March 10, 2005
IRAQ: 'FRIENDLY FIRE' INCIDENT SPARKS 'SERIOUS' U.S.-ITALY TENSION
** "Friendly fire" incident has "inflamed the anti-American sentiments of many Italians."
** Citing "credibility crisis," Italian editorialists demand "convincing explanations" from U.S.
** "In difficulty," Berlusconi could be the incident's "next victim."
A 'human and political tragedy'-- Dailies labeled the shooting that led to the death of an Italian intelligence officer and wounding of a journalist a "blunder" that turned the freeing of a hostage into "an unexpected triumph" for terrorists. Calling the incident "a tragedy within the tragedy" of the war, analysts attributed the shooting to American soldiers reacting out of constant "fear [of] an ambush or a rocket." Norway's social democratic Dagsavisen expressed the common view that young soldiers "who have seen friends killed, who are in a foreign country with a culture that they do not understand, surrounded by a hostile people, rarely think twice about shooting if they feel that is the safest for themselves." Many papers declared that the shooting "is all the more serious because it is one more example of the violence Iraqi civilians must endure." Few went as far as a Chinese writer who argued it is "a well-known fact" that U.S. soldiers "shoot first, check I.D. later," but commentators agreed the shooting will "foment anti-American feelings."
Needed: a 'trial of the facts'-- In Italy, some leftist papers, including pro-Democratic Left (DS) L’Unitá, accused the U.S. of furnishing a "shameless, false account of the facts." Most Italian editorialists rejected "defamatory accusations," such as the charge the U.S. had deliberately targeted hostage Sgrena, but insisted on getting "the truth" and not just "official statements." Terming it "the minimum that the government of a sovereign country and loyal ally should and must expect,” leading, centrist Corriere della Sera demanded "to see clearly what happened"; should "those who opened fire on our secret service vehicle" be found militarily "responsible" the paper insisted "they be held accountable, and...the U.S. administration issue an apology." Some papers criticized the alleged practice of paying ransom for the release of hostages, contending it had made kidnapping Italians "the most profitable business in Iraq."
'Bitter conflict' in relations-- Commentators agreed that the incident had created tension "not registered in years" in U.S.-Italian relations and "has intensified mistrust towards the U.S. in a deeply anti-war citizenship" which "has never understood the strategic alliance" between Prime Minister Berlusconi and President Bush. The shooting "puts even more pressure" on "Bush's most loyal friend," who is already "more and more isolated in Europe" and now weakened politically at home, according to Austria's independent Der Standard. In reaction, "Berlusconi gave up his diplomatic restraint and called for respect from Washington." Assurances by Bush of a joint investigation led one conservative voice to suggest U.S.-Italy "tension...appears to be letting up," but left-leaning, influential La Repubblica raised a number of "technical" questions about the proposed investigation which "are important to clearing up relations."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 65 reports from 17 countries March 5 - 10, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
ITALY: "Bush To Ciampi: ‘Calipari, A Hero’"
Giampaolo Pioli wrtoe from New York in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/10): “The tension between Rome and Washington appears to be letting up.... The White House letter [to Italian President Ciampi] is a ‘letter of solidarity,’ not a ‘letter of apology.’ It is a political gesture toward a good ally, not an admission of responsibility.... Only the inquiry will establish who is right.”
"Bush Reassures Ciampi: ‘Together To Obtain the Truth’"
Arturo Zampaglione noted from New York in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/10): “Will the investigation succeed in clearing up the dynamics and responsibilities? Who will prevail if during the inquiry Italians and Americans reach different conclusions? And why didn’t they establish an independent commission, separate from the American military command, which would have been more credible? The White House letter does not address these aspects that, although technical, are important to clearing up relations between the two sides of the Atlantic. Bush has another objective in mind: to underscore U.S. solidarity and minimize the counterblows of the accident on bilateral relations and on Italy’s presence in Iraq.”
"Bush Promises Ciampi A Rapid Investigation"
Bruno Marolo concluded from Washington in pro-democratic left party (DS) daily L’Unitá (3/10): “Bush rushes to Silvio Berlusconi’s aid. The United States has launched a propaganda initiative to placate Italian public opinion following the death of Nicola Calipari. The last act was a personal letter from Bush to President Ciampi promising that the joint investigation will be ‘rapid and thorough.’ L’Unitá hasas learned that the White House has asked Pentagon generals to change their tone, following initial communiqués that were placing the blame for the accident on the Italians.”
"Those Visits By Sembler To Calm The Ally"
Massimo Franco commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/9): “Theoretically, it should be considered a success. The Italian government, which will participate with its own representatives in the multinational force investigation in Iraq on the Calipari killing, has obtained an important result.... But politically, the decision is not destined to placate the mistrust. And the Berlusconi government and the Bush administration are frantically seeking a solution that will avoid worse tension. Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini's speech to the Lower House was received silently by the opposition. Moreover, multipartisan dissatisfaction remains over the death of the Italian secret service agent and the wounding of the journalist Giuliana Sgrena.... For Berlusconi there is an immediate risk: that he will address the Senate this afternoon without being able to offer a tangible sign of his influence on Bush. The joint U.S.-Italy investigating committee resolves part of the problem.... But the opposition is showing signs of a polemic that will affect the Berlusconi-Bush relationship; and to evoke the government’s political subordination, former magistrate Di Pietro is already calling for an Italian investigation, without U.S. involvement. The premier is aware of this. And he has solicited a gesture from the White House that will signal the will to verify responsibilities for Friday’s shooting at Baghdad airport. The Bush administration has agreed, because it perceives the danger of growing anti-Americanism, and of Berlusconi in difficulty. The attitude assumed in recent hours by American diplomacy is significant. [U.S. Ambassador] Sembler felt the need to unofficially underscore that there are ‘no divergences’ with Italy on the need ‘to shed light.’ It’s an attempt to reassure an ally that could be forced to distance itself.”
