

Short recap for those who haven’t followed the events. Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian journalist for Il Manifesto and contributor to the German Zeit, was abducted outside of Baghdad on February 4. The outrage was great – Italians went on the streets to protest and demand her release, the Zeit magazine dedicated an entire section with articles, pleas and reports to Ms. Sgrena.

13 days into her abduction, a video surfaced in which a haggard, terrified, tear-choking Sgrena pleas for an end of the Italian engagement in Iraq. It was a chilling document and no one who saw it was left untouched.

The Italian government promised to do everything to secure her release — short of calling its troops home.

Then, a month after she was abducted, the joyous news: Giuliana Sgrena is free and on her way back home to Rome. What happened then is still a mystery. Ms. Sgrena later tells her story:

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. Nicola Calipari sat next to me. The driver twice called the embassy and in Italy that we were heading towards the airport that I knew was heavily patrolled by U.S. troops. They told me that we were less than a kilometer away…when…I only remember fire. At that point, a rain of fire and bullets hit us, shutting up forever the cheerful voices of a few minutes earlier.
cnn.com

The US claims that

The car carrying the Italians approached a checkpoint “at a high rate of speed” at 8:55 p.m. local time, the military said in a statement. A Pentagon spokesman said Ms. Sgrena was being brought to Camp Victory, the American command headquarters near Baghdad International Airport, along one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq.

A State Department official in Washington said that an American hostage coordinator in Iraq had not been informed of Ms. Sgrena’s release. The military did not know the hostage was in the car, the official said.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said that soldiers flashed white lights, used arm and hand signals and fired warning shots as the car approached them at high speed, and fired at the car only when it did not slow down or stop.
The New York Times, March 4, 2005

Let’s try to wade through these murky waters. We know three things for sure.

Fact 1: The car was heavily shot at by US troops. Some 400 bullets were later secured from the wreck.

Fact 2: Secret agent Nicola Calipari died immediately from a shot to the head.

Fact 3: Giuliana Sgrena and at least one other passenger were slightly wounded. Ms. Sgrena had to seek medical attention before she could continue to Rome. She was wounded in her shoulder.

Other than that, we have only very conflicting accounts.

Ms. Sgrena intensified her accusations of the US in the past days. She claims to have been told by her captors that the US military didn’t want her to return to Italy. She also says that they had not been shot at a checkpoint but rather by a US patrol. She also says that there had been no warning gestures or shots. The reason for her shooting, so she explains, is that a ransom was paid for her release. (This is, BTW, not yet confirmed by any official source.)

“The fact that the Americans don’t want negotiations to free the hostages is known,” Ms. Sgrena said in a telephone interview with Sky TG24 television. “The fact that they do everything to prevent the adoption of this practice to save the lives of people held hostages, everybody knows that. So I don’t see why I should rule out that I could have been the target.”
The New York Times, March 6, 2005

The US government, on the other hand, called the incident a “tragic accident”. George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld offered condolences and apologies to Rome.

The political fallout from this incident is difficult to predict. The outrage in Europe and especially in Italy is understandably great. Some sources suggest that this could weaken Berlusconi’s power considerably – he is a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq. It will be interesting to watch how he will deal with this matter in the next days and weeks.

The question remains, though: what did really happen in that rainy night in Baghdad?

I’m no fan of conspiracy theories and this reeks like one. But I’m no fan of Bush, Rumsfeld, and the war in Iraq either, and I don’t take anything they say at face value. But we just don’t have enough facts to make an informed decision.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for Ms. Sgrena and her work, and I am sympathetic to her ordeal and the terror she has been through. I’m conflicted on the issue of the ransom. In the abstract, I don’t think countries should bow to pressure. Had she been my sister, mother, daughter, friend, my take on this issue would have been very different, though.

However, her account is not objective. Personal experiences are always incomplete and inaccurate. (In that, they don’t much differ fom those pieces of information that the US military deems suitable for the public.) She had just lived through one month of intense fear. She was under great stress, it was night, she was distracted. But her account is backed up by the other passengers in the car.

On the other side, we do hear way too many stories of accidental shootings at checkpoints, and of fatal mistakes by US troops.

So – misunderstandings on both sides, US soldiers whose stressful duty has made them quick to pull the trigger, panic, death?

Maybe my mind just refuses to fold itself around the notion that US troops could be ordered to kill a woman just because the US government disapproves of the ransom that has been paid for her.

What a disgusting mess.

