Black & Right » 2005 » March

Sometimes it’s not easy to avoid popular group-think.

No matter what we try to do to make the world better, why are we seemingly always sucker-punched by (as it would turn out) some of the most ungrateful, selfish, ignorant, spiteful, and uncooperative of people. And some still have the nerve to ask why some of us are feeling more and more isolationist.

How many times is America expected to come to the aid during a natural disaster (see “Act of God”) and make the boo-boo stop hurting… NOW!? Then they complain why we didn’t use our transporter beams to get-the-people-out/get-the-aid-on-the-ground faster. How many times is America expected to take action, not sit back, watch, and “discuss” during meaningless and time-wasting months at the United Nations? And how many times do we end up getting stabbed in the back, with thousands of people taking time out of their lives to take to the streets and protest the one country in the world that stands between them and certain anarchy?

That is, unless you lived in a totalitarian police state. This is not speculation, seeing how people live within those kind of environments today.

What would the world, as we know it, be like without an America that’s willing to sacrifice it’s young so others can walk across the street and not be strafed with assault weapons, or be blown to bits by a car bomb left by people who don’t like how you pray? What would the world be like… for you women who hate the United States so much?

Half of you women journalists from outside the United States would be at home right now with a child feeding from your breast (because you couldn’t afford formula) in a room or two with four or so more roaming about. Your dream of being a journalist was probably (literally) taken away when your husband beat the shit out of you for even implying you could have a life.

THAT’s because of an America that can say “No!”

My Truth
Women don’t belong in combat areas. Sure, I say this as a Cold War “peacetime” veteran, but even though they are competent to do the job, when captured, they can be used in ways that make kidnappers drool.

There is a very simple and logical reason why the United States’ official policy is to not negotiate with terrorists. If the captive is a woman, it’s a bonus for the bad guys. Sorry, ladies but at certain time of the month, a trained detainer could turn you into a pile of mush at will, and would certainly have you crying (like a Korean male) with a dirty look. You’d sell out your country in front of a video camera.

The United States doesn’t deal with terrorists because if you pay them this time, you’ve created a market. Ever notice how all of our national news anchors all made a sweeps appearance in Iraq? If someone kidnapped Dan Rather, he’d be on his own….

If we did “pay” to have Dan released, no American anchor would be safe.

With American policy as it is, Rather, Brokaw, and Jennings aren’t worth the effort. Think about it. Who does Giuliana Sgrena think she is? She told us in a narrative that she sure whipped together quickly for the communist Italian publication Il Manifesto, called “My Truth.”

“I’m still in the dark. Friday was the most dramatic day of my life. I had been in captivity for many days. I had just spoken with my captors. It had been days they were telling me I would be released. I was living in waiting for this moment. They were speaking about things that only later I would have understood the importance of. They were speaking about problems ‘related to transfers.'”

This reporterette was captured by Iraqi insurgents and was used almost immediately as a public relations wedge between America and her enemies, liberal and domestic. She was all over CNN crying, “pleading for her life.” Now while I understand she was scared, she failed to understand that actions that could free her, could put bulls eyes on every Italian on the ground, in any hot spot worldwide.

I’m guessing the “security agent” who later died bringing her to safety, probably paid off the terrorist with cash donated by an unknown Italian millionaire. After all, would you send a million or so dollars in cash via FedEx?

What’s amazing (not really) in the tone of her “Truth” is how much of this is all about her. Her harrowing ordeal written in diary form is if anything, a sympathy piece, delivered in mushy first person. This would have never happened in America. Sgrena would be holding onto all the details until she got the best agent to in turn get the best book and movie deals.

“I learned to understand what was going on by the behavior of my two guards, the two guards that had me under custody every day. One in particular showed much attention to my desires. He was incredibly cheerful. To understand exactly what was going on I provocatively asked him if he was happy because I was going or because I was staying. I was shocked and happy when for the first time he said, “I only know that you will go, but I don’t know when.” To confirm the fact that something new was happening both of them came into my room and started comforting me and kidding: “Congratulations they said you are leaving for Rome.” For Rome, that’s exactly what they said.”

They were nice terrorists.

After all, the were only trying to drive out those evil Americans. Evil people who wanted Iraqis to have the opportunity to vote for someone other than Saddam Hussein. Evil Americans who made it possible for women to vote. Vote? What the hell is vote…?

Evil Americans who wanted to spread some convoluted concept called “democracy.” Her captives were “comforting.”

One of many questions for Giuliana: if the captors were indeed that nice, why did they take you at gunpoint against your will and threaten to kill you? Your tearful exhibition on our cable news stations demonstrated a wee bit of angst. Just an observation….