"Fractures That Need Mending"
Enzo Bettiza noted in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (3/9): “Now we will have to contain the credibility crisis between the administrations of the two countries. Both the Italians and the Americans, who have already paid a high price in terms of lives to protect the Iraqi population, will have to avoid that the short-circuit damages the alliance that has lasted for half a century. Italy and the United States will above all have to avoid...a second Sigonella that could...provoke an even more serious laceration.... The White House senses that prolonged stagnation of the crisis could have a fatal result: the deterioration of the Italian bond with the coalition. Even the Roman government knows that it must avoid this obstacle. The Italian military presence in Nassiriyah was in fact accompanied by the prestigious configuration of Italian foreign policy on the international scene. It would be a failure, a self-destructive scandal, to throw in the towel just as the specter of freedom begins to hover in the Arab regions and the United Nations is insisting that Western troops remain on the ground to temporarily protect democratic development in Baghdad.”
"Bush At A Crossroads: Rumsfeld Or Berlusconi"
Maurizio Molinari commented from New York in centrist, influential La Stampa (3/9): “Behind [commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George W.] Casey’s hesitations, a rigorous military man who was frequently tentative before the journalists’ pressing questions to do with the doubt between ‘communication problems’ and ‘rules of engagement’, is the political crux of President George W. Bush: if the investigation were to prove that the Italians failed to communicate, then it would discredit Palazzo Chigi’s thesis, thereby weakening one of the few governments that the White House considers an ally and friend. If, however, the investigation confirmed that the error was due to the ‘rules of engagement’ of the military in Iraq, then Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld would be weakened.”
"Bush Says Italy Is Right -- ‘We Will Investigate Together"
Giampaolo Pioli observed from New York in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/9): "General George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, rushed to Baghdad to explain what happened at the airport’s checkpoint where Calipari was killed. In reality, the high official didn’t explain much. He only said that the current investigation will take 3 to 4 weeks and that the Americans would like to conduct it jointly with the Italians. There is much tension between the governments of Rome and Washington. A lot of tension.... Now the Pentagon has decided to conduct a deeper investigation, it seems under Bush’s orders. Perhaps ‘a second American truth’ will emerge, that somebody tried to hide the first time. If this is the case, just like the ‘tension’ between the U.S. and Italy seems to demonstrate, the Americans run the risk of again looking like liars."
"U.S.-Italy Commission On Calipari’s Killing"
Arturo Zampaglione remarked from New York in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/9): "With a communiqué issued yesterday in Baghdad, the multinational force in Iraq announced that the investigation on the killing of Nicola Calipari and wounding of Giuliana Sgrena will take three to four weeks.... Italy’s participation in the investigation signals a shift in relations between the two sides of the Atlantic following Friday’s tragic accident. On both sides there seems to be a dangerously escalating amount of suspicion and discontent, misunderstandings and accusations that recall past incidents (Sigonella, Cermis) and that could have consequences on relations between Rome and Washington.'
"Dust On The Left"
Managing editor Franco Bechis editorialized on the front page of Rome's center-right daily Il Tempo (3/9): “Yes to a trial. A fair trial that will establish who erred that tragic night at the checkpoint of Baghad’s airport, who killed Nicola Calipari, who shot when he shouldn’t have, who gave the orders that shouldn’t have been given, perhaps even who didn’t give orders when he should have. A trial of the protagonists of the incident, that either accuses or acquits.... A trial of the facts, not a trial against the United States, not an international court to judge a war that no longer exists, that has very little to do with Calipari’s death.... The day following the compassion that seemed to unite Italy around the Calipari family, the most squalid of political skirmishes began.... We will never know the truth on what happened on Friday night at Baghdad’s airport. And the reason we won’t know is not due to our government’s ill will, nor to the resistance of the American military, but because a serious trial cannot be held in these conditions, because all this noise is intended for the trial not to take place, and not to be interested in the truth.”
"Our Part Of The Responsibility"
Franco Cangini wrote on the front page of conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/8): “We don’t know whether the ransom paid for the abducted journalist, is equivalent, as they say, to 15 million old lira.... Kidnapping an Italian has become the most profitable business in Iraq.... While it is true that a life is priceless, it is also true that everyone is responsible for his own actions. The government should publicly state that anyone who decides to go to Iraq for reasons, other than for public service, does so at his own risk and peril, as well as at his own expense. A country that has deployed troops in Iraq to fight terrorism cannot, without losing face, put itself in the condition of negotiating with terrorists and financing them with millions [of euros]. While it is sacrosanct to demand convincing explanations from the Americans for the 'horrifying incident' that cost the life of our agent, it is also right that we recognize our part of responsibility. The need to negotiate behind the back of our ally to bring hostages home is obviously detrimental to the correct communication of our moves. The consequences of a lack of coordination can be tragic, as we have seen. An ‘American ambush?’ Let’s draw a veil over this and other inappropriate expressions spoken by the fortunate protagonist of the sad event.”
"The Two Poles, Homeland And Relations With The United States"
Stefano Folli contended in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (3/8): “The sense of unity which crossed the country leaves behind at least two significant novelties. The first concerns the toughness with which Berlusconi asked the United States for a convincing reconstruction of the accident. Even within the framework of an old friendship that is in the interest of both countries, such bitter conflict had not taken place seen since Sigonella, not even after the Cermis accident. The prime minister, who is the closest friend of the Americans, felt the emotional counterblow in public opinion and decided not to leave a free hand to the opposition. The result of such insistence is that the U.S. has begun to realize that the disaster in Baghdad is incredibly big, and that the effects on its relations with Italy cannot be neglected.”