53 thoughts on “The Giuliana Sgrena Story

  1. Inasmuch I can say, some troops would do whatever there told to do, no questions asked. I fact the shooters do not need to know at what they’re shooting. However there is another possibility: the kidnappers might have told the US troops, via some informant, that a car with a suicide momber would come that way at that hour. The end result would be that the USA take the blame for their recklessness.

    DSW

  2. I assume it was a regular kidnapping in Iraq. (some group wanted money or leverage to achieve something by using an innocent victim).
    —-

    Coincidences or questions exist…the purpose of the paper Il Manifesto sending Ms. Sgrena there, the connections between the characters in the story concerning the rescue (and perhaps original kidnapping), the fact that the Prime Minister new Calipari, that a previous but ‘disgraced’ rescuer tried to get involved…..the apparent lack of communication between the Italians and Americans at a fatal juncture…the details of the last seconds of the journey…why the car came down the airport road…the normal checkpoint procedures…etc

    —-I assume that a tragedy occurred, as so often has in the past, at a US-Iraqi checkpoint. They happen because the checkpoint procedures are unclear to the car driver, there are two checkpoints often, and sudden reactions by the military cause serious confusion: the drivers react in precisely the wrong way because of experiences in Iraq prior to the war, and during the war (they speed up to avoid the strange situation they did not mean to find themselves in ..causing fear AND a requirement to shoot by those at the “checkpoint”).

    I KNOW the US military would not want to harm a journalist from Il Manifesto (what credibility would they have).

    I KNOW that men or women in US military uniforms would not shoot an innocent journalist following procedures at a checkpoint

    I DOUBT very much if the inhabitants of the car deliberately attempted to get shot at to create a story.

    I WONDER at how a journalist could believe her KIDNAPPERS (most kidnapped die without ransoms being paid)in the least, when they warned that the americans did not want her alive…..

    I GUESS, a good documentary exists on kidnappings in Iraq, the mechanisms of countries whose citizens were involved, and the Iraq and US military or governments experiences and positions taken with respect to all the kidnappings.

    I THINK, the US needs to review how checkpoints are manned and operated at all installations, including domestic bases. This would benefit the american military and civilians where the military operates.

    Local base commanders vary in their awareness of what the troops go through. Some are terrific. Some are weak and unaware..even scared (You can be a snivelling lieutenant who rises to a rank sufficient to become a base commander without becoming a good soldier).

    Sometimes, I wonder why a tank is not situated at major checkpoints as a last minute blocking device to a rogue vehicle…by being about 500 yards or so back, a tank has the weight and armor to stop most anything, and a good 15 to 30 seconds to forcefully block a ‘running vehicle’, or turn and shoot..car bombs are the weapon of choice for those breaching checkpoints (at bases, or in Iraq).

    What if you have a school on the base to protect. Do you think a few guns will stop a plated vehicle with firepower on board?

  3. Antoni Jaume:

    Your question and other questions were asked at http://www.bilge.seablogger.com. Good question.

    I think the consensus view is to await the investigation. What is obvious to me, is that the US President and Italian Prime Minister must be saddened by the event.

    It is also obvious that this is a side issue to the Iraqi’s. They want the declining number of insurgents to completely disappear, so that their own forces will be strong enough to allow the American military to end its costly assistance, so that they may begin to have hopes and dreams of a progressive Iraqi, and forge their own Just Society.

  4. Of course, if one cares the least about anyone presently in Iraq – in any capacity – and at risk of exposure to the uncircumscribed mercies of suicide bombers and such, one can plummet from the abstract view quite rapidly to the lucid cognition that this ransom – reported to be in the millions of euros – is now given to bad people who will spend the money on little else than a fresh supply of flesh shredding things that go “bang.”

  5. Of course, if one cares the least about anyone presently in Iraq – in any capacity – and at risk of exposure to the uncircumscribed mercies of suicide bombers and such, one can plummet from the abstract view quite rapidly to the lucid cognition that this ransom – reported to be in the millions of euros – is now given to bad people who will spend the money on little else than a fresh supply of flesh shredding things that go “bang.”

  6. Of course, if one cares the least about anyone presently in Iraq – in any capacity – and at risk of exposure to the uncircumscribed mercies of suicide bombers and such, one can plummet from the abstract view quite rapidly to the lucid cognition that this ransom – reported to be in the millions of euros – is now given to bad people who will spend the money on little else than a fresh supply of flesh shredding things that go “bang.”