“I experienced a strange sensation because that word evoked in me freedom but also projected in me an immense sense of emptiness. I understood that it was the most difficult moment of my kidnapping and that if everything I had just experienced until then was “certain,” now a huge vacuum of uncertainty was opening, one heavier than the other.”

No shit. That’s what happens when you’re kidnapped. People who do that kind of thing, and this may seem judgmental, usually aren’t very nice. Yes, you’ll feel a sense of emptiness when the world that apparently revolves around you is taken out of your control, but in times like that some people reflect and see things differently.

Yet, there are always exceptions, right Giuliana?

“I changed my clothes. They came back: ‘We’ll take you and don’t give any signals of your presence with us otherwise the Americans could intervene.’ It was confirmation that I didn’t want to hear; it was altogether the most happy and most dangerous moment. If we bumped into someone, meaning American military, there would have been an exchange of fire.”

Let’s see if we can understand this logic: the kidnappers wanted her to keep quiet and not alert the Americans. She was finally going home, but those evil Americans could muck up the works. Obviously she must have known that someone had paid her ransom. She was happy and scared.

As I wrote earlier, since it was always just about her, she failed to grasp the enormity of what had taken place. From this day forward, every Italian journalist will become part of the terror infrastructure. An abduction would mean funding for several more days and/or weeks. Ransom money could pay for more explosives that could be placed under cars to kill American soldiers, Iraqi police and civilians, at random.

Yes, a “most happy and most dangerous moment.”

“My captors were ready and would have answered. My eyes had to be covered. I was already getting used to momentary blindness. What was happening outside? I only knew that it had rained in Baghdad. The car was proceeding securely in a mud zone. There was a driver plus the two captors. I immediately heard something I didn’t want to hear. A helicopter was hovering at low altitude right in the area that we had stopped. “Be calm, they will come and look for you… in 10 minutes they will come looking for.” They spoke in Arabic the whole time, a little bit of French, and a lot in bad English. Even this time they were speaking that way.”

Okay, so far so good.

“Then they got out of the car. I remained in the condition of immobility and blindness. My eyes were padded with cotton, and I had sunglasses on. I was sitting still. I thought what should I do. I start counting the seconds that go by between now and the next condition, that of liberty? I had just started mentally counting when a friendly voice came to my ears “Giuliana, Giuliana.

I am Nicola, don’t worry I spoke to Gabriele Polo (editor in chief of Il Manifesto). Stay calm. You are free.” They made me take my cotton bandage off, and the dark glasses. I felt relieved, not for what was happening and I couldn’t understand but for the words of this “Nicola.” He kept on talking and talking, you couldn’t contain him, an avalanche of friendly phrases and jokes. I finally felt an almost physical consolation, warmth that I had forgotten for some time.”

Again as much as I shouldn’t be, I’m amazed at the total lack of an observation outside of how she felt. Sure, with a title like “My Truth” it should be expected. But it’s all “I” and no attempt to show any side of her besides that of a helpless, quivering, self-centered female.

No one forced her to go to a war zone. I’m sure, judging from her tone, that she expected to just be able to stroll into the middle of a firefight knowing they would never accidentally hit her. Probably the last thing going through her mind would be that she was freed because she appeared on television as a pitiful, crying woman.

Up until that point, Giuliana was pretty much unscathed. No one felt the need to beat the crap out of her like Jessica Lynch. Lynch probably resisted; Sgrena seemingly would sell out every man, woman, and child to save her butt.

In retrospect, maybe she did.

“The car kept on the road, going under an underpass full of puddles and almost losing control to avoid them. We all incredibly laughed. It was liberating. Losing control of the car in a street full of water in Baghdad and maybe wind up in a bad car accident after all I had been through would really be a tale I would not be able to tell. Nicola Calipari sat next to me.

The driver twice called the embassy and in Italy that we were heading towards the airport that I knew was heavily patrolled by U.S. troops. They told me that we were less than a kilometer away… when… I only remember fire. At that point, a rain of fire and bullets hit us, shutting up forever the cheerful voices of a few minutes earlier.”

Let’s try and find some perspective here.

Without the unofficial intervention of a wealthy civilian in a war zone, special agent Nicola Calipari would still be alive today. And if you accept the fact that the terrorists have become more media-savvy, chances are they would never execute a helpless woman who cried on television. Talk about pissing off the world. That kind of action the insurgents wouldn’t need. So if I were a betting man, if the terrorists knew they wouldn’t get a dime for Giuliana, they’d probably let her go eventually.

After all, she has nothing but good things to say about them. It’s those damn Americans and their irrational policy of non-negotiation with kidnappers that’s Giuliana’s problem.

“The driver started yelling that we were Italians. “We are Italians, we are Italians.”