"Time For Paying Ransom Is Over"
Gaetano Quagliariello argued on the front page of Rome's center-left daily Il Messaggero (3/8): “Alongside the request for clarity...we should take a critical look at the line the government has followed until now on the Iraqi hostages. We must ask whether it is right or wrong that the government continues to pay ransom for the liberation of its citizens.... We must acknowledge reality. We must particularly pay attention to two circumstances that make the choice to pay a ransom full of negative consequences. The first concerns the utilization of the ransom. It is used to renew terrorist actions whose objective it is to avoid stabilizing Iraq. The second concerns the fact that France and Italy are the only two countries willing to pay ransom for their citizens.... The other countries engaged in Iraq cannot view this in a positive way.... And it is evident that Italian and French citizens are more at risk than the others--sort of predestined victims. Given this perverse escalation, it is necessary that politics make consequential choices, that give a sense of the tragedy that is unfolding in Iraq...and a sense of its evolution.... Today’s Iraq is suspended between the acquisition of an imperfect and badly stitched democratic tradition, which was however unthinkable only a few month ago, and the establishment of a permanently unstable state. The prevalence of one of these two outcomes will not be coincidental. It will depend on the results of the choices made by the different actors. And this is why Italy must fully do its part.”
Paolo Flores D’Arcais wrote in pro-democratic left party (DS) daily L’Unitá (3/8): “Yesterday was the funeral of a just man, of an exemplary policeman. This just man was killed by an American soldier. The least that Italy owes his wife, children, and friends is the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth on the circumstances and the responsibilities of his death. Any obstacle that hinders the verification of the truth...is equal to killing him again. Any acquiescence shown to liars or to those who attempt to derail investigations or hinder the verification of the truth is the equivalent of--morally--killing him again.... Unfortunately, lies have already circulated. The American commands, shortly after Nicola Calipari’s assassination, furnished a shameless, false account of the facts.”
"Terrorists -- Positive Balance"
Boris Biancheri had this to day on front page of centrist, influential daily La Stampa (3/7): “The case of the two Simonas had already shown the extraordinary political capital that the terrorists...can gain from an abduction in Iraq, especially if it’s an Italian woman from the left. I have great respect and admiration for the efforts and intelligence of all those who contributed to Giuliana Sgrena’s liberation...but I want to take a cynical inventory.... Until we know more facts, we must believe that Calipari’s tragic death was not foreseeable. The fact is that the incident has created tension between Italy and the United States--tension that we had not registered in years, inflaming the anti-American sentiments of many Italians.... This was an indisputable success for them [the terrorists]. It was such a success that, given the chance, they will certainly repeat it.”
"An End To Blackmail"
Livio Caputo concluded on the front page of pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (3/7): “The body of the poor 007 who died to save the life of the Manifesto’s correspondent had not yet returned to Italy, when the left, and not only the extreme left...began to exploit the event in order to provoke an anti-American uprising, to ask once again for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, to exploit the understandable emotional wave to impose a shift on our foreign policy. An ugly show that was made even uglier by the accusation made by Sgrena’s partner, Mr. Pierre Scolari, who only until a month ago was Mr. Nobody, that the Americans deliberately attempted to kill Giuliana in order to hinder her from spreading alleged news that could have proven damaging to them.”
"Suspicions And Reason"
Massimo Fini argued on front page of conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/7): “Calipari was probably failed by his haste, deriving from the pressure coming from Rome, where they couldn’t wait to exhibit, for political reasons, the hostage’s liberation. We should reflect on these things as well before making defamatory accusations against an ally that we voluntarily chose. That we should distance ourselves from this ally--who following the fall of the USSR demonstrated extraordinary aggressiveness and fell prey to delusions of omnipotence--and that we should withdraw our useless troops from Iraq, is a whole other issue. We should not do this immediately, but in due time, with a clear mind and for much deeper reasons than those of ‘friendly fire’, that the Americans themselves have been victim of many times in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
"The Tragedy Of A Senseless War"
Eugenio Scalfari commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/6): "’This is Baghdad, this is war.’ We didn’t need the Sgrena-Calipari incident to tell us so, but it is a tragic confirmation. It’s not an issue of pro-Americans and anti-Americans.... And it’s not a question of whether to keep or withdraw troops in Nasiriyah.... Its only purpose is to keep Bush benevolent towards Berlusconi. Italy is deriving no advantages or disadvantages, except the substantial financial costs of maintaining 3,000 soldiers in that desert.... One thing is clear: the war continues, Iraqi instability is evident, self-government is not around the corner, and neither is pacification. As to the positive effects of the Iraqi war on the Mesopotamian region and the Middle East, the effects on Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, I think we ought to be very cautious about linking unrelated events.”
Piero Ostellino observed in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/6): “The dynamics of the incident are yet to be clarified. And the government’s actions must be veiled neither by the historical relationship between Italy and the United States nor by the personal friendship between Berlusconi and Bush. The demand...to see clearly what happened and, in case military responsibility emerges regarding those who opened fire on our secret service vehicle, that they be held accountable, and that the U.S. administration issue an apology, is the minimum that the government of a sovereign country and loyal ally should and must expect.”
Managing editor Marcello Sorgi remarked on the front page of centrist, influential La Stampa (3/6): “The tragic ending to Giuliana Sgrena's liberation...risks causing serious political consequences. And not only for the resurgence of anti-Americanism, and for the inevitable conspiracy theory...on the extreme left...where an emotional wave Friday night ended the mild détente that accompanied President Bush’s recent trip to Europe. Rather, the relationship between the two governments--Italy and U.S.--has suffered a sudden deterioration.”
Vittorio Zucconi opined in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/6): “Washington will have to manage between two impossibilities. It cannot alienate, on the eve of vital elections, the only European political leader who shamelessly believes in Bush, Silvio Berlusconi, and will have to come up with a less insolent official version of the ‘tragic fatality,’ perhaps by trying a nervous corporal, a distracted lieutenant, another ‘rotten apple.’ But it cannot antagonize its own armed forces, by explaining to the Italians that the soldiers and Marines are worn down, that two years of urban guerrilla warfare, 1,500 dead, 11,000 wounded, are wearing down the morale and efficiency of this formidable military machine.”