  7. Be careful when you state facts “for sure.” The only person who claimed 300-400 shots was Sgrena’s editor and he wasn’t there.

    If 300-400 shots were fired into a car, everyone in the vehicle would have died.

    Sgrena is using her political views to foment anti-American hatred. Politicians, communists and Baathist sympathizers should wait until the facts emerge.

    Sgrena should not be politicizing Calipari’s death.

  8. Be careful when you state facts “for sure.” The only person who claimed 300-400 shots was Sgrena’s editor and he wasn’t there.

    If 300-400 shots were fired into a car, everyone in the vehicle would have died.

    Sgrena is using her political views to foment anti-American hatred. Politicians, communists and Baathist sympathizers should wait until the facts emerge.

    Sgrena should not be politicizing Calipari’s death.

  9. If the US really wanted her dead, she’d be dead and there’d be no surviving Italian witnesses.

  10. Sgrena, as a survivor and injured party in the attack does not deserve to have her views dismissed until ‘the facts emerge’.

    Promising a ‘full investigation’ seems to be Standard Operating Procedure for getting the heat off. Real follow-up, which is what a full investigation implies, has been spotty, at best, for past indefensible actions.

    Craig Nuedorf,
    Tanks are most valuable when they’re moving, not when they’re sitting targets. A fully-outfited concrete-encased checkpoint is much cheaper and faster to build than a tank. Insurgents do have the requisite knowledge and materials to blow up our tanks, even without us leaving them sitting in vulnerable positions.

  11. how do we know that the car was hit by 400 or more bullets, are there pictures of the car available ??
    what is the statement of the surviving italian secret agent?
    jan

  12. Patrick G:
    I grant the cement box is cheaper and could have many applications. The tank has uses other than manning the checkpoint. I don’t think every checkpoint at every base and civilian location in the world should have a tank.

    Would a cement checkpoint be fully outfitted with large guns capable of shooting in all directions (no truck blocking its sight lines)? How would it respond to off-road vehicles that mean harm? A tank can handle this situation. A tank has heavy armor to stop vehicles and intimidate. It has large gunnery. If a vehicle passes a gate, it need not be blown up immediately, because the tank can intimidate it, follow it and provide it critical time to heed warnings, observe the vehicle and provide massive and instant stoppage at the last moment, when deemed necessary.

    It works well in conjunction with personnel to provide a wide range of graduated responses.

    Sleepy enlisted personnel,armed with a gun, are ineffective at stopping a determined killer using homemade-welded armor. Just Drive along side, don’t provide ID, Shoot those exposed and run for it.

    Indefensible Actions:
    Do you mean this incident Patrick? I hope you haven’t jumped to this conclusion.

    What would you do if you were patrolling where a car bomb had in the past achieved success on a notorious highway; in a country where 1500 fellow soldiers died and 10,000 + were wounded, not to mention the casualties of the good people of Iraq; and were just finishing off a joke wiht your partner, when a vehicle past without stopping upon your signalling? Would you be horrifed that a vehicle and possible assasin had got by your watch or refused to stop? How would you then act? What options would remain?

    A decent sentry must go through all this in their mind before it happens. And when it happens, a million reasons present themselves as to why not to act? Mostly, one would not know what to do?

    Surely, the people involved did not have awareness of the complete picture. Miscommunication happened at higher levels.
    What was the mindset of the driver. What was the series of events and interactions that happened leading up to the tragic accident.

    To any fairminded person, it is obvious that American military personnel and Iraqi’s are sickened by these situations. All want the remaining terrorists (filthy scum, for the large part) to disappear off planet earth.

    Improvement of checkpoints, and more importantly, the elmination of them because the terrorists have been eliminated or quit is the goal of all good people.

    Even the Sunni President stated recently that it was utter nonsense to suggest that the americans leave, whereby sectarian strife would surely explode.(and now few Sunni’s support terrorism-they are willing finally, to accept that they can no longer dominate their fellow citizens).

  13. I forgot to mention: this incident must be especially demoralizing to the Italian soldiers and people trying to help out the Iraqis! If the agent was a good man, he goes down as one of modern Italy’s real heroes.

  14. About the 400 bullets – I have this information from the German newspaper “Zeit” which is usually reliable in its sources. It said there that number of bullets were secured from the vehicle, backing up Sgrena’s story.

    I don’t see why this should be so unlikely – modern machine guns fire up to 800 rounds per minute. Even if you assume an average of 400 rpm you still have quite a hail of bullets. Also, it was stated that the troops shot at the engine block. You can get quite a few bullets into an engine block.

