Naomi Klein investigates Sgrena shooting


Richard Moore

Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 14:18:27 -0800
To: •••@••.•••
From: Alan Rycroft <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Klein: Cover Up? Italian Forensic Team Refused
  Access to Sgrena Death Car 

Cover Up? Italian Forensic Team Refused Access to Sgrena Death
Car Posted by: lex on Sunday, March 27, 2005 -
08:33 AM

The hide and go seek game continues for an Italian forensic
team investigating the fatal shooting of super spy, Nicola
Calipari, and wounding of freed kidnapped journalist, Giuliana
Sgrena  by an American tank crew. The internet has been
buzzing with theories about the car, and why it's being kept
on ice. Naomi Klein has just returned from Rome, where she
interviewed Sgrena and she fills in some of the holes in the
story. -{lex}

Naomi Klein--Democracy Now! frame

Naomi Klein Reveals New Details About U.S. 
Military Shooting of Italian War Correspondent in Iraq
Democracy Now!
Friday, March 25th, 2005
Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzales w/ Naomi Klein

Three weeks after being shot by US forces in Iraq, veteran
Italian war correspondent Giuliana Sgrena is released from a
military hospital. New details are emerging about the killing
of the Italian agent who saved her life. We speak with
independent journalist Naomi Klein, who just returned from
meeting with Sgrena in Rome. -DN![rush transcript]

In Rome, journalist Giuliana Sgrena has been released from a
military hospital where she was being treated for a gunshot
wound she suffered when US forces shot up the car bringing her
to freedom after a month being held hostage in Iraq. The head
of Italy's Foreign Military Intelligence Nicola Calipari was
killed in the attack when he shielded Sgrena from the bullets.

Yesterday, Italian newspapers reported that the justice
minister has asked U.S. authorities to release the car so it
can be examined by Italian ballistics experts. The papers said
the request came after the U.S. command in Iraq reportedly
blocked two Italian policemen from examining the car.

Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist and author of "Fences
and Windows: Dispatches From the Front Lines" of the
"Globalization Debate and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand
Bullies." She just met with Giuliana Sgrena in Rome.

[This transcript is available free of charge, however
donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and
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AMY GOODMAN: : We're joined in Washington, D.C. by journalist
Naomi Klein, who has just met with Giuliana Sgrena in Rome.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Naomi.

NAOMI KLEIN: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: : Can you talk about what she told you?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. At first I want to say that I know Giuliana
really would have liked to have been on the show herself to
talk to your listeners and viewers, but one of the things that
surprised me when I met with Giuliana is that she was quite a
bit sicker than I think we have been led to believe.

Her injuries were described as fairly minor; she was shot in
the shoulder. But when I met with her, she was clearly very,
very ill, and that's why she's not on the show this morning.
She was fired on by a gun at the top of a tank, which means
that the artillery was very, very large. It was a four-inch
bullet that entered her body and broke apart. And it didn't
just injure her shoulder, it punctured her lung. And her lung
continues to fill with fluid, and there continues to be
complications stemming from that fairly serious injury. So
that was one of the details.

She told me a lot about the incident that I had not fully
understood from the reports in the press. One of the most –
and at first, the other thing I want to be really clear about
is that Giuliana is not saying that she's certain in any way
that the attack on the car was intentional. She is simply
saying that she has many, many unanswered questions, and there
are many parts of her direct experience that simply don't
coincide with the official U.S. version of the story.

One of the things that we keep hearing is that she was fired
on on the road to the airport, which is a notoriously
dangerous road. In fact, it's often described as the most
dangerous road in the world. So this is treated as a fairly
common and understandable incident that there would be a
shooting like this on that road. And I was on that road
myself, and it is a really treacherous place with explosions
going off all the time and a lot of checkpoints.

What Giuliana told me that I had not realized before is that
she wasn't on that road at all. She was on a completely
different road that I actually didn't know existed. It's a
secured road that you can only enter through the Green Zone
and is reserved exclusively for ambassadors and top military
officials. So, when Calipari, the Italian security
intelligence officer, released her from captivity, they drove
directly to the Green Zone, went through the elaborate
checkpoint process which everyone must go through to enter the
Green Zone, which involves checking in obviously with U.S.
forces, and then they drove onto this secured road.

