At first the shooting last week by U.S. troops of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been released from kidnappers in Iraq, seemed just another military mistake: nervous soldiers firing on a car that was speeding toward them, refusing to stop at a checkpoint. The fact that the U.S. bullets killed one of the Italian secret service agents who was traveling in the car appeared, at worst, to create an awkward bump in otherwise chummy U.S.-Italy relations.
But starting in the Italian press this weekend, a different, more disturbing version of the story has emerged.
As The Washington Post reported Sunday on its website (The New York Times somehow missed the story in its print edition: It referred to Sgrena in a larger Iraq piece but did not relate her claims.), Sgrena has told investigators that, “We weren’t going very fast, given the circumstances. It was not a checkpoint, but a patrol that started firing right after lighting up a spotlight. The firing was not justified by the movement of our automobile.”
And, even worse, the BBC version of the story has Sgrena hinting that she might have been deliberately targeted. She has recalled in interviews that, “They [the kidnappers] said they were committed to releasing me, but that I had to be careful ‘because there are Americans who don’t want you to go back.'” Why? It’s pure speculation, but the Beeb reports that: “In another interview with Sky Italia TV, [Sgrena] said it was possible the soldiers had targeted her because Washington opposed the policy of negotiating with kidnappers.”
All this recalls the debate a couple weeks back about CNN news chief Eason Jordan, who had to resign after reports that he told a conference that U.S. troops deliberately target journalists. The furor over Jordan’s comments somehow came and went without any serious examination of his claims, by CNN or anyone else. Sgrena’s shooting might resurrect the issue, if not Jordan’s career.