    The surviving agent apparently backs up Sgrena’s account.

    If the US really wanted her dead, she’d be dead and there’d be no surviving Italian witnesses.

    This sounds as if you’ve been watching too many US action movies. The US army is not superhuman. They botch jobs. Mind you, I don’t believe they really wanted to kill her – but that’s not an argument in any case.

    I agree with the overall sentiment that the sentries at those checkpoints are under enormous stress. I also don’t understand why the driver didn’t stop. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit and maybe it’s because once they start shooting at you, you have the instinct to run, not to stop. I don’t know.

    As I said, the whole story mystifies me.

  15. Claudia:
    The link Michael M gave us precisely backs up what you surmise. This reporter tells of her check point experiences. Their exists confusion as to where a checkpoint is. The sentries suddenly step in front of you. Iraq drivers under Saddam generaly tried not to go slow so they would be noticed. Their usually exists a second checkpoint that is not always expected. The driver thinks he can go through (often the first checkpoint ismanned by Iraqi’s who barely look up-and wave you through) and is done. They by nature do not want to slow at the next checkpoint, drawing suspician. They drive through, perhaps at a decent speed. When they come out waving behind the driver, ther adrenaline flows (my input), and he/she is confused, and may speed up to just be clear of the situation. Something like that. Sounds plausible to me.

  16. Sounds like a classic clash of Operating Procedures. Driver: when confronted by an unexpected attempt to stop the car in areas in which lightly aremed kidnappers operate, accelerate through the roadblock. Whose fault? The kidnappers, surely. Roadblock: when confronted with a car accelerating towards you in areas in which suicide bombers operate, stop the vehicle with gunfire. Whose fault? The suicide bombers, surely. Maybe some refinement in procedures would help, but on THAT road, at night?

  17. This sounds as if you’ve been watching too many US action movies. The US army is not superhuman. They botch jobs. Mind you, I don’t believe they really wanted to kill her – but that’s not an argument in any case.

    Hardly. A single unarmored car on an known route at a fairly well known time in an area they hold. If they can’t do that, they couldn’t have invaded anyone.

    I am afraid you will never find an army that wouldn’t pull the trigger when in doubt under such circumstances. Priorities inside and outside a war zone will always be different. And as a commander you have no choice but to tell your troops to pull the trigger when in doubt. Communications will always be less than perfect. It was a war zone, as she knew when she went there. Yes it is tragic, but if people are exposed to a nontrivial lethal risk, some will die.
    At the same time you cannot expect an intellegence agent to stop when shot at. He obviously didn’t notice the checkpoint soon enough. When you are already under fire fleeing is the obvious thing to do. Furthermore you should try out getting approached by a car at 40km/h. It is much faster from outside.

  18. Doug, the passengers of the car deny they were accelerating.

    The most suspicious moment for me is that that the shots against a car supposedly thought to be driven by a suicide bomber didn’t hit the driver and the windshield, but the back seat.

  19. “are there pictures of the car available ??”

    Someone posted one; but it can’t be confirmed as the US army claims top have “lost” the wreckage!…

  20. BTW, in Claudia Muir’s original post, the quote present doesn’t support Claudia’s claim that Srgena spoke about ransom as the motive. (In fact, elsewhere in the interview she says she doesn’t know whether ransom was paid.) She spoke about negotiations.

  21. Of course: The issues are technical or philosophical, not political. This thread has stayed relevant by not becoming political, even though those opposed to war and self defense naturally are inclined to hold the military responsible for every citizen in every situation, despite the fact that the military MUST make choices under personal threat of imminent death. Indeed, it would be shocking, if any skullduggery turned up that implicates higher ups in the US or Italy beyond what was done from a reasonable set of choices.

    Technical Choices: Better communications with Iraqi’s over procedures at checkpoints including Patrol “Checkpoints”. Awareness of signage and the visual ‘window’ -You cannot see much at 2 soccer fields distance, but a vehicle travelling at 100 KPH will be passing a checkpoint at that distance in 7-8 seconds. There are but moments for the driver or sentries to sort it all out.
    Note: Sudden Patrol “Checkpoints” seem highly necessary to me..they also kind of eliminate all the technical efforts to ‘Be Safe’ at Checkpoints. But what can you do when the vehicle is moving 90 MPH (wouldn’t you be driving fast on dangerous Iraq highways) down the road with ditches on the side? Choices are limited as to how to set up a “Checkpoint” which in this case means – “Vehicle Stoppage”.