And the other thing that Giuliana told me that she's quite
frustrated about is the description of the vehicle that fired
on her as being part of a checkpoint. She says it wasn't a
checkpoint at all. It was simply a tank that was parked on the
side of the road that opened fire on them. There was no
process of trying to stop the car, she said, or any signals.
From her perspective, they were just -- it was just opening
fire by a tank.

The other thing she told me that was surprising to me was that
they were fired on from behind. Because I think part of what
we're hearing is that the U.S. soldiers opened fire on their
car, because they didn't know who they were, and they were
afraid. It was self-defense, they were afraid. The fear, of
course, is that their car might blow up or that they might
come under attack themselves. And what Giuliana Sgrena really
stressed with me was that she -- the bullet that injured her
so badly and that killed Calipari, came from behind, entered
the back seat of the car. And the only person who was not
severely injured in the car was the driver, and she said that
this is because the shots weren't coming from the front or
even from the side. They were coming from behind, i.e. they
were driving away.

So, the idea that this was an act of self-defense, I think
becomes much more questionable. And that detail may explain
why there's some reticence to give up the vehicle for
inspection. Because if indeed the majority of the gunfire is
coming from behind, then clearly, they were firing from --
they were firing at a car that was driving away from them.

AMY GOODMAN: : Now, can you talk about when Nicola Calipari
arrived in Baghdad? For people who have not been following
this story so much, the U.S. version of events of them driving
to the airport very fast on a road with many checkpoints as
you pointed out, not the secured road, that the U.S. soldiers
fired into the air, tried to stop the vehicle, that they just
kept on coming, and so eventually, they shot at them. Can you
talk about how the Italian military intelligence official
first came to Iraq?

NAOMI KLEIN: My understanding is he came the day before, and
that he had checked in. U.S. authorities were aware of his
presence. There was some kind of a negotiation process, but
these details actually haven't come to light. The details that
led to the negotiation, if there was a ransom paid. We don't
know those details yet. What Giuliana knows is simply what
happened from the moment of her release to this day, and her
description is that she didn't see any of those signals, and
she really wants people to know that she was not on a road
with any checkpoints, and in fact, she told me many times that
Iraqis are not in any way able to access this road.

It's not the road that we hear described so many times as
being a road with roadside bombs going off all the time, with
checkpoints that you have to pass through. It's a completely
separate road, actually a Saddam-era road, it would seem, that
allowed his vehicles to pass directly from the airport to his
palace. And now that is the U.S. military base at the airport
directly to the U.S.-controlled Green Zone and the U.S.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Naomi, what did she tell you about
Calipari? He was sitting in the car with her in the back, or
what happened when the shooting began, and -- with him?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yes. I mean, she feels a tremendous amount of
guilt, as you can imagine, and one of the reasons why she
feels so much guilt is that Calipari chose to sit with her in
the back seat. There were only three of them in the vehicle.
So, he could have sat in the front seat with the driver. But
because she was so afraid and she had just emerged from this
horrifying ordeal of being in captivity for a month, he told
Giuliana, let's sit together in the back seat, and I’ll tell
you -- she said that he was telling her stories to try to
reconnect her with her life, because she had been incredibly

One of the things that she has told me was most disorienting
about her month in captivity was just that she didn't know
what -- the difference between day and night. She didn't have
control over the light switches, and because of Baghdad’s
constant blackouts, the lights would go on and off at all
hours, and she couldn't control the switches. So she really
didn't know where she was. She says she has kind of a black
hole of that month. She said one of the most terrifying things
was that she would often hear U.S. helicopters over the house,
and she was obviously very afraid that the house that she was
in would come under fire, because obviously it was a
resistance house. It was a resistance stronghold. So she had
many reasons to fear. She was afraid of her captors. She was
afraid of U.S. soldiers.

And so, Calipari sat with her in the back seat, and he just
told her stories about all of her friends, about her husband,
about everyone who had been worried about her, about Italy,
and that was the context in which he was killed. So it was his
decision to sit with her in the back seat, and he was telling
her these stories and reconnecting her with her past life,
with her current life, when he died protecting her from a
bullet. And she told me that that moment is really all she's
able to remember vividly. That's the only moment that feels
real to her is the moment of his death.

