Thursday, February 09, 2006

Attempted Friendly Fire?

Last week US forces fired on a vehicle carrying members of a Canadian diplomatic mission inside the Green Zone. It was the Canadian Ambassador to Iraq's car, but he wasn't inside. What followed was a dispute over what happened.

The Canadians maintain they were driving slowly and acting the way you are instructed to act around a bunch of nervous, trigger happy rednecks. The Americans insist that the car was trying to overtake the convoy and the driver ignored hand signals. Who're you going to believe?

The U.S. military's version is starkly different and irreconcilable with the Canadian story of being fired on without warning or reason. A joint investigation to determine which version is correct is under way.
This isn't the first dispute over US forces shooting Canadians in Iraq. Last year a Canadian physician was killed in Iraq.
Despite a statement from Foreign Affairs saying that an unidentified Canadian died Saturday, the U.S. Defence Department had a conflicting report.

Capt. Patricia Brewer told the Toronto Star's Washington bureau that "no civilians" were shot by American forces in Iraq on Saturday.

"There does not appear to be any U.S. involvement in this individual's death."

Nor would it be the first time that US forces have fired on Canadians. The precedent was set nearly four years ago in Afghanistan, if you'll remember,
Four Canadian soldiers died and another eight were injured when the 500 pound bomb struck during a live-fire training exercise near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

And it's certainly not the first time US forces have disputed the facts about a shooting in Iraq. The example that instantly comes to mind is the death of Nicola Calipari,
Differing accounts have emerged about Friday's shooting at a checkpoint on the road to the Baghdad airport, in which Calipari was shot and killed and Sgrena was wounded in the shoulder.

The U.S. military has said the car the two were in rapidly approached a checkpoint and ignored repeated warnings to stop.

Troops used arm signals and flashing white lights, fired warning shots in front of the car, and shot into the engine block when the driver did not stop, a U.S. military news release said.

Berlusconi said that according to information from the person driving the car, the vehicle was traveling at a low speed and braked very swiftly when a light shone on it.

In an article published Sunday in her communist newspaper, Il Manifesto, Sgrena wrote, "Our car was driving slowly," and "the Americans fired without motive."
Does any of this sound familiar? The US military also denies that they knew the Italians would be on the road that day however the Italians claim to have notified them,
Another Italian attache, who was at the Baghdad airport, also told U.S. military personnel the car carrying agent Nicola Calipari and journalist Giuliana Sgrena was on its way to the airport March 4 before the shooting occurred, Berlusconi told the Italian senate on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the top U.S. general in Iraq, Army Gen. George Casey, said he had no indication that Italian officials gave advance notice of the route the car was traveling.

Another chilling similarity between the friendly fire incidents experienced by the Italians and the Canadians is that they were both trying to free kidnapped compatriots at the time; a practice that is frowned upon by the US Military which does not negotiate with terrorists.
CNN's Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci said Sgrena was not ruling out the possibility that the Americans may have targeted her on purpose because the U.S. opposed negotiating with kidnappers.

The White House on Monday rejected the suggestion, as did Italy's foreign minister.

"I think it's absurd to make any such suggestion that our men and women in uniform deliberately targeted innocent civilians. That's just absurd," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday.

How absurd Scott? Is it as absurd as suggesting that the continental US is in danger of attack from Iraqi unmanned drones in 2003, or from the Nicaraguan government in 1985?
On May 1, 1985, Reagan declared a national emergency in the United States because of the threat to the security of the United States posed by the government of Nicaragua, which was two daysÂ’ drive from Harlingen, Texas, and was planning to take over the hemisphere.

I guess there are different levels of absurdity.

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