Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.09.05


Believe it. Or not.

Who is Nicola Calipari? The Italian side of the story has reporter Giuliana Sgrena on her way to the airport after being released to the custody of Calipari by insurgents who had held her hostage. They were motoring along normally, chatting and excited about her release when US troops at a checkpoint opened up on the vehicle.

In the fusillade of bullets, Calipari was killed while covering Sgrena with his body. Despite his heroics, bullets in the shoulder and lung injured the reporter.

The American side of the tale is very different. They opened fire on a speeding vehicle that refused numerous signals to come to a halt.

Let's examine the meager facts that we have and add a dash of speculation based on previous events.

Are U.S. troops capable of the murder of unarmed civilians?

Well yes they are. Two other incidents where foreign reporters were killed have also come to light.

Foreign journalists were killed when their hotel was hit by tank fire. The other resulted in the killing of a cameraman whose video camera was "mistaken" for a grenade launcher. He was filming a burning Humvee.

Who do you think is telling the truth?

I have to ask myself: what possible reason would these Italians have for ignoring signs to stop and traveling at high speeds over the most dangerous stretch of road in the world?

They had already stopped at other checkpoints without incident. Why try to charge through one?

They were unarmed and experienced people. They would have to know the consequences of trying to run a roadblock.

The soldiers either made an enormous mistake and are covering up, or they were trying to send a message that bargaining with insurgents will not be tolerated.

I don't think that Calpari was murdered for his role in the hostage negotiations. (Of course I wouldn't have thought us capable of torture. either.) This appears to be an error by jittery, trigger-happy Americans.

Ten years ago it would never have occurred to many of us to doubt the word of our military in a situation such as this. We would have accepted the explanation provided, mourned the victims, and moved on.

Our current Administration is steeped in such a miasma of lies and secrecy that virtually every pronouncement is suspect.

Every move our government makes seems first and foremost designed to further their political agenda.

They lie about the state of Social Security in order to divert funds in the "Wheel of Fortune" on Wall Street.

They lied about WMD's and Al Quaeda connections in order to justify a war.

"No Child Left Behind?" A lie.

"Clear Skies Initiative?" A damned lie.

Lie enough and even when you are telling the truth no one will believe you. Did those troops target that journalist? Was the killing an error by inexperienced soldiers? Did the journalist vehicle inexplicably try and run through a clearly marked checkpoint?

I am quite sure of the result of any investigation -- the reason for the killing will always be in doubt.