On February 4th, journalist Giuliana Sgrena was kidnapped in Iraq. A video was released almost two weeks later of Sgrena, showing her kneeling and pleading for her life. “Nobody should come to Iraq. Please help me. Get the government to withdraw its troops. My life depends on it,” she said. Sgrena is from Italy, the same country that gave birth to Fabrizio Quattrochi–another captive of murderous thugs in Iraq, who defiantly cried out “I’ll show you how an Italian dies” seconds before his captors shot him in the neck.
But Sgrena is no Quattrochi. She is a reporter for Il Manifesto, a communist paper in Italy, and she favors the people who put a bullet into Quattrochi over her fellow Italians. She was released a month after her capture–ransomed for, it is reported, a figure somewhere between $1 million and $13 million. Michelle Malkin sums up the ransom this way:
Whatever the final tally, it’s a whopping bounty that will undoubtedly come in handy for cash-hungry killers in need of spiffy new rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s, mortars, landmines, components for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, and recruitment fees. (To put this windfall in perspective, bear in mind that the 9/11 plot was a half-million dollar drop in the bucket for Osama bin Laden.)
On the way back from the kidnappers, Sgrena’s car was fired upon by American soldiers as it approached a checkpoint on one of the most dangerous roads in Baghdad. Sgrena was wounded and Nicola Calipari, another passenger in the car, was killed.
Cue the finger-pointing:
Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini told his country’s parliament today that the shooting was an accident, but he contradicted the U.S. military’s account of the incident. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, which controls Baghdad, said in a statement that the vehicle was “traveling at high speeds” and did not stop at the checkpoint, despite a number of warnings. The military said U.S. soldiers only opened fire after the car ignored the warnings.
Fini, however, said the car was traveling no faster than 25 mph, and disputed the U.S. military’s assertion that several warnings were given. He said the U.S. government must conduct a thorough investigation, “that responsibilities be pinpointed, and, where found, that the culprits be punished.” ABC News [link]
Sgrena told colleagues the vehicle was not travelling fast and had already passed several checkpoints on its way to the airport. The Americans shone a flashlight at the car and then fired between 300 and 400 bullets at if from an armoured vehicle. The Observer [link]
PIER SCOLARI (translated): I have heard it said that the Americans signalled many times to the car to stop, but Giuliana told me she didn’t see anything. They were driving calmly. They had already passed many checkpoints, therefore everybody had been informed. They phoned and warned that they were going to the airport.
Suddenly as they were talking to each other without any signal a flashlight was switched on and three or four hundred bullets were shot towards the car. Giuliana told me she collected handfuls of bullets on the seats. AM (Australia) [link]
Some of the discrepancies here could attributed to the fact that Sgrena was right in the midst of the action, so how could she tell whether the 300-400 rounds supposedly fired at her came from an armored vehicle or from personal firearms? Well, you’d think that as a reporter she would be a careful eyewitness, but take a look at the picture above. It is a photograph of the car in which Sgrena was riding. Do you see hundreds of bullet holes? Neither do I. Nor do I see how she could have picked up “handfuls of bullets” in the back seat when the car shows no evidence of having been pierced by hundreds of bullets.
So what are the facts? David Frum wrote, quoting Sgrena: “Since her liberation, Sgrena has accused the United States of deliberately targeting her vehicle. ‘Everyone knows that the Americans don’t want hostages to be freed by negotiations, and for that reason, I don’t see why I should rule out that I was their target,’ she claimed in a television interview on Sunday.” Sgrena’s official story is that the U.S. wanted her dead. So why isn’t she? If hundreds of rounds were fired at her car as reported, she should be so much hamburger at this point. Instead she is recovering from a single bullet wound. Eason Jordan notwithstanding, to believe Sgrena’s cries of conspiracy against the U.S. military you must swallow the tale that the U.S. government wanted her dead, that soldiers had been ordered to kill her, but that they were so inept they somehow missed the car or that they fired only a few shots before giving up.
Jim Quinn has a competing conspiracy theory: Sgrena, an ardent communist and sympathizer with terrorists in Iraq, deliberately got herself kidnapped so a ransom could be paid to them.
If we are to judge wisely between these two conspiracy theories, perhaps we should lean on the rule of logic known as Occam’s Razor. It says that the simplest explanation is usually the best. Of the two, Quinn’s conspiracy theory is simpler. Rather than using Occam’s Razor, though, I think Hanlon’s Razor best applies:
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
Addendum (3/14/2005): Sgrena flipflops in her story again. This time, the Americans were not out to kill her. This leads me to wonder just how often her story will continue to evolve.
Addendum (4/29/2005): CBS News aired a report on Thursday, April 28th, 2005, that used satillite photos of Sgrena’s car, and it shows that the car was going over 60 mph when it was fired on. This completely contradicts her statement that they were doing less than that.