The fallout from the incident at the Baghdad airport on the evening of Mar. 4 was the lead story in Monday's Libération (Paris).  --  Eric Jozsef reports that "A screw-up in the chain of command is, for the time being, the explanation preferred by most experts," but high Italian political and judicial officials are pressing for an in-depth investigation.[1]  --  Giuliana Sgrena's publication, Il Manifesto, is an independent newspaper with a circulation of 100,000 founded in 1971 by intellectuals and officials driven from the Italian Communist Party for having denounced the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia.[2]  --  Eric Joszef briefly reviews the career of Nicola Calipari, who is receiving a state funeral Monday morning in Rome.[3]  --  In an editorial, Patrick Sabatier wrote that while no facts are known supporting the idea that American forces had fired deliberately on the car carrying Giuliana Sgrena and Nicola Calipari, "the American army stands accused.  The United States has lied too much in the past for its version of the facts to be accepted without an international investigation.  This incident is all the more serious in that it is only one example of the too numerous acts of violence of which Iraqi civilians are the victims, committed by ill-trained soldiers with a distressing tendency to want to act like cowboys.  They turn people against them, help terrorists to be like fish in water, and nourish anti-Americanism in Iraq, in Italy, and elsewhere."[4]  --  Libération also presented excerpts from the article by Giuliana Sgrena that was published Sunday in Il Manifesto.[5] ...


[Translated from Libération (Paris)]

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By Eric Jozsef

** Mistake or "ambush"? The fusillade that followed Giuliana Sgrena's liberation has produced a polemic. Rome has opened an investigation. **

Libération (Paris)
March 7, 2005

After the tragedy that followed Giuliana Sgrena's liberation Friday, the Roman prosecutor's office opened an investigation the following day for "voluntary homicide." The Italian authorities, especially through the voice of the head of state, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, are demanding "clarifications" from the United States after Americans opened fire on the car conveying the ex-hostage to the Baghdad airport, causing the death of Nicola Calipari, the officer in the Italian secret services who was accompanying her. The drama struck Friday evening, less than a kilometer from the airport, just as the entire peninsula was rejoicing in the freeing of the Il Manifesto journalist for which a ransom was "very probably" paid, as the minister of agriculture, Gianni Alemanno, said in a statement to the Corriere della Sera. Mistake, "incident" in the language of the foreign minister, Gianfranco Fini, or ambush, as some feel is certain? Italy is wondering and engaging in polemics. As early as Friday evening, Giuliana Sgrena's companion intervened and accused the Americans of "having tried to assassinate her."


Yesterday, in an interview with the news channel Sky 24, the reporter gave credence to that hypothesis: "Everyone knows that the Americans don't want negotiations for the liberation of hostages, so I don't see why I should exclude having myself been the target of their shots." Giuliana Sgrena, who was lightly wounded in the shoulder and the lung during the fusillade, told "her truth" in an article published yesterday on the front page of ll Manifesto (below). Saturday evening, the paper's managing editor, Gabriel Polo, refused to speak of an "ambush" but let it be understood that apparently not all the American forces had been informed, perhaps deliberately, about the passage of the car that was driving at night toward the airport.

For the Italian secret services (Sismi), the hypothesis of an ambush is something to rule out. In an interview with the Roman daily Il Messagero, a Sismi official said yesterday: "The Americans would never have willingly killed an agent of the Italian special services, endangering the collaboration between American and Italian intelligence . . . If they had had a motive to kill the reporter, they would have had the dirty work done by paid Iraqis." A screw-up in the chain of command is, for the time being, the explanation preferred by most experts.

According to the first findings of the investigation, the Americans were informed from the beginning about negotiations to free Giuliana Sgrena. Calipari, who had already undertaken those that freed the four Italian bodyguards in 2004 and the two humanitarian workers Simona Torretta and Simona Paris, was regularly in contact with his American counterparts. After having picked up the Italian reporter late Friday afternoon, he is said to have notified them immediately. "The Americans knew all about our mission," a police officer who accompanied him assured Corriere della Sera.