In fact, her month in captivity, horrific as it was, she said
feels like a far-away dream. All she can think about is the
moment where he died really in her arms, protecting her.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What about the driver of the car? Did she tell
you anything about what happened with him, or did she recall
that part?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, what she told me, and this is once -- an
incident that I know that has been reported on in the Italian
press, but not so much in the American press, is that after
the shooting, she was very injured. They took her out of the
car and lay her down, I think -- I don't know if they had a
stretcher, but they -- she was being tended to, her wounds
were being tended to. And the driver who was another
intelligence officer called Italy and was on the phone, I
think, with Berlusconi, she said, and he said, our car has
just been fired on by 300 to 400 bullets. And as he was saying
this, the U.S. soldiers ordered him to hang up the phone. So,
but I asked her whether she had connected with him since the
incident, and she said that she had not, with the driver.

AMY GOODMAN: : We're talking to Naomi Klein, independent
journalist, who just met with Giuliana Sgrena, saw her in her
hospital room in Rome. I'm looking at Jeremy Scahill's piece
in the most recent Indypendent called “Checkpoint Killings
Unchecked,” that says the Italian government, a close ally of
the Bush administration is disputing what the U.S. says.

According to Italy’s foreign minister, Calipari arrived in
Baghdad that Friday after making contact with the kidnappers.
Calipari and a fellow agent checked in with U.S. authorities
at the airport as well as the forces patrolling the area. The
agents had been given security badges by the U.S. to allow
them to travel freely in the country after picking up Sgrena
from the abandoned vehicle where her kidnappers left her. They
drove slowly to the airport, keeping the car lights on to help
identify themselves at U.S. checkpoints.

It says, news of Sgrena's release was already on the Reuters
newswire and on Al-Jazeera. The mood in the car was one of
celebration until the vehicle came under intense gunfire. So
this is also not only what you and Giuliana Sgrena are saying,
but quite something that one of Bush's closest allies to the
top, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is now refuting his
ally's claims and also demanding an investigation that the
U.S. is stopping at this point. Naomi?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, Berlusconi is facing elections at the
beginning of April, which is partially why he needs to be seen
to be taking somewhat of a tough line with the U.S. He doesn't
-- he is not facing presidential elections. That doesn't come
for another -- I think until 2007, but there are regional
elections, and this was a national, obviously, a national
incident, and he needed to be seen to be standing up to the
U.S. in some way. But he's really been going back and forth,
and this is another thing that Giuliana Sgrena was very
frustrated about, because as we know she is very, very opposed
and continues to be strongly opposed to the ongoing occupation
of Iraq, believes that Italian and all, indeed, all foreign
troops should withdraw.

And in the – one thing that she told me that was very moving
was, she believes that her release really came as a result of
anti-war organizing in Italy across incredible coalitions, and
she said that she feels like her life is a testament to what
people can do when they get organized, and when they work
together. And she is frustrated that that same pressure forced
Berlusconi to announce that Italian troops would be withdrawn
in September, and she really felt that the left opposition
parties should have really maintained pressure on Berlusconi
to insist on Italian troop withdrawal now.

But in fact, Berlusconi has been allowed to backpedal on this
claim, and now he is saying he didn't really say that; they
will withdraw when Iraqi security forces are strong enough.
And of course, Iraqi security forces -- it's not a training
problem, it's an occupation problem. The reason why Iraqi
security forces are not strong enough is because they're being
massacred, because they're seen as an extension of the
occupation. They don't have independence. And the continued
occupation is the greatest problem to Iraqi security
independence. It is not helping.