"Good Relations Are Hit"
Lucia Annunziata commented in centrist, influential La Stampa (3/5): “The Italian government pays a very high price for this tragic conclusion. It loses a man and collides with its own allies.... If Washington has some capable diplomat between Rome and Iraq it had better get him moving in order to try to mend the fence. He should do it before everything descends into arrogance and echoes the tragedy at the Cermis ski lift [when low-flying U.S. aircraft cut the cable on a cable car carrying Italian skiiers].”
"The Risk To Avoid"
Sergio Romano wrote on the front-page of leading centrist daily Corriere della Sera (3/5): “To foment now an anti-American campaign and ask now for the withdrawal of our military would mean to break the country into two factions and show the world a quarreling and unreliable image of Italy.”
"A Sour End"
Alberto Negri noted in leading business daily Il Sole 24 Ore (3/5): “How could it happen?... Now we want the truth. We don’t want official statements.”
Antonio Padellaro remarked in pro-Democratic Left Party (DS) daily, L’Unitá’ (3/5): “We should be resigned that will never know everything. This is Iraq. Giuliana is alive, but too many things went wrong in this story. Because this is war. But please stop talking of a liberated and pacified Iraq. We have seen it last night: you die for nothing there.”
"Out Of Iraq"
Piero Sansonetti opined in Communist Renewal Party daily Liberazione (3/5): “Why do the Americans always shoot? Why do they speak of 'friendly fire'? Why do they term it 'collateral damage' when the collateral damage of this war has reached 150,000 dead?.... They say that Berlusconi reacted with fury, with rage to the news of the American attack. They say that the prime minister also summoned the American ambassador to ask why this happened and stated that someone must take responsibility. There is no doubt who that someone is: Washington.... Let’s all leave contention behind, let us forget the past, let us forget who was right and who was wrong: it is sufficient that we reach the right conclusion. Italian troops cannot stay in Iraq under U.S. command any longer. Not one minute more. “
FRANCE: "A UN-Led Investigation"
Dominique Gerbaud wrote in Catholic La Croix (3/8): “It is far-fetched to imagine that the Americans wanted to kill Giuliana Sgrena because she may have held information. The more believable hypothesis is that of a blunder, due to nervousness on the part of U.S. soldiers. A nervousness that brings to mind the preemptive shots against the Hotel Palestine in April 2003.... In that investigation, which was led by the Americans, the U.S. army exonerated its soldiers and its hierarchy, a little too quickly. In order to find out who is responsible for the death of Nicola Calipari, we have the right to expect a UN-led investigation.”
Richard Heuze commented in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/8): “No one supports the accusations initially made by Sgrena about an attempt on her life.... The issue now is what will be the Americans’ answers to Italy’s legitimate questions? Although President Bush has promised that light will be shed on the incident, few Italians are ready to bet on getting answers.... Already there is a discrepancy between the U.S. army’s story and Sgrena’s. And it is still impossible to know which U.S. unit was involved in the shooting.... The CIA was necessarily informed about the hostage liberation. Obviously, something went wrong in the U.S. chain of command.”
"The Marines Are Trigger-Happy"
Sacha Balit Vandebrouck argued in right-of-center France Soir (3/8): “This could be one blunder too many for the U.S. army, which looks like it has become the blunder specialist in Iraq.... One remembers the Hotel Palestine and the assault on Al-Jazeera, which killed one cameraman.... The list of such blunders in Iraq is a long one, involving thousands of civilians. After each tragedy, the U.S. army has never acknowledged making a mistake. There is a symptomatic denial on the part of Washington in these instances, with talk of collateral damage, and which is far removed form its sacrosanct ‘zero casualty’ theory, which concerns only its troops.”
"Those Hostages Which Rally Us"
Jules Clauwaert observed in regional Nord Eclair (3/8): “One can imagine that the young people freshly arrived from Kansas or Missouri, and who constantly fear an ambush or a rocket, don’t want to be among the ‘body bags,’ as one said in Vietnam, sent back to their country, to their grieving families. Fear makes it easy to pull the trigger, alas. And in Iraq, ‘friendly fire’ is part of the permanent danger."
Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (3/7): “The tragedy which surrounded Sgrena’s liberation can serve as a metaphor to the horrendous complexity of the situation in Iraq...and to the way American troops are paradoxically aggravating the terrorist situation which they are fighting.... The GIs who fired without reason or warning committed an inexcusable error. There is at this time no factual clue to verify Giuliana Sgrena’s tale of a deliberate attack on the convoy. But the U.S. army is on the bench of the accused. The U.S. has lied too often in the past for anyone to accept its version of the facts without an international investigation. This blunder is all the more serious because it is one more example of the violence Iraqi civilians must endure, coming from soldiers who lack proper training and are too trigger-happy. They are fomenting anti-American feelings in the Iraqi population, in Italy and elsewhere.”
"Silence And Embarrassment In Washington"
Guillemette Faure noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/7): “The U.S. army is keeping silent about the blunder that wounded Giuliana Sgrena and killed an Italian secret service agent.... In Baghdad, AP requested to view the vehicle which sustained the attack: the U.S. Army responded it did not know where it was.”
GERMANY: "Imperial Arrogance"
Giovanni di Lorenzo opined in an editorial in center-left weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (3/10): "It is the U.S. occupation soldiers and the Iraqi security forces who are the target of suicide bombers and snipers. Guiliana Sgrena was not kidnapped by Americans but by Islamic terrorists who did not care that they captured one of the most distinguished critics of the occupation.... The Americans can be charged with many things but to accuse them of having planned to kill a staff member of Die Zeit to get rid of an embarrassing witness is as absurd as it is detrimental. The circumstances of the shooting are enough of a scandal. It is an amateurish occupation policy to have badly trained, panicking soldiers shoot at everything that moves. President Bush promised an investigation, but we would like to know what kind of rules, what kind of precautionary measures the U.S. soldiers have to take into account during their controls. How many innocent Iraqis were considered suicide bombers; why in the case of Guiliana Sgrena and her killed liberator, Nicola Calipari, the patrol obviously did not know what had been communicated to their superiors a few hundred meters away. If there is no investigation, an apology cannot be accepted. We could probably accept an accident, but not imperial arrogance."
