Sunday, March 06, 2005

Yet another action by U.S. soldiers second-guessed

The Italian journalist, 56 year-old Giuliana Sgrena, wounded by American troops in Iraq after her release by terrorists, rejected the U.S. military's account of the shooting and suggested she was deliberately targeted. One man in her party was killed in the incident, and others in the car were injured.

U.S. military spokespersons said the car Sgrena was riding in was speeding on a road to the airport notorious for car bombs, and in a live combat zone. Americans used hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and warning shots to get it to stop at the roadblock.

However, Sgrena, in an interview with Italian TV, said, "There was no bright light, no signal." She also said the car was traveling at "regular speed."

Sgrena is a reporter for Il Manifesto, a communist daily. Her paper has been fiercely against the war. She said she remembered her captors' words, when they warned her "to be careful because the Americans don't want you to return."

Sgrena offers a scenario that is at odds with common sense: That military personnel who deal on a daily basis with cars approaching the checkpoint, and who must be cautious about car bombs and other possible threats, would in this instance react differently to her vehicle than to all the others. Could the soldiers at the checkpoint have known who was in this car speeding toward them? How would they have known?

Furthermore, the allegation that her captors – anti-coalition Muslim terrorists – told her the U.S. might target her is unpersuasive. Why would she believe what her captors told her? Why would anyone believe what terrorists say? For that matter, why would any true American believe the word of a communist journalist whose publication has been a staunch and vocal critic of U.S. action in Iraq? Does Sgrena have an unbiased perspective? I think not.

So far, the U.S. military has not initiated any action against the personnel involved in the incident, which is a good sign. White House spokesman Dan Bartlett told CNN, "… people are making split-second decisions, and it's critically important that we get the facts before we make judgments."

However, in Italy there is an uprising against the U.S. over the incident. Media trustworthiness to report accurately being what it is, it is difficult to know the level of anti-American sentiment among Italians. Whether the government will bend to pressure from Italy is still a question, but given two other prominent cases of second-guessing our military’s actions in combat situations, we should not be surprised if more of our soldiers are accused of acting inappropriately.


Buffalo said...

It takes a lot of patriotism to serve under the conditions these young folks labor. Who has our troops backs?

James Shott said...

A good question. You can bet that it isn't the mainstream media, or the Left. Both of those entities are busy making the U.S. the bad guy in every way they can.

JL Pagano said...

Although I am fervently against war, I am well aware that there are many in the military that have performed incredible acts of bravery all over the world, not just Iraq. They should be rightly commended with all the appropriate honours.

This being said, assuming individual soldiers are innocent simply because they are soldiers is similar to presuming Michael Jackson is innocent simply because he had hit-selling records.

Maybe proving the allegations to be wrong rather than second-guessing would get the evil lefty journalists off their backs.

James Shott said...

I am afraid, JL, that your logic has broken down again. I believe, and so does Buffalo, I'd venture, that because our military personnel are volunteers; because our military personnel are patriots willing to risk their lives in the service of their country; because our military personnel in Iraq are facing danger against terrorists who want to kill them every day of their lives; because our military personnel in Iraq never know when an attack will come or who wants to kill them; that we give them the benefit of the doubt, and not always jump to the conclusion that they have done something wrong, like the Lefties and the media most often do.

I think this is the very least we can do, and I marvel at those who call themselves Americans but who are ready to pounce on our brave military personnel at every opportunity. I further marvel at our media, supposedly neutral and dependent upon facts, which as a group takes up the cause of the enemy against its own military. If you want instruction in second-guessing, read the American media.

Assuming our soldiers are innocent is exactly the right thing to do, until they are proven guilty through a process, not have their guilt insinuated by disloyal citizens and media.

JL Pagano said...

My logic only "breaks down" when one uses pro-war logic.

Assuming the Americans have the God-given right to be in Iraq, assuming anyone that opposes the action is either a "traitor" or a "lefty" or a "terrorist", and assuming a journalist's word is always guaranteed to be less credible than that of a soldier, then of COURSE my logic breaks down!

I DO sympathize with the soldiers on the ground in Iraq. Even with all the support and preparation of the best equipped military in the world, it still has to be pretty darn hard to tell which Iraqis are glad to see you and which Iraqis are plotting to kill you. Mistakes will be made, and occasionally innocent lives will be lost.

If America is going to claim the credit for what it does right, it should also be held accountable for what it does wrong.

But then again, isn't the history of a war written its victors?

James Shott said...

The logical failure I noted was your analogy to Michael Jackson. No connection whatsoever in those two examples.

But in your response you set up a false dichotomy, citing those who oppose the "action." It is irrelevant to the military personnel whether the U.S. has a God-given right to be there.They have to be there, and they have to do their job.

But I am not addressing why we are in Iraq, I am criticizing the second-guessing of the military's actions. I am critical of those who immediately suspect the military of wrong-doing, which is a far different proposition than you brought into the discussion. I notice that when you address the proper issue, we agree.

Yes, mistakes will be made. The problem with the Left and the media -- and what I am criticizing -- is that they assume a mistake has been made, or that the military acted improperly before any determination has been made. You seem to be defending them.

Further, I am willing and eager to dismiss honest mistakes in the heat of battle as the price of war, but I am not willing to dismiss outright wrong-doing, when and if it actually occurs and can be proven. That's what I mean by extending the benefit of the doubt to those in the line of fire, who are putting their lives on the line each day. The worst thing is for some dope who is not risking his or her life, who has likely never been in a combat situation, and has no idea of the stress and danger these guys face each day to play armchair general from the comfort and safety of their easy chair or desk, and after the fact, and with 20/20 hindsite condemn them for reacting in perfectly natural ways, even if an occasional accident results.

And America does hold itself accountable for its wrongs. You may remember the Mi Lai Massacre in Viet Nam? That was clearly a case of wrong-doing by our military. Or, more recently, and currently, the Abu Ghraib debacle? Abu Ghraib was far less a scandal than it was a kind of heightened mischief. Yet, military personnel have and will be tried for their behavior and punished, as were those responsible for Mi Lai.

JL Pagano said...

"I am not willing to dismiss outright wrong-doing, when and if it actually occurs and can be proven."

Ok, say there is a wrong-doing as you say, and it takes about 12 months from the incident occurring to a court-martial taking place. Once the wrong-doing has been CONFIRMED and a conviction has been issued, THEN news of the incident comes to light. There will be screams of a cover-up, would there not?

I read on Mr Middle America's site about a teacher who was GOING TO TRIAL for ALLEGEDLY having sex with a student. This is being splashed all over the right-wing sites with the accused being hung drawn and quartered before a jury has even warmed a bench. Yet news of allegations of impropriety by a SMALL NUMBER of soldiers comes to light and everyone is supposed to keep schtum?

I stand by my Michael Jackson analogy. Once a charge is brought forward, an innocent verdict is arrived at via presentation of the facts rather than simply considering the occupation of the accused. If this is not the case, then the legal system in question is seriously flawed.

I do not see myself so much as DEFENDING the media, more than making the point that they are just doing their job in the same way that the soldiers are. Some guys bring their rifles to work, some their ballpoints.

JL Pagano said...

WHOA! I almost missed your last point, about America holding itself accountable for its wrongs. There was an International Criminal Court established, which America (and other countries as well, I know) refuses to recognize. Until it does, the examples you give are merely ones it chooses to acknowledge.

Vitriola said...

Something went wrong here. Someone has to be held accountable.

I don't believe the accusations of the Italian journalist who claims it was deliberate; but somebody messed up here; whether it was military at the scene, or someone else altogether who should have got the communications straight.

Either way, it should be investigated, and not automatically condoned just because these people have been to war. It sets a bad precedent if action is not taken. If every time something suspect happens we just brush it under the carpet it gives unscrupulous people (And make no mistake, unscrupulous people are everywhere, and that includes in the armed forces) licence to behave badly without fear of repercussion, which is not a good state of affairs.

Believing this does not, by any means, indicate that I 'do not support our troops'. I have every support for them. I think about them, and worry about them a great deal. It is because I support them that I wish they were at home with their families, and out of danger.

I daresay America isn't the only state to not want to recognise the International Criminal court. There are a lot of revered statesmen worldwide who would end up there if it were ever to really work. Also The suggestion that one incident in Vietnam was a wrong-doing seems a bit narrow. The whole war was a crime, against vietnamese and against America's own citizens, in my opinion.

James Shott said...

Vitriola and JL, a combined response.

How could there be screams of a cover-up if an investigation is held, wrong-doing discovered, a trial is held and a conviction obtained? What was covered up?

The story about the teacher is rampant throughout the media. The differences between the military analogy and the teacher analogy are two: 1) in the case of the teacher, the teacher is entrusted with caring for students and teaching them. In the case of the military, they are in combat situations where they can be killed at any moment. One is a circumstance where a trusted person allegedly betrayed that trust and harmed a child, the other where in a combat zone rife with danger for the troops, something happened to an innocent person, and I should add, that the innocent person may have contributed to their own demise.

I’m surprised that you aren’t more aware of this gross difference in circumstance.

I did not suggest that nothing be done, or that no one is accountable. However, because the military personnel are in a highly stressful situation, never knowing when an attack will come, or from what direction, or by whom, the military deserves the benefit of the doubt until someone can determine that the military did something wrong. Even then, some wrongs – not all wrongs, however – must be accepted because of the circumstances under which the military is operating.

Our media, perhaps the media in Europe and elsewhere, puts the military on the defensive at every opportunity, rather than simply reporting what is known and waiting until a determination is made. The media is supposed to report facts in news stories, not reach conclusions on flimsy and incomplete evidence.

Vitriola said...

To be honest, I haven't read or seen any media at all that passed any judgement or reached any conclusions. All I have heard is that the released hostage and an agent were shot at by American forces.

I have heard it reported that the Italian hostage suspects foul play, but I have seen no news items that claimed to believe her or present this viewpoint as truth. I haven't seen or read any media at all that was jumping to conclusions of any kind.

It was news; it was bound to be reported. From what you're saying, it sounds as though you think even reporting this incident, and exposing a moment of posssible incompetence on the part of the military, is a betrayal. It's not, it's just news.

Of course the thing should be investigated. Of course it shouldn't be trial by media, or even blogger. But it can't go uninvestigated. In which case the media are bound to take an interest.

Unknown said...

"I read on Mr Middle America's site about a teacher who was GOING TO TRIAL for ALLEGEDLY having sex with a student."

Actually, that statement was in connection with the father being prosecuted...

Here is the actual quote:

Mike Edmondson, spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, said Friday he “could not and would not” confirm whether the father would be charged with any crimes based on the deposition.

“Because this case is going to trial, ethical rules prevent us from commenting at this time” Edmondson said.

Unknown said...

The latest story (reported on the Washington Journal this morning) on the Italian journalists shooting has it going something like this: the Italian government, against the procedures of hostage negotiation in that theater of war, paid cash to the hostage holders without the knowledge of the CIA... The military was not aware of the transaction... and the troops fired upon the vehicle, not knowing of the situation.

If that is the case, the situation is a whole lot different than initially reported.

James Shott said...


The press has been less rabid on this event than on others, but the underlying tone is that he military acted improperly. I am not, of course, suggesting the news should not be reported. I am suggesting that it should be narrowly and accurately reported.

When reporting contains bias, as it so often does, that leads to trial by blogger and trial by discussion board, etc. A lot of people get fired up over information lacking substance and authority, and before you know it, there is a ground swell of sentiment based upon false information.

mark said...

"The military was not aware of the transaction... and the troops fired upon the vehicle, not knowing of the situation."

In which case they fired on a random vehicle? I don't see how that makes the situation any better - it's still outrageous to randomly fire on cars!

Under the Geneva Conventions the occupying power (the US in this area) has a duty of care to the occupied persons. That duty of care appears not to have been met in this situation. Now if this car had been speeding through a checkpoint, it would be understandable as to why troops would fire on it, fearing their lives. But when it's just going along the road, even if it's speeding, to fire on it when it is presenting no danger to anyone else is a grossly disproportionate use of force.

Unknown said...

"In which case they fired on a random vehicle? I don't see how that makes the situation any better - it's still outrageous to randomly fire on cars!"

The reality is that we do not know what happenned! Were they speeding through the checkpoint? I don't know!

One thing that I do know is this: I doubt very seriously that our soldiers were firing randomly upon cars... I suspect, although I have made mistakes, that there is more to it than just Random Firing upon cars!