    Philosophical Choices: Do you let a car pass and potentially blow up a base or sector of a city (the more you let pass, the less bases you have to stop a vehicle.. then, you have almost all vehicles running the checkpoints..and of course, the grateful terrorists enter bomb heaven) OR…

    Do you blow away engine blocks of cars trying to pass (and kill innocent civilians).

    Manpower and equipment allowing graduated responses …and Signs, speed bumps, electronic lights, noises and other devices to create a larger window for graduated responses to occur are practical solutions.
    Checkpoints must fit the circumstances-without unduly confusing military personnel or civillians passing through them.

  22. The most suspicious moment for me is that that the shots against a car supposedly thought to be driven by a suicide bomber didn’t hit the driver and the windshield, but the back seat.

    Ever heard of a richochet? They pulled ‘shrapnel’ from comrade Sgrena’s shoulder, most probably from the engine block. So I suspect that the agent was hit with incidental fire. As for the rounds/minute a modern machine gun fires, an M16 in an semi-automatic gun and as such can’t come close to 400 rounds/minute. A .50 cal could of course, but I suspect the car would have been totaly destroyed( and everyone in it ) if they were using a gun of that type.

    This is merely a communications problem. Did the Italians contact the Army and let them know they were driving along the road with Mrs. Sgrena?

  23. Setting up a safe checkpoint is quite contradictory. To be sensible they must move often and not announce themselves prematurely.
    And they must really be enforced, you cannot let pass vehicles. Your resources in chasing down vehicles would be overwhelmed immediately if you didn’t or you can forget about checkpointing at all. Or they may not to pass by. Any car might be a suicide bomber’s vehicle. Neither can you become predictable in how you carry out checkpointing. You must accept at some point that resources and possibilities are finite. That under war conditions means that innocent people will die.

  24. All true Oliver.

    One resource that requires protecting is Iraqi policemen, Iraqi military trainees and recruiting centers of these personnel. It ought to be a top priority.

    Of course, if the easy or cheapest way was GENERALLY CHOSEN when constructing checkpoints and conducting searches …the charge of callous (with respect to innocent life) would be appropriate.

    Innocent life is absolutely a high priority at this late stage of the game (the lives of those you protect inside the area you have sealed with checkpoints and patrols, and those entering or returning to the protectin area).

    Deadly tradeoffs are unavoidable, as you say.

  25. the US army claims top have ?lost? the wreckage!

    La Repubblica reported yesterday that it was on its way to Italy. Looks like there’s some fine coordination going on down there.

  26. About the 400 bullets – I have this information from the German newspaper ?Zeit? which is usually reliable in its sources. It said there that number of bullets were secured from the vehicle, backing up Sgrena?s story.

    If you are referring to the story “Zur?ck in Italien”, it actually says (rather literally translated) “In the meantime it was learned that 400 bullets altogether had been fired at the vehicle with the Italians.” It says nothing about how many were recovered, and it doesn’t hint at the source of this information. While Die Zeit is generally very careful in its reporting, this bit strikes me as careless. It makes a great deal of difference just what the source of that information is when one is evaluating competing accounts of the event.

  27. In this story in The Independent, it appears to be Sgrena herself who alleges that 400 (or 300-400) shots were fired by the Americans at her car. I think we are warranted in taking at least a grain or two of salt with Sgrena’s personal testimony. Of course, it my be that Die Zeit’s reporting of 400 shots comes from a different source.

  28. Claudia, it is a baffling story, but coincidentally I was *in* Baghdad at the time (returning for a couple of weeks’ work), exiting on the same airport road [Route Irish] the very next night (4 March). My thoughts, for what they are worth:* I’m surprised that no one has mentioned that nearly the entire Baghdad garrison has been switched out in the past couple weeks: the 1st Cavalry Division has cycled back home, and the 3rd Infantry Div has relieved them. _Everybody_ in Baghdad knows these guys are getting used to their new responsibilities and are very twitchy…if I were Calipari and the others, I’d think hard about even the slightest acceleration within sight of a checkpoint.* Route Irish is the most dangerous stretch of road on the planet. The only way I would want to take it (if a chopper isn’t available) would be the way I did the next night: ride a “Rhino Rider” (basically a heavily armored bus) with humvees ahead and behind, and two Apaches flying cover just above. Why the Italian intelligence officers chose to escort Sgrena out in a sedan rather in the Rhino Rider convoy outlined above is a total mystery to me. Maybe Sgrena complained that her journalistic status (and her ‘victim of war’ status) shouldn’t be tainted by cooperation with the Americans she obviously disdained, even post-release, and Calipari et al. reluctantly complied.* It is quite probable that Calipari et al., while trained intel agents, were not experienced or fully briefed on Route Irish procedures. Why should they be? They aren’t in the habit of escorting ex-hostages to BIAP every day; driving that road is a specialized task for dedicated private security firms and the Army unit specifically tasked with it.

