Tuesday, March 08, 2005

'Friendly' Fire

Well the Americans seem to be shooting at anything that moves these days. The big story this week is the bloody and baffling conclusion of the the kidnapping of Italian journalist, Giuliani Sgrena. After three weeks of being held by kidnappers, she was freed by Italian secret service agents and they had made it to within 700 meters of the airport when American soldiers opened fire, killing one of the agents, Nicola Calipari, and wounding the other two. Sgrena was also wounded in the shoulder and lung.

The soldiers say the vehicle represented a threat. One of Sgrena's friends has said it was deliberate, "Giuliana had information, and the US military did not want her to survive," In an account she has since written, she says she was warned about the Americans by her captors,
They had declared they were committed to letting me free but I had to be wary "because there are the Americans that don't want your return".

But it's not just Italians on the hitlist. Bulgaria seems to have lost a machinegunner on the very same day, to the very same bullets. The ironic term is friendly fire. I don't think Canadians have forgotten the four soldiers we lost in Afghanistan to the friendly fire of American soldiers. I doubt the three UK soldiers that were wounded by some cowboy in an A-10 Hornet have forgotten. In the first Gulf War the US lost about 367 lives; 165 of these, or 45%, were the result of friendly fire. Even NFL football star Pat Tillman was taken by friendly fire. Maybe an army that's killing this many of its friends shouldn't be firing so many bullets.

Nicola Calipari is getting a state funeral. Both the Bulgarians and the Italians want answers. The statement from the White House was terse, "We regret the loss of life. The incident is under investigation," The Italians and the Bulgarians will get the same answers that the Canadians got; hollow assurances and crocodile tears. The lesson lies in how an empire treats its friends and how it treats its enemies, and how scary it becomes when you can't really see a difference. And then its all explained away with some excellent Orwellian newspeak: friendly fire.

No comments: