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Published: Saturday, 3/12/2005

Sgrena's 'truth' doesn't ring true

Giuliana Sgrena does not lack a sense of self importance. The 56-year-old journalist for the Italian communist newspaper Il Manifesto thinks she knows so many deep dark secrets that the U.S. military tried to shut her up permanently.

Ms. Sgrena went to Iraq to report on the heroic resistance to the U.S imperialists. Dutch journalist Harald Doornbos rode in the airplane to Baghdad with her. "Be careful not to get kidnapped," Mr. Doornbos warned Ms. Sgrena.

According to Mr. Doornbos' account in Nederlands Dagblad, she said, "The Iraqis only kidnap American sympathizers. The enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear."

Ms. Sgrena left her hotel the morning of Feb. 4 to interview refugees from Fallujah, the resistance stronghold captured by Marines in November. The interviews didn't go well.

"The refugees .●.●. would not listen to me," she said. "I had in front of me the accurate confirmation of the analysis of what the Iraqi society had become as a result of the war and they would throw their truth in my face."

Her feelings were hurt: "I who had risked everything, challenging the Italian government who didn't want journalists to reach Iraq and the Americans who don't want our work to be witnessed of what really became of that country with the war and notwithstanding that which they call elections." (Maybe it reads better in Italian.)

She got nabbed on her way back to her hotel. She told her captors she was on their side and suggested they kidnap an American soldier. But the U.S. government doesn't pay ransoms.

The Italian government did pay a ransom estimated by various sources at between $1 million and $10 million, and Ms. Sgrena was released to Italian intelligence officers. On the night of March 4, their vehicle approached a checkpoint near Baghdad International Airport. The car did not stop. U.S. troops opened fire. Nicola Calipari was killed; Ms. Sgrena was slightly wounded.

The reporter said the soldiers deliberately tried to kill her, but didn't hazard a guess as to how they knew she was in that vehicle. The U.S. embassy and the Third Infantry Division said the Italians did not tell the Americans she'd been freed. And Mr. Calipari had rented a nondescript sedan to pick up Ms. Sgrena, rather than one of the Italian embassy's armored SUVs, which the soldiers might have recognized.

Ms. Sgrena and the driver said they approached the checkpoint slowly. But "slowly" seems to be a relative term: An Army officer told ABC News the car may have been going 100 mph when it was fired upon.

Ms. Sgrena claims the Americans shot without warning. "A tank started to shoot at us without any sign or any light," she told reporters March 7. The soldiers say they used lights and hand signals, and fired warning shots before shooting into the engine block to stop the vehicle. The car's driver said the soldiers did shine a spotlight, but opened up almost immediately afterwards.

Ms. Sgrena said "the tank" fired 300 to 400 shots at her car. But photos in Italian newspaper La Repubblica March 8 indicate the vehicle suffered remarkably little damage for such a fusillade. There is a sole bullet hole in the windshield, but the window glass and the fenders are otherwise intact, as is the hood. Perhaps the soldiers were remarkably lousy shots. But if they were trying to kill Ms. Sgrena, why did they take her to the hospital?

There are questions that need answers. The Italians say they notified the Americans of Ms. Sgrena's release; the Americans deny it. Was the car going "slowly," as the Italians claim, or was it trying to run through the checkpoint, as the Americans say?

But there is no doubt about the credibility of Giuliana Sgrena. She has titled her story "My Truth," perhaps to distinguish it from the bourgeois concept of truth that depends on adherence to fact. Many on the Left in America embraced her "truth," while refusing to give their countrymen the benefit of the doubt. But, hey, liberals support our troops. They say so all the time.



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