  29. Just found another account of the incident in this Frankfurter Allgemeine story “Italien bezweifelt amerikanische Angaben ?ber Geiselbeschu?” (“Italy doubts American account of hostage shooting”). Here is my translation of the final paragraph:

    The car in which Sgrena and her companions were shot at is supposed to be brought to Italy by the end of the week for investigations by the Italian Justice [Ministry]. First photographs of the car indicated that the car exhibited only 8 bullet holes, it was reported in American media. This contradicts the statements by Sgrena, according to which a hail of bullets was rained down upon the vehicle.

    Submitted for your consideration.

  30. There are too many gaps in this story.
    1 She was purportedly kidnapped by the people that she is symphatetic to.

    2 If she was actually kidnapped against her will, she really did a no-no for an experienced journalist, leaving herself exposed and vulnerable as she did.

    3The video of her while in captivity, just “happened” to be released right before their government voted on continuance of their forces remaining in iraq.

    4 Looks like she helped her “friends” get some more cash for bomb making material.

    5 A pic of the car is available at this site and doesn’t appear to have 400 to 500 rounds shot at it.

    http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/070580.php

    6 This is hypothetical but I am also suspecting that the car was shot at previously and the the driver was shot by some one in the car. I am hoping the body is autopsied.

    7. I read also that initially a truck was used to go pick up the reporter and now they were using a car..lots of flaws happening in this escapade.

  31. allen, regarding

    #4: No one says ransom was paid – Euronews even played the last video by the kidnappers who state so explicitely.

    #5: All the images are from one side, the street side, I think it was shot at from the other side.

    All others: LOL, go to LGF.

  32. BTW, the Italian foreign ministry said the shooting lasted 10-15 seconds – more than enough for 400 rounds from machine guns.

    Colin: “It is quite probable that Calipari et al., while trained intel agents, were not experienced or fully briefed on Route Irish procedures.”

    ‘briefed on Route Irish procedures’. Um, what about ordinary Iraqis?

  33. Bob: “Ever heard of a richochet? They pulled ‘shrapnel’ from comrade Sgrena’s shoulder, most probably from the engine block.”

    Hm, two ricochets going in the same direction, avoiding the driver?

    “an M16 in an semi-automatic gun and as such can’t come close to 400 rounds/minute.”

    Well I never used one, but information on the web puts the M-16 firing rate for current models at 600-950 rpm – magazine size is more of a limit. I also looked up the standard humvee machine gun, M2HB, which is actually slower than the M-16: 450-600 for older, 550-750 rpm for the newer model.

  34. ?briefed on Route Irish procedures?. Um, what about ordinary Iraqis?DoDo, the incident happened at night. “Ordinary Iraqis” are not permitted to drive on the BIAP road then due to the state of emergency’s curfew. Night is currently the only time coalition personnel are permitted to arrange land transport to and from the airport–when “ordinary Iraqis” are driving on Route Irish, Blackhawks become the transport method to BIAP.

  35. #5: All the images are from one side, the street side, I think it was shot at from the other side.

    How could you possible know what ‘side’ this is? Furthermore, do you think that the paper which took these photos would ignore damage from the other side of the car?

    #4: No one says ransom was paid – Euronews even played the last video by the kidnappers who state so explicitely.

    LOL! And we all know that terrorist tell the truth. The BBC is claiming otherwise.

  36. Thee is a lot of interest in the number of rounds shot.I think it is not so important.

    If you were trying to stop a vehicle before it went 700 meters (If it instantly put on the breaks, it would travel 50 to 100 mtrs); believed everything within 50 yards of the vehicle might be blown up in 20 seconds; and decided to shoot not at the windows or people, but at the engine block…. how many rounds would you start off with?

    One and then see? Then another? Then what?

    Then you’d be emptying everything at the car..perhaps at all occupants!

    One occupant died, the rest lived.

