should have been news to rejoice in has been thrown into controversy. Giuliana
Sgrena the Italian left wing journalist has been freed by her Iraqi
captors. But as she was driven to Bagdad airport by the Italian government agent
responsible for negotiating her release their car was drenched in a hail of
bullets from a US check point. The agent was killed as he threw himself in front
of Giuliana to protect her and in doing so saved her life.
This agent, Nicola Calipari, was one of Italies most senior
intelligence officers and his killing has created a serious diplomatic incidence
between the coutnries, despite Italy's continued involvement in the occupation.
Giuliana's husband described how Giuliana had been able to pick
up handfuls of bullets from the car floor after the firing had ended. One
question that should be asked is how on earth could this happen?
The US forces had been informed of their approach and the car was
well out of danger so it was driving at a responsible speed towards a regulation
check point. There are two possible scenarios. First that US forces habitually
fire on private cars despite no obvious threat and without verbal warning or
shots into the air. Or secondly they knew that the left wing, anti-occupation
journalist was in the car and that this was the reason they shot up the vehicle.
Gabriele Polo, of the italian paper Il Manifesto, put it this
"A few minutes, that
is how long our joy lasted. The time which goes from a phone
call to another: the one telling us of Giuliana’s freedom and
the one which throws us into the killing of the person who more
than anybody else worked to free her. Fifteen, maximum twenty
minutes, the time to save one life and lose another. Within the
absurdity of a war in which we all risk to get lost.
Sure, we are happy to be able to soon hug Giuliana, to be able
to have her back with us, to go back and listen to and read her
stories of peace. We owe it to what we have done in this very
long month. All of us: we of il manifesto, the colleagues who
helped us keep the attention on this abduction alive, the many
people who with a phone call, a letter, or by coming to the
streets kept the presence of our comrade alive even while she
was forced to be silent. But we also owe it to those who worked
night and day to find a contact with the kidnappers, to reach an
agreement. People who are different from us, who speak a
different language and uses different means. Yet with some of
them we have been united with a common aim: to bring home a
woman deprived of her freedom and to do it though a negotiation,
not through those weapons which are the root of evil which for
thirty days has taken Giuliana away from us. After those 15, 20
minutes of joy, last night we fell into a live drama. We are
journalists and we must tell the story, but do not ask of us to
be detached as a reporter should be.
It is not possible. Just as it was not possible to coldly
separate the duty to report and comment from the worry for
Giuliana’s fate, from the fear she had fear, she was hungry,
cold. When that second phone call arrived in a palace with high
ceilings and wide spaces - so different from our daily working
place -, we were there. And we will never be able to forget the
pain of the colleagues of Nicola Calipari, how Gianni Letta was
upset, even how the Prime Minister - whom we saw there and then
for the first time - could not believe the news. We will never
be able to forget the hectic calls, the chaos, the feeling of
being lost by a place of power dealing with a power absolute and
uncontrollable, the power of was, of who makes it and directs
it. «Nicola died, Giuliana is wounded»: a bit crying, a bit
asking for more details of the wound of Giuliana, knowing she
was there, with the American guns pointing at her, bleeding who
knows how, asking she would be brought immediately to the
hospital. Then we heard the wound was not serious, only
superficial on the shoulder, because the bullet which could have
killed her had first gone through the body of Nicola Calipari.
Who saved her. For the second time.
In those chaotic minutes, made of calls among ministries,
generals, ambassadors - calls which all seemed pointless -- we
witnessed impotence going on stage, the performance of war
killing politics, chalking democracy. All our reasons - those of
Giuliana - were confirmed. Yet we wanted it to be different. We
wish we could hear another call, telling us it was all a
mistake, nobody had died, Nicola magically had got up, maybe a
bit hurt and together with our Giuliana he was going to the
airport, to come back home. We would have hug them both and all
that we had just witnessed would only have been a bad dream.
But no. That call never arrived. There has been another one,
confirming everything: Nicola died, Giuliana and other two
secret agents in the hospital. At that point, the only thing
left to do was to leave, go back to the newspaper, tell
everything to the comrades, explain that the joy was lost.
They taught us to be cold, to analyze the events, not to get
involved too much, in order to understand what happens. And try
to change it. Right. But the world is made of people. Facts, even
history, are our product: at the end they are the product of
bodies, flesh and blood. It all depends on us, on what we do. On
what Giuliana Sgrena has done and will do, on what Nicola Calipari had done but will never be able to do. We got a comrade
back. We lost someone who would have become our friend. "
One thing worth remembering in these unfolding events, when the occupying forces gun down
Iraqis the world press does not give it the kind of attention that this murder
has received. This is one episode, one tragedy of the occupation of Iraq. Ten of
thousands of families have lived through the deaths of their loved ones via the
occupation - these are deaths that the world press is less interested in. It seems that some lives are more important than others.
'hail of gunfire' on the BBC website