Troops Wound Journo, Moving U.S. Closer to 'Pariah' Status

WASHINGTON, D.C.—It is a bitter irony that while George Bush tours the Mideast trumpeting the American-French rapprochement and the administration's P.R. version of "democracy," U.S.-led forces shoot at and wound Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist who had just been released by her captors after being held hostage for a month, killing the Italian intelligence officer who rescued her.

Sgrena, who is back home in an Italian hospital, got shot because the car in which she was driving paid no heed to flashing lights and warning shots as it approached a U.S. checkpoint, according to the U.S. military. As the car sped on, say American officials, the G.I.'s shot into the engine block to stop the automobile. Unexplained is how you kill one and wound two others—Sgrena and another Italian security agent—by shooting into an engine block. And there are strong suggestions Sgrena would have been killed had not the agent thrown his body on top of her and taken what appears to have been a direct shot. Bush has promised the Italians to make an investigation.

On Sunday,writing in her own paper, Il Manifesto, Sgrena described how her car came under a "rain of fire."

"Nicola Calipari was seated at my side. The driver had spoken twice to the embassy and to Italy that we were on our way to the airport that I knew was saturated with American troops. We were less than a kilometre they told me... when... I remember there was shooting.

"The driver began screaming that we were Italian, 'We're Italian! We're Italian!'"

Sgrena has said the car was not going particularly fast. She said there was no roadblock.

"Everyone knows that the Americans do not like negotiations to free hostages," she said," and because of this I don't see why I should exclude the possibility of me having been the target."

It will turn out to be an even more bitter irony if the shots came from the Fighting 69th, the National Guard unit from New York City (profiled in Friday's New York Times) whose duty it is to guard Baghdad airport road.

When is enough enough? Must Americans endure their country steadily sinking in world stature until we become even worse than a laughing stock. We're fast turning into a pariah. We send out prisoners to be tortured in countries whose human rights records we attack. We run military prisons unfit beyond any description. We send men and women to fight without decent equipment. Worst of all, we put them into combat under leaders who would be ridiculed out of office anywhere else. Rumsfeld, the bumbling goofball of a defense chief. Gonzales, the smiling attorney general who endorsed torture. Cheney, whose former employer Halliburton rips off the Iraqi people as we promote our occupation under the banner of phony democracy.

Who's kidding who here? It's long past time to get out of Iraq. The exit plan is simple: Pack up and leave.


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