"Belusconi's Small Victory"
Oliver Meiler noted in an editorial in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (3/10): "The Italians are interested not only in a dead intelligence service agent...who was shot by an Italian friend. The U.S. military jargon uses the formula of 'friendly fire' and no one ask what can be friendly or amicable when looking at stray bullets. But a war is going on in Iraq and such 'accidents,' such 'regrettable mistakes' permanently happen in a war. No, the Italians are interested in more. They are interested in their dignity during times of mourning. They insist on the truth, the full truth and justice. They want to know what really happened last Friday evening in Baghdad. They are not willing to accept the ritual fatalism and an expression of regret from Washington.... This time Italy has raised its voice in a self-confident manner and achieved a success. The Pentagon approved the establishment of a mixed commission that is to investigate the case in 'three to four weeks.'... The Italians can now with good reason say that they have been taken seriously, at least formally, thanks to their loud protests.... Premier Berlusconi gave up his diplomatic restraint and called for respect from Washington, respect for a small but loyal ally.... We could accuse Berlusconi of a populist behavior...and it may be possible that he played a game...but nevertheless, his resolute appearance was surprising. Sometimes even a collective feeling for the law and dignity is enough to increase one's self-esteem."
"Great Political Damage"
Right-of-center Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten noted (3/8): "The funeral of Nicola Calipari had overtones of anger, anger at wildly firing U.S. soldiers who caused the death of the Italian intelligence officer. Italy is churned up inside. Instead of rushing to the celebrations for released hostage Guiliana Sgrena, President Ciampi and Prime Minister Berlusconi, together with tens of thousands of other people, went to the funeral of a man who gave his life for the one of the journalist. This has caused great political damage. Voices are getting louder that are now calling for Italy's withdrawal from Iraq. The relationship between close friends Berlusconi and Bush is clouded. The firing at the car of the hostage and their escort, unfortunately, again offers food for anti-American prejudices. It was also shots against the transatlantic process of understanding initiated by President Bush's trip to Europe."
"Triumph Of The Kidnappers"
Stefan Kornelius opined in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/7): "For the kidnappers [of Guiliana Sgrena] it may be an unexpected triumph that the Americans have now served the goals of the terrorists. The death of intelligence service member Calipari and the circumstances surrounding the firing at Sgrena...will create damage to the United States at least in Europe and rekindle the withdrawal debate in Italy. The Sgrena case confirms precisely so many prejudices and the result will be that all U.S. attempts to find a better understanding between the United States and its allies will now suffer.... But beyond all conspiratorial and psychological moods, political damage will remain that has never been caused by other kidnappings and never existed before. Following the successful Iraqi elections, Washington wanted to reduce its own profile in the country and leave the stage to the Iraqis and the international community. Among other things, Bush's visit to Europe aimed at preparing this change of strategies and break the hostile mood towards him and his government. But all this has now suffered because of the shooting in Baghdad. As tragic and as avoidable the death of the Italian intelligence officer was...the most important message comes from Iraq from Ayatollah al-Sistani who warned his political parties and pushed for political progress. On March 16, the new parliament is to convene and the government is to begin its work. Only they can create a climate in which a repetition of the Sgrena case is unlikely."
Mariam Lau opined in an editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/7): "The suspicion we can now hear more often in Italy that the Americans had deliberately fired at Sgrena because she 'knew too much' is absurd. The simple truth is probably as plain as it is unbearable: the forces on the most dangerous street in Iraq were not informed in advance on Sgrena's arrival.... It is very likely that this is a tragic case of 'friendly fire.' But the distrust of Italians shows that no one talks here about 'friendly.' And this is true not only since the kidnapping."
"And End With Horror"
Moritz Schuller argued in an editorial in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin argued (3/7): "In order to avoid burdening relations with Italy even more but also for the sake of their own credibility, the Americans should fully investigate the incident, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld already promised. Irrespective of whether it was communication problems or gross negligence: the longer the two versions are so wide apart, the quicker unease will rise in Italy, including unease at their own military presence in Iraq. We may owe it to the horrible experience of the past days that Sgrena accused the Americans of making her a 'target' and even uses her own kidnappers as witnesses. But the Italian intelligence service already rejected this version."
Arno Widmann had this to say in an editorial in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (3/7): "If the U.S. army was really incapable of terminating an action it coordinated with the Italian intelligence service, the U.S. army would have proven that it is totally unprofessional. A tiny, purely military action, which simply focused on allowing a gray car or a convoy with Iraqi license plates to pass a few checkpoints...would have been too much for the strongest army in the world. But this is nothing compared to the military, political and social task of turning Iraq into a state where the rule of law dominates. If one U.S. post really does not know what other posts do, then it will be difficult to imagine how the United States wants to pacify Iraq. This is all the more so because it was clear right from the onset that the action was being watched all over the world."
"America's Credibility Problem"
Right-of-center Hamburger Morgenpost noted (3/7): "Since the beginning of the Iraq war, the border between abstruse conspiracy theory and truth has become more fluent. To put it differently: since the accusations in the shadow of Colin Powell's appearance before the UN Security Council and Abu Ghraib accusations, which in the past were considered fake stories from Sindbad's empire of fairy tales, turned out to be true, the United States has a real credibility problem. That is why it is not surprising that, following the deadly shots at the liberators and the liberated in Baghdad, accusations showed up that America deliberately wanted to eliminated ex-hostage Sgrena. Of course, this accusation is odd. What reason should Washington have to provoke one of its last allies that is still engaged in Iraq? It is likely that some GIs, for which the case was too much, failed. That may explain the matter, but does not make the matter simpler: what chance does peace have which relies on the guns of confused soldiers?"