    I think it makes sense to dump all you got into the engine block if you are trying to stop a vehicle that way, before if drives another 20 seconds…..so I think, the issue is going to come down to:
    1)What were standard operating procedures?
    2)Were they deviated from?
    3)Why?

    Unfortunately for the soldiers involved, this incident has the spotlight of the world turned on them.

    Unless the soldiers are really callous, OR they totally disregarded the most basic of operating procedures and are somehat callous…I feel very sorry for them.

  37. the incident happened at night. “Ordinary Iraqis” are not permitted to drive on the BIAP road then due to the state of emergency’s curfew.

    If I understand it correctly this road is blocked of on all entrences to Iraqis during the night. This checkpoint was situated rather close to BIAP where the car was headed to, right? Would that not imply that the car should have been considered safe since it already had passed the outher checkpoints?

    Colin, do you have any thoughts on this?

  38. So she sets up a “kidnapping” with her terrorist friends, becomes famous, earns millions for her “captors” and embarrasses the US. This is beautiful.

  39. The pictures of the car show it wasn’t hit by 400 bullets. Why has there been no retraction of that “fact”?

    A modest proposal:

    On another topic I want to know why the Italian government gave (the equivalent of) 13 million dollars to insurgents/terrorists.

    Why didn’t they save time and just give them WMDs?

    Maybe Italian troups could start beheading Iraqis and save the terrorists the labor.

    Or perhaps they could agree to bomb Europe and save Al Qu’eda travel expenses.

    Think of the cost savings! I’m sure the Italian government could help terrorists for much less than 13 million.

    Not counting the cost of the damages it would be much cheaper for Berlusconi to bomb himself than to wait for Al Qu’eda to get around it.

  40. If the privates were ordered to kill her she would be dead. .50 cal bullets do not graze people, they make them explode. Wait a few weeks before jumping to any conclusion. (By the way, if the soldiers were ordered to kill her, which they were not, someone will be held accountable.)

  41. “Let?s try to wade through these murky waters. We know three things for sure.

    Fact 1: The car was heavily shot at by US troops. Some 400 bullets were later secured from the wreck.”

    riight. FACT. does anyone at ffoe know how many large caliber machine gun bullets need to be fired at a civilian sedan to retain “400” bullets (or even m16 bullets which tend to break apart when they hit something hard). i’d guess nearly a hundred thousand (it’s a bit like winning the lottery for each one retained). please include sources with your response.

    “have nothing but the utmost respect for Ms. Sgrena and her work….”

    how big of an idiot do you have to be endorse communism?…because there are so many examples that it works, right?

    “and I am sympathetic to her ordeal and the terror she has been through. I?m conflicted on the issue of the ransom.”

    awwww. conflicted are you? go ahead and snuggle up in your blanket and take a nap… the world will stop any important developments while you sleep. go ahead. night, night. the ransom money will go to starving families, i assure you….
    you are the most dangerous attitude in the world right now. idiot.

  42. Why won’t the US release the bullet ridden car to Italian forensics and thus appease all conspiracy theories currently being concocted by every joe in the country?? If both countries can work together on the investigation the findings will certainly have greater credibility.

    In response to Oliver’s comment “If the US really wanted her dead, she?d be dead and there?d be no surviving Italian witnesses.” There are so many things wrong with this sentence… none of which are grammatical… I believe your comment to be true (potentially) and the terrying implications that it implies should not be understated. The US shoudl not have this kind of power, it can be mismanaged and used for unworthy causes. It is no wonder the entire world perceives the US as an international bully.

    My God, let’s just take that hell out of Iraq and stop killing innocent people including our own boys and girls out there fighting a war that has completely lost coherent meaning.

  43. My mother in Ottawa, who is a wonderful person, takes precisely your position.

    She is also shocked that I, who now in Florida, believe Canada should recognize its geography (70% of Canadians live at the same latitude as Seattle, USA or south of it) and become one with the USA!!!!

    But I am a little bemused/disturbed too. How can nice people like yourselves wish hell on earth for the Iraqi’s, so that you could rest easy that your GOOD OPINION is correct. It is a little evil attitude y’all have.. wishing the worst on them…kind of like when one gets behind the wheel of a car.

    Iraq is fighting for its survival and freedom ..against murderers. It is a dream many middle easterners have..but they have heretonow thought it an impossible one. They need help.

    Three countries in Europe; France, Germany and and Russia clearly supported Saddam by illegally conducting significant and vital trade with Saddam, allowing him to continue to rule over his people…..most Iraqi’s hated him.. one in six fled the country… during his rule.