But why did the Italian officers make the decision to risk leaving immediately, taking after dark the airport road, known to everyone to be extremely dangerous? "The coalition forces opened fire on a vehicle approaching a barrier in Baghdad at high speed," American officials said Friday evening. This version is contested by Giuliana Sgrena and the police officer who was driving the car in which were riding she and another Sismi agent, who was also wounded in the hail of gunfire, and Calipari. Calipari had called Rome, and then the Baghdad airport, where there was an Italian officer and a representative of the American command in Iraq, to let them know: "We're coming." Then, says the police agent "unexpectedly a spotlight lit up. And right afterwards, shots. For at least ten seconds." According to some reports, between three and four hundred rounds were fired. Calipari, shot in the head, died immediately. The other agent called the Council presidency in Rome to report the death before his cell phone was confiscated by American soldiers. Last night, a White House advisor, Dan Bartlett, would only say that "it's important to check the facts before saying anything."


[Translated from Libération* (Paris)]

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Libération (Paris)
March 7, 2005


Feb. 4: Giuliana Sgrena is kidnapped. Two days later a group calling itself "the Jihad Organization of the Land of Rafidaïn (Mesopotamia)" threatens to execute the reporter if Rome doesn't announce the withdrawal of its troops.

Feb. 16: In a video Giuliana Sgrena, in tears, asks that Italian troops be withdrawn from Iraq. Three days later, 500,000 persons demonstrate in Rome, in response to a call from Il Manifesto.


In November 2003, 19 police officers are killed by a car bomb in Nasiriya, where the Italian contingent is based. In April 2004, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, an Italian security guard, is executed by his kidnappers. In August, the reporter Enzo Baldoni is assassinated by the Islamic Army in Iraq. Salvatore Santoro, an Italian working for a British NGO, is killed in December.

"The 57 million Italians who were united in waiting for the liberation of Giuliana Sgrena have the right to know what happened." --Roman Prodi, leader of the center-left alliance.


is an independent daily that calls itself a "communist newspaper." It was created in 1971 by intellectuals and officials of the Italian Communist Party driven from the party because of their condemnation of the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Its circulation is presently 100,000.


[Translated from Libération (Paris)]

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By Eric Jozsef

Libération (Paris)
March 7, 2005

Killed by a bullet in the head as he tried to protect Giuliana Sgrena, whose liberation he had just accomplished, Nicola Calipari was the man for difficult missions in Iraq. Vice director of Italian military intelligence services, this 50-year-old Calabrian had already handled the kidnappings of other Italian hostages. Extremely discreet, charged with delicate negotiations with the kidnappers, but also with the Americans to get them to abandon the idea of commando operations to free the hostages, Nicola Calipari began his career in the police, rising through the ranks while working in Rome's drug-trafficking brigade, all the way to managing the interior ministry's immigration service. It was only in 2002 that he joined the intelligence services.


[Translated from Libération (Paris)]

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By Patrick Sabatier

Libération (Paris)
March 7, 2005

The tragedy of Giuliana Sgrena's liberation, which cost the life of the man who saved her, serves as a metaphor for the frightful complexity of the situation in Iraq, of the absurdities that are the daily bloody fare of every war, and of the manner in which the American forces are paradoxically aggravating the terrorism they're fighting.

Those chiefly responsible for the tragedy are those who kidnapped Giuliana. For apparently venal motives (the payment of a ransom is probable) despite advertised "political" motivations. The kidnappers deprived our colleague of her liberty, compelled her to call for help by threatening her with death, then to "thank" them for having treated her so well. It is certainly the case that one can see in Giuliana's story a trace of the "Stockholm syndrome" which leads victims to feel gratitude, or empathy, for their torturers.

But the GIs who shot without any reason and without prior warning were inexcusably wrong. There are, for the moment, no facts to support the hypothesis, evoked by Giuliana and Il Manifesto, of a deliberate attack on the Italian convoy. But the American army stands accused. The United States has lied too much in the past for its version of the facts to be accepted without an international investigation. This incident is all the more serious in that it is only one example of the too numerous acts of violence of which Iraqi civilians are the victims, committed by ill-trained soldiers with a distressing tendancy to want to act like cowboys. They turn people against them, help terrorists to be like fish in water, and nourish anti-Americanism in Iraq, in Italy, and elsewhere. It is fitting to keep these realities in mind, together with the enormous risks that exist at every moment during a hostage-taking, as Florence and Hussein are still prisoners and their jailors faceless. And when the absolute priority is their freedom.