"Fear And Panic"
Centrist Stuttgarter Zeitung judged (3/7): "The account on the course of the tragedy differs considerably. It is obvious that cooperation among the allies in Iraq is extraordinarily bad, since otherwise the U.S. checkpoint posts would have known who sat in the car that came up to the Americans. And it is also obvious that there are always situations for the young U.S. soldiers in Iraq that are too much for them, and they always shoot first and then check the situation. They act in fear and panic, since more than 1,500 soldiers have already died in Iraq. This panic has cost the lives of many innocent Iraqis. Now it is an intelligence officer, who was the victim. George W. Bush apologized, but the U.S. reputation is again at a bottom low."
AUSTRIA: "A Blow To Bush's Friend"
Editor Gerhard Mumelter maintained in independent Der Standard (3/7): "It was an irony of fate that it was just Bush's most loyal friend Silvio Berlusconi who was humiliated by just those U.S. troops in Iraq whom he so readily assisted.... That he will now, instead of harvesting the expected political favors, have to pay for a possible mistake of the U.S. troops puts even more pressure on the Italian prime minister.... Also, Berlusconi is more and more isolated in Europe. His most important ally, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Azanr, lost his job last year. After the recent election victory of the left in Portugal, Italy is the only southern European state that wholeheartedly supports the U.S. military intervention in Iraq--not a favorable recommendation for next year's parliamentary elections."
Foreign affairs writer Stefan Galoppi editorialized in mass-circulation Kurier (3/7): "Besides the human tragedy, the Sgrena case also has a political dimension. For the U.S., the fact that its soldiers shot at a liberated hostage makes for terrible images. And the U.S. is aware of the fact--otherwise President George W. Bush would not have telephoned immediately and apologized for the incident.... Prime Minister Berlusconi--up to now an unconditionally loyal ally of the U.S. in Iraq--now gets to feel the political outrage in his own country and will have to react. Bush's coalition of the ever-less-willing is threatened with further weakening. That the political reaction set in only after the shots at Giuliana Sgrena shows how crazy the standards in Iraq really are. In the past, U.S. soldiers have again and again killed innocent civilians at checkpoints out of fear of suicide attacks. However, since they affected local people, these catastrophic misunderstandings had no consequences. Many Iraqis therefore feel that their lives are obviously worth less. And this is a tragedy, too--a human and a political one."
"Absurd Conspiracy Theory"
Foreign affairs editor Christian Ultsch commented in centrist Die Presse (3/7): "Some people's sound judgment seems to have been impaired through an over-emotional reaction. To allege the U.S. wanted to kill Sgrena is simply absurd. Which interest could the Americans have had in that? Nobody can seriously believe they intentionally risked relations with one of their most loyal allies in Europe just to demonstrate their dislike of ransom payments. It may be true that, contrary to U.S. claims, the U.S. soldiers opened fire without warning at the checkpoint. This just shows once more how wrecked the nerves of the GIs in Iraq have become. Anything else belongs in the category of conspiracy theory, for which the Americans are known to have a predilection."
Roman Arens argued in the independent Salzburger Nachrichten (3/7): "Every new cause for mourning a dead Italian brings home a lie--the self-deception about the 'peace commitment' in Iraq. The Italian troops are part of the U.S. occupation of Iraq--in contradiction to their own self-image and probably also the country's constitution. Moreover, they are being treated like vassals, which is hard for their sensitive minds to bear and which arouses bad memories.... For Berlusconi, it is harder to defend his Iraq policy. And those in the opposition who are clamoring for an immediate troop withdrawal have the advantage."
BULGARIA: "Calipari's Death"
Largest circulation daily Trud commented (3/7): "What is the obvious outcome of this drama? Italy has gained another real hero, unfortunately posthumously. And the U.S. has gained another angry, hesitant and stunned ally. Italy and Bulgaria are similar in that the public mostly opposes the military participation of their countries in Iraq. But at the same time they are different, because Calipari's death only boosted the serious political debate about Italy's future commitments in Iraq. No such consideration is present in Bulgaria, even over the last couple of days when Bulgaria lost another soldiers in Iraq--Sgt. Gurdev. Bulgaria must hold a dynamic and mature debate on the issue."
CROATIA: "Humiliated Berlusconi"
Foreign affairs editor Marinko Bobanovic observed in government-owned Vjesnik (3/7): “The incident in Iraq is a heavy slap in the face of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, ‘Bush’s yes-man,’ as domestic critics call him.... The death of the Italian agent will not provoke a wave of anti-Americanism in Italy, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs Gianfranco Fini fears now. However, it will certainly make Italian authorities think twice before sending assistance the next time America asks for it, with the goal of ‘spreading democracy’ in the world.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Mrs. Sgrena Is Home"
Karel Hvizdala commented in the leading, centrist daily MF Dnes (3/7): "If we disregard speculations surrounding the incident (altogether 54 journalists have died in Iraq so far, 9 of them killed by U.S. troops), it put Iraq again at the center of world attention. Analysts keep asking themselves a series of questions: First, did the Americans know in advance that if Shiites--and thus Sharia, which they had fought against in Afghanistan--win in Iraq, their power will be legitimized by the elections? Second, were the Americans aware that even successful elections will provoke great fears in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, not only because of the Shiite aspect, but also because those countries' governments were not put in power democratically? Third, did Americans suspect that by using power in Iraq they would disable the use of power against Iran, the biggest problem in the region? Fourth, weren't the elections in Iraq manipulated? Fifth, can the American not only win the war, but also win the peace?"
"Fire On Berlusconi"
Petr Pesek opined in the center-right daily Lidove Noviny (3/7): "It is hardly imaginable that U.S. soldiers were shooting on purpose at the Italian journalist, who was getting away from her Iraqi abductors. However, even if it is confirmed that it was a great misunderstanding, it will mean big troubles for Italian PM Berlusconi. It might happen that Berlusconi will, in the upcoming Italian election become yet another victim of Friday's shooting en route to Baghdad [airport]."