    But 7 of the 10 largest countries in Europe and the majority of states in Europe did send troops to Iraq to support the US, despite the protestations of the 3 neighbors who had serious conflicts of interest in Iraq (they had behaved terribly).

    P.S. 1 Iraq’s Misery
    1 in 6 Iraqi’s leaving a country or dying is proportional or the the same as 12 million Germans, 10 million Frenchmen or 25 million Russians departing their country of birth in one generation….somethig like the death and displacement the three countries endured in WW11

    P.S. 2 The Incident
    Italy’s government has domestic political considerations to consider. The blood of a private in the US army is the goal….

    You know, these soldiers are just doing their jobs..and the whole world wants them to be superheroes, defending hostile journalists, building infrastructure, teaching, administering medicines, fighting criminals and terrorists, policing, guarding, teaching, ignoring their own safety, being blamed for those they kill, and those that die because they don’t kill …..

    I do not want the blood of a young man, simply because he did his job or made a mistake. Only if he is evil.

    I think if one is not actively fighting evil, they should support the heros, or at least, stay out of the way and not support the dark side. Iraqi’s know who the dark side is. And, it is not the Americans.PERIOD

  44. You know, many americans, like myself, believe we went over to Iraq for the wrong reasons.

    Wars are commonly begun for the wrong reasons. World War 1, for example. But then, the war itself sometimes takes on a meaning that cannot be ignored.

    Now, the USA owes it to Iraq to give them a chance at gaining a good democratic country. Plus, other middle eastern countries and citizens are benefitting.

    I feel Europe owes it to America to lend substantial support. Not because of Bosnia, and the 2 world wars and many other issues, but because we are close allies and friends, and we could really use the help (especially our troops). The sooner this ends, the better for everyone. The battle is now a good one, beyond its beginnings.

    The Americans, Brits and other countries supporting the effort are now in a humanitarian policing action. Europe will benefit from this effort more than the Americans.

  45. OK Morton, I will retract the PERIOD…and leave the rest.(smile)

    Seriously, I just think we all should wish the best for each other. It seems many people emotionally wish or truly hope the USA fails in Iraq, and there is no concern over the misery that that would cause. Why do people wish this? 1) So that the US will be punished for original sins? 2)To realize specific or general anti-american political aims? 3)To propogate political aims that are less likely to succed if Iraq succeeds? 4)To corroberate stated personal opinions? 5) Other Reasons?

    It would be interesting to know why. At least we have a good idea of Giuliana Sgrena’s.

    My wish is that the middle east advances economically, socially and politically.

    Yes, Texan business interests (and american crusaders against rogue terrorist groups and regimes) trumped the French, German, and Russian business interests in Iraq. So we were all misrepresented … but it is now obvious that an opportunity exists to reduce world tyranny just a little. Given the huge expenditure of money and life by america and several other countries, it would be a shame if no good came from it all.

    There will be even more tyranny if this effort fails entirely.

    Do I lean to the US side? Yes.. I know this is just rationalization… But there seems to be no other country likely to step up and take on world problems when the cost is at all heavy.

    In the end, I believe that the US must be supported AND that the US must involve others through whatever associations work, BEFORE they act.

    And I think, that for americans to have a ‘better world’, they need to have many other like minded countries to share it with.. sharing ideas, sharing power, and sharing responsibility.

    Europes nearly 50 states (or perhaps a smaller group of them) have the potential to be the equal of the United States and North America (politically)… that would be a great thing for America. Competition among friends means growth, not reduction.

  46. Michael S., way up: La Repubblica reported yesterday that it [the wreckage of the car] was on its way to Italy.

    Apparently, it’s still on its way. It is at Baghdad Airport. And the US still finds resons to prevent Italisns from investigating the wreckage.

    Bob: How could you possible know what ‘side’ this is? Furthermore, do you think that the paper which took these photos would ignore damage from the other side of the car?

    a) Standard geometry. b) It wasn’t the paper’s photographs, it was photographs released to the press from government sources.

    Also, new details emerge. The machine gun bullet that hit Srgena the worst (Colin, other articles spoke of slinters because this one split in four) came from behind – they were shot at even after passing the tank. This makes the clueless-soldiers-shooting-in-panic theory less likely. While the fact that the driver was the only one of the four in the car who was lightly hurt can be better understood. (Also, the calibre makes the ricochet theory less likely.)

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