AMY GOODMAN: : Naomi, we have to break. When we come back we
will continue this discussion and also talk about Paul
Wolfowitz to be President of the World Bank.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue with independent reporter, Naomi
Klein. She just met with Giuliana Sgrena, who has just been
released from a Rome hospital to her home though she is still
very ill, dealing with having been shot on the way to the
airport after her release by -- in Iraqi captivity. Naomi
Klein, the news that the checkpoint -- that the road that they
-- that Calipari was killed on, that she was driving on,
Sgrena, when she was being driven to the airport, had been set
up for – that there had been a checkpoint set up for the trip
of U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte to a dinner that night with
General George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq to
provide security. U.S. soldiers established mobile checkpoint,
clusters of humvees armed with 50 caliber machine guns on top.
It was one of the details that opened fire on the Italians'
vehicle. Have you heard anything about this?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, this would support what Giuliana told me,
which is that the road she was on was not the public road that
other journalists have traveled on, and that contractors and
so on travel on, the very dangerous road. It was a secured
road reserved for top Embassy officials, like obviously like
Negroponte. But one thing that's very clear is that if she is
on this road, and the way she explains it, she had to go
through a U.S. checkpoint in order to get into the Green Zone.

You can only access this road through the Green Zone. It's
very, very difficult to get into the Green Zone. When I tried
to get into the Green Zone, I had to go through six
checkpoints -- six different passport checks. So, the idea
that the American military didn't know that they were on the
road, that they -- that didn't know about their presence is
impossible, if she was, in fact, on a road that emerged out of
the Green Zone. And I think that the idea that there was a
mobile checkpoint set up for Negroponte obviously supports
this claim very strongly. What Giuliana was talking about was
what she was -- the only thing she could figure out is that
the people who they checked in with in the Green Zone, the
U.S. soldiers they checked in with in the Green Zone in order
to get in, didn't radio ahead to these mobile checkpoints and
warn them that they were coming. And from her perspective,
that could have either been a mistake, or it could have been
some sort of act of vengeance and anger, you know, and we know
that there's a lot of anger at the idea that Italians may be
paying very large ransoms for the release of prisoners.

She's not alleging some grand conspiracy. There could have
just been a broken down communication. But the idea that they
didn't know, I think, is impossible, if she was on this
secured road, because it emerged out of the Green Zone and you
cannot get into the grown zone without passing through a

JUAN GONZALEZ: But even if there was broken down
communication, it would seem that the issue of even just
firing on a car that is moving away from you and is posing no
threat to you on this secured road certainly raises questions
of at least extreme negligence on the part of the U.S.

NAOMI KLEIN: I think so. And I think that the -- all of these
details will obviously emerge from the investigation, and
we'll be hearing it directly from Giuliana herself and
presumably from the driver.

AMY GOODMAN: Did Giuliana talk about her time in captivity and
who held her, Naomi Klein?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yes, she did. I mean, she talked about this
incredible disorientation. I think -- I know that you have
covered the case on your show, and you have really stressed
the fact that Giuliana's experience is not at all unique from
the perspective of Iraqis who are living in this sort of
pincer of the fear of being caught in a bombing by the
resistance or a fear of being shot by U.S. soldiers at a
checkpoint, and this is an ongoing fear every time Iraqis
leave their home, and we're only hearing about this because
there was foreigner involved, because it was such a dramatic

But I think the other part of the story is the implications
for journalists and for independent journalists, because
Giuliana Sgrena is really a hero, and she is an incredibly
committed war correspondent who has put herself in situations
of tremendous risk around the world.

She has been to Iraq many, many times. And she went back to
Iraq after Simona Pari and Simona Torretta had been kidnapped
and released. She told me she has met with the Simonas in her
hospital room, as well as several other people who had been
kidnapped. She referred to it as the ex-kidnapped club. And
she went knowing these risks, but one thing she told me that I
think is an issue that you have discussed often on the show is
the implications for all of this, for whether independent
journalists can do their job in Iraq. And coming from someone
who has been willing to take such tremendous risks, she said
she just cannot figure out how it's possible at this point.
This is because the people who held her made it very clear to
her that they don't want independent journalists working in
Iraq talking to Iraqis. And this was really one of the most
disturbing details and, I think, a very telling detail.

She told them that that made them just like Bush, because the
Bush administration has also made it clear that they don't
want independent witnesses talking to Iraqis, counting the
bodies, highlighting the civilian toll of the war, but there
are also clearly some elements of the resistance that feel the
same way, and this makes it very, very difficult for
independent journalists to do their work.

Al Rycroft, Senior Editor
Peace, Earth & Justice News --
A project of the non-profit Prometheus Institute.

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