HUNGARY: "Rome Is Far Away"
Laszlo Szentesi Zoldi remarked in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (3/8): “[After the Sgrena incident,] the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi--incidentally, one of Washington’s most reliable allies--summoned the U.S. ambassador to his office, requested an explanation and demanded that those responsible be punished.... After [Hungarian soldier] Peter Varga-Balazs had been shot dead, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs remained silent.... And what is really remarkable: to this day, it is not clear what really happened, we do not know the details of the affair, nor has the U.S. ambassador been summoned, and in general, the case was handled as a regrettable accident. Italy and Hungary. Two countries in the [European] Union; still, two different worlds. Responsible and courageous leaders on the one side, and incompetent politicians on the other. Dignity, humanity, the whole nation thinking together over there--shifty, keeping quiet, a flood of lies here.”
"Lives That Have Been Bought"
Zsombor Gyorgy opined in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (3/8): “In the case of the Italians, Rome finds itself in a very difficult situation, since a tragedy would completely turn the sensitive public mood against the government. However, the suitcases full of dollars encourage terrorists to take more and more hostages--just the thing the Americans want to avoid. According to experts, there is a complete confusion concerning which government does what to save their citizens. And that is exactly the thing that benefits the terrorists whose primary ambition is to generate confusion and division among the allies.”
NORWAY: "Blind Shot"
The social democratic newspaper Dagsavisen commented (3/8): “There is a complete divergence in explanations of what happened when the car with freed hostage Giuliana Sgrena was peppered with shots and security officer Nicola Calipari was killed.... The truth could also be...that the soldiers plain and simple fired blind shots and without warning, but that the victims this time were not nameless Iraqis whom the world would overlook.... The control posts are extremely hazardous for both parties. They are an attractive goal for suicide bombers. It creates fear. Terrified soldiers with loaded guns are always dangerous. The standing order in Iraq is to always shoot if there is the least bit of doubt. Young soldiers, who have seen friends killed, who are in a foreign country with a culture that they do not understand, surrounded by a hostile people, rarely think twice about shooting if they feel that is the safest for themselves.... Now it is the kidnappers and insurgents who have reason to celebrate: they are seen as humane since they did not kill their hostage. The Americans are again the bad guys for the whole world with their killing of an Italian hero. The kidnappers’ original demand to let Sgrena go was that the 3,000 Italian soldiers in Iraq should be withdrawn. That this will happen has now become far more likely. Italy is seen as the lackey of the United States. It is hard to imagine that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would go to the election next spring while continuing to be part of an increasingly unpopular occupation.”
"A Tragedy Within The Tragedy"
The newspaper of record Aftenposten commented (3/7): “Once again it was demonstrated over the past few days how loaded the situation still is in Iraq despite a successful election, and how fragile Western support is for the United States--through a tragedy within the tragedy.... Berlusconi immediately called the U.S. ambassador to Rome on the carpet, and President George W. Bush was quick at calling his Italian colleague to regret the incident. A lot is at stake for the United States, which risks losing valuable political support from Italy in Iraq, where the government has sent 3,000 Italian soldiers. Right about now it is one year since the train terror in Madrid, and the subsequent change of governments, which also made Spain switch sides in the Iraq issue. The tragic incident in Iraq again underscores the need to move on with political reforms in the country. More than a month after the election, the new national assembly has still not summoned, even though the date March 16 has been indicated. And no new government is in place. It is starting to become more urgent.”
Independent Dagbladet had this to say (3/7): “Excuses from President George W. Bush and promises to investigate the incident have not satisfied Berlusconi. Berlusconi sent 3,000 soldiers to Iraq, prompting strong protests from the public. He is blamed for getting his orders from Washington, but on Friday he took the unusual step of calling in the U.S. ambassador on the carpet, and demanding an investigation of the tragic shooting. The resistance to the war was strong to begin with and has now been strengthened. The United States needs Italy’s support after Spain withdrew from Iraq, and the shooting episode outside Baghdad has weakened Berlusconi’s U.S.-friendly politics. The attack on Sgrena and her rescuers on Friday will have to lead to an independent investigation by the UN as the organization Reporters Without Borders now demands. History shows that the U.S.’ own investigation of these types of issues provides as many questions as answers. The conclusion after the shooting at Hotel Palestine in Baghdad in April of 2003, where two journalists were killed, was that no one in the occupation forces had committed any errors.”
POLAND: "Diabolical Americans"
Mariusz Zawadzki wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (3/7): “The theory that Americans are diabolical finds avid supporters worldwide. A year ago, the Shiite paupers in Karbala tried to convince me that the bombs that blew up in the streets of their towns during the pilgrimages were set by the Americans.... As much as I was astonished, I tried to understand them--they were half-illiterate, without jobs, with no hope for the future, their minds permeated by 20 years of Saddam’s conspiracy plot theories. But one should expect that an experienced journalist is better oriented in the reality around her. Three weeks in captivity of the mujahideen and her uncompromising pacifism have clearly impaired [Sgrena's] orientation. The idea that the Italians were fired at on purpose is another version of the American devil.... But that the Americans are against paying ransom is, by the way, true. And this should be no surprise. The million dollars most likely paid for Sgrena can be now used to buy 5,000 grenade launchers in Baghdad.”
ROMANIA: "Triumph For Terrorists"
Claudia Stanila commented in independent Ziua (3/8): "The Italian government and opposition parties were put in a delicate situation to ask for explanations from their allies and adopt a firm strategy to obtain information. The explanations of the authorities in Washington, according to which the unhappy event was caused by the fact that neither the American diplomats, nor the military was warned about the journalist's trip to the airport, did not convince [Italian] public opinion.... In the end, with the Americans' contribution itself, the tragic event was transformed into an unexpected triumph for the terrorists."