[Translated from Libération (Paris)]

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By Giuliana Sgrena

** Yesterday the reporter told the story of her liberation in Il Manifesto. Excerpts. **

"This Friday was the most dramatic day of my life. It had already been so many days that I was in captivity. I had just spoken with my kidnappers who had been saying for some time that they would be freeing me soon. I was living on pins and needles. They spoke of 'problems connected with the transfer.'"


I had learned to get a sense of the situation by studying the mood of my two usual guards. One of them, who in general tried to satisfy each one of my wishes, was incredibly worked-up. I asked him if he was glad because I was leaving or because I was staying. He answered: "I only know that you're leaving, but I don't know when." At one moment, confirming that something was happening, both of them came into my room and started to joke: "Great, you're leaving for Rome." I felt a strange sensation. The hope of liberation and a feeling of anxiety. I understood that this was the most difficult movement of the entire kidnapping. An abyss of uncertainties was opening up. I changed my clothes. They came back. "We're going with you and don't give any signal you're there with us because the Americans might intervene." That was the confirmation I didn't want to hear. If we met someone, that is, an American patrol, my captors would wouldn't hesitate to shoot. In the car were my two guards and a driver. They blindfolded me. I heard a helicopter fly low overhead. I would have preferred not to hear that sound. It left. "Don't be afraid, they'll be here soon to get you," one of the guards told me in Arabic. Throughout my kidnapping they spoke in Arab, a little in French, and a lot in an awkward English. They made me get out and then, a few seconds later, a friendly voice came to my ears: "Giuliana, Giulana, I'm Nicola, I've just spoken with Gabriele Polo (managing editor of Il Manifesto), you're free."


In the car, Nicola Calipari talked without stopping. You couldn't stop him. An avalanche of friendly words, jests. The driver made two calls, to the Italian embassy, and to Italy, to say that we were heading toward the airport, which I knew was tightly controlled by American forces. We were less than a kilometer away when a rain of fire and projectiles hit us. The driver started to shout "We're Italians!" Nicola Calipari threw himself on me to protect me, and I felt he was dying. I also felt that I was hit. I remembered then what my kidnappers had said. They said they wanted to free me but that I should be careful: "The Americans don't want you to come back." I attributed that to ideology, but the words now have the taste of a bitter truth. The rest, I cannot yet tell.


That day was the most dramatic, but the month that I lived as hostage has probably changed my life forever. A month alone with myself. During the first days, I didn't cry once. I was enraged and I shouted at them: "But why did you kidnap me when I'm against the war?" That was the beginning of a fierce dialogue: "But why are you talking to those people? We wouldn't take a journalist who stays cooped up in a hotel. And besides, how are we to know that it's not a cover to say that you're against the war?" They insisted on the fact that they could not ask the Italian government to withdraw the troops and that their political interlocutor could only be the Italian people, who are against the war.

It was a month of highs and lows. Like the first Sunday after my kidnapping when they showed me the news program on Euronews and I saw a huge blown-up picture of myself on Rome's city hall. I took heart. Then just afterwards came a demand from Jihad that threatened to execute me if Italy did not withdraw its troops. I was terrorized. They tried to reassure me by saying that they weren't the ones who wrote this text, that it was "provocateurs." Now and then, the called me to watch a film on TV as a Wahhabi woman, covered from head to toe, waited on me.

My kidnappers seemed to me to be very religious, constantly plunged in prayer. On the Friday of my liberation, the most devout one, who got up every morning at five to pray, conveyed to me his "congratulations" by shaking my hand, which an Islamist never does. Sometimes there were funny episodes. One of my guardians came in thunderstruck because he had seen that Francesco Totti, his favorite player for la Roma, was wearing a jersey with the inscription "Free Giuliana."


I lived those days as if enclosed. I felt weak. My certainties had collapsed. I maintained that it was necessary to tell the story of this dirty war and I was a hostage there because I hadn't want to say cooped up in a hotel. "We don't want to see anybody in Iraq any more," my kidnappers said. But as for me, I wanted to tell the story of the bloodbath of Fallujah in the refugees' own words. I saw in them the verification of my analyses of how the war had transfomred Iraqi society, and they threw their truth in my face: "We don't want to see anybody, and what good to us are these interviews?" The worst collateral effect of the war has been to destroy communication. I risked everything, defying the Italian government which didn't want Italians to go to Iraq and the Americans who don't want our work to bear witness to what this country has become, despite what they call elections. And I wonder, now: is this refusal our failure?"

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
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