"A Delicate Moment For Sofia"
Constantin Vlad wrote in Evenimentul Zilei (3/8): “The killing of [Bulgarian soldier] Gardiev comes in a pretty delicate moment, knowing that the government in Sofia is to decide by the end of this month whether to maintain its troops in Iraq, after their mandate expires at the end of July."
SPAIN: "Iraq, A Nightmare Also For Berlusconi"
Independent El Mundo editorialized (3/8): "The dilemma that comes up for Berlusconi is not easy, because, although he has committed himself to maintaining Italian troops (in Iraq), the weakening of his power could probably be irreversible if new kidnappings or attempts of kidnapping happen again. Iraq has turned into Berlusconi's biggest problem in the upcoming elections."
Left-of-center El País held (3/8): "The U.S. has a problem with one of its best allies, Italy, and the prime minister of this country, Silvio Berlusconi, may have one with his fellow citizens if he does no get enough explanations from Washington about the bloody release of a journalist.... Defining more than 300 shots as 'friendly fire' is an euphemism.... The U.S. talks about a 'communication mistake,' but it will have to be more explicit in the investigation and punish the culprits if there are any. The Bush administration expressed its wish to clarify the case as soon as possible. We would have liked the same diligence and will in the case of the Spanish cameraman José Couso, who died in Baghdad from the shots of a U.S. tank two years ago."
Centrist La Vanguardia concluded (3/8): "It seems that U.S. forces, entrenched in their fortified positions and determined by all means to minimize their casualties in combat, shoot before asking, particularly in such dangerous places as the spot of the...tragedy. Anyway, it is a little bit unusual that, yesterday, no less than the spokesman for the White House was obliged to deny the accusations of Giuliana Sgrena. This said, it is evident that Washington sees with clear annoyance what is perceived as an Italian proclivity to pay ransoms in order to secure the release of the hostages from its country."
"The Mysteries Of A Liberation"
Independent El Mundo editorialized (3/6): "The investigation announced yesterday by the U.S. army should explain why soldiers opened fire against a convoy where a journalist who had just been liberated was traveling. Neither psychosis for the continuous suicide attacks nor the permanent insecurity in the Iraqi capital can be used to justify these very grave facts. The incident has intensified mistrust towards the U.S. in a deeply anti-war citizenship, who has never understood the strategic alliance between Berlusconi and the Bush administration. If the masses who asked for the liberation of Giuliana Sgrena two weeks ago end up becoming a ripping declaration against the invasion of Iraq, this unfortunate incident will undermine even more the foreign policy of the current (Italian) government and its tumbling position before the electorate."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "U.S. Military’s Combat Rule Is Shoot First, Check Identification Later"
Shi Yu and Lao Qiu commented in the official popular newspaper Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnianbao) (3/7): “It is a well-known fact that the U.S. military’s principle on the battlefield is ‘shoot first, check identification later.’... During the Vietnam war, due to an inability to distinguish between Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, American soldiers used a method called 'observation of men at military service age'...to kill civilians. A UK soldier described U.S. pilots in the Iraq war as 'cowboy pilots' who were just happy to fire their guns. After an accidental shooting, the U.S. military normally will take the following steps, in order: deny responsibility, lower the number of people harmed or killed, blame the shooting on the individual behavior of an individual soldier, refuse to apologize, and then, apologize.”
JAPAN: "Shooting Incident A Matter Concerning Others"
Liberal Mainichi opined (3/8): "In order to prevent future accidents, U.S. military authorities should swiftly investigate the 'unintended fatal attack' on a vehicle carrying a freed Italian journalist in Baghdad. In view of the Japanese deployment in Samawah, the incident should be seen a matter concerning others.... It must not be accepted that the U.S. military, supposedly deployed to protect citizens, shot and killed an innocent person without appropriate warning. Morale and discipline are rapidly declining among American soldiers, who are exhausted due to their prolonged deployment. Military personnel from more than 30 countries are currently operating in Iraq. Concerned parties should review communication mechanisms among units in order to prevent such incidents."
INDONESIA: "Friction Between The U.S. And Italy And Bulgaria In Iraq"
Leading independent daily Kompas commented (3/9): “U.S. forces in Iraq do not only face hard challenges from the guerrilla fighters and militant groups, but they also have friction with their allies, Italy and Bulgaria in particular. The Italians have expressed their anger over the shooting of one of their secret agents. A similar expression of anger has also been demonstrated by the Bulgarians over the death of one of the troops shot by the Americans. These incidents have only added to the dislike of the U.S. troops’ behavior in Iraq.... Apparently, the U.S. forces are no longer able to control their emotion and actions. Their victims are no longer limited to the guerrilla fighters and militants but also their fellow coalition members.”
ARGENTINA: "Out Of Control"
Marcelo Cantelmi, international editor, opined in leading Clarin (3/5): "The Marines' hesitant explanation of a 'self-defense action'...is a clear indication--though not the only one--of Iraq's present situation. This episode that undermined as hardly never before the support of the Berlusconi administration for Bush's war adventure, illustrates the uncontrollable situation in Iraq, and the limitation imposed by reality on the occupying army is the most important idea we ought to rescue from this episode. The allied troops are suffering every day over 100 attacks. This endless resistance triggers in U.S. troops a reaction such as the one that took place on Friday: a defense that doesn't discriminate and strikes any moving object because any enemy is though to be hiding in any corner. Of course, this isn’t a sign of strength. It indicates the way this post-war is taking place and, essentially, the uncomfortable absence of a winner."
MEXICO: "Giuliana Sgrena's Truth"
Left-of-center La Jornada argued (3/7): "The world observed, astonished and horrified, the news of the American attack against the car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena last Friday in Iraq when she was going back to her country after being kidnapped by an armed Iraqi group.... Sgregna's theory of what happened should be seen in the context of attacks against journalists in Iraq by the occupation forces and the offensive atmosphere since September 11, 2001, as the George Bush administration lashes out against freedom of expression, the right to access to information and human rights."
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