Hopefully that wasn’t sung to the Queen melody…

“Nicola Calipari threw himself on me to protect me and immediately, I repeat, immediately I heard his last breath as he was dying on me. I must have felt physical pain. I didn’t know why. But then I realized my mind went immediately to the things the captors had told me. They declared that they were committed to the fullest to freeing me but I had to be careful, “the Americans don’t want you to go back.” Then when they had told me I considered those words superfluous and ideological. At that moment they risked acquiring the flavor of the bitterest of truths, at this time I cannot tell you the rest.”

So Giuliana’s rescuer shielded her with his body. Quite the noble gesture. Seems like a lot of people are over in Iraq risking their lives, yet this reporterette decided to accept the opinion offered by someone who took and held her against her will. You know, if her account was published prior to her rescue, her captor might be right. Of course we wouldn’t want her dead, but it’s not like she’d be given a ticker-tape parade.

Then again, we are talking about Italy. Maybe she would.

“This was the most dramatic day. But the months that I spent in captivity probably changed forever my existence. One month alone with myself, prisoner of my profound certainties. Every hour was an impious verification of my work, sometimes they made fun of me, and they even stretch as far as asking why I wanted to leave, asking me stay. They insisted on personal relationships. It was them that made me think of the priorities that too often we cast aside. They were pointing to family. “Ask your husband for help,” they would say. And I also said in the first video that I think you all saw, “My life has changed.” As Iraqi engineer Ra’ad Ali Abdulaziz of the organization “A Bridge For Baghdad”, who had been kidnapped with the two Simones had told me “my life is not the same anymore.” I didn’t understand. Now I know what he meant. Because I experienced the harshness of truth, it’s difficult proposition (of truth) and the fragility of those who attempt it.”

Yes Giuliana, it’s all about you.

Many young Americans have fellow soldiers who have been wounded and/or killed in Iraq, but she should have been more aware of the situation when YOUR car came whizzing toward a checkpoint with a driver shouting “We are Italians.” If he could say that, then he should have been able to understand the word “stop.”

The man who rescued her is dead, yet all she thinks about is how everything is affecting her.

“In the first days of my kidnapping I did not shed a tear. I was simply furious. I would say in the face of my captors: “But why do you kidnap me, I’m against the war.” And at that point they would start a ferocious dialogue. “Yes because you go speak to the people, we would never kidnap a journalist that remains closed in a hotel and because the fact that you say you’re against the war could be a decoy.” And I would answer almost to provoke them: “It’s easy to kidnap a weak woman like me, why don’t you try with the American military.” I insisted on the fact that they could not ask the Italian government to withdraw the troops. Their political go-between could not be the government but the Italian people, who were and are against the war.”

One of the most profound statements she made during her account is the admission that she is a weak woman. Funny how brave she claims she was when they kidnapped her. I wonder how many times she must of asked her captors, “Do you know who I am?!”

“It was a month on a see-saw shifting between strong hope and moments of great depression. Like when it was a first Sunday after the Friday they kidnapped me, in the house in Baghdad where I was kept, and on top of which was a satellite dish they showed me the Euronews Newscast. There I saw a huge picture of me hanging from Rome City Hall. I felt relieved.

Right after though the claim by the Jihad that announced my execution if Italy did not withdraw the troops arrived. I was terrified. But I immediately felt reassured that it wasn’t them. I didn’t have to believe these announcements, they were “provocative.” Often I asked the captor that from his face I could identify a good disposition but whom like his colleagues resembled a soldier: “Tell me the truth. Do you want to kill me?”

I wonder if she showed some leg….

“Although many times there have been windows of communications with them. “Come watch a movie on TV” they would say while a Wahabi roamed around the house and took care of me. The captors seemed to me a very religious group, in continuous prayer on the Koran. But Friday, at the time of the release, the one that looked the most religious and who woke up every morning at 5 a.m. to pray incredibly congratulated me shaking my hand, a behavior unusual for an Islamic fundamentalist — and he would add “if you behave yourself you will leave immediately.” Then an almost funny incident. One of the two captors came to me surprised both because the TV was showing big posters of me in European cities and also for Totti. Yes Totti. He declared he was a fan of the Roma soccer team and he was shocked that his favorite player went to play with the writing “Liberate Giuliana” on his T-shirt.”

Why is she spending so much time reminding us that the terrorists that made her cry and beg for her life on worldwide television aren’t so bad after all?

They were soccer fans!

“I lived in an enclave in which I had no more certainties. I found myself profoundly weak. I failed in my certainties; I said that we had to tell about that dirty war. And I found myself in the alternative either to stay in the hotel and wait or to end up kidnapped because of my work. We don’t want anyone else anymore. The kidnappers would tell me. But I wanted to tell about the bloodbath in Fallujah from the words of the refugees. And that morning the refugees, or some of their leaders would not listen to me. 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: “We don’t want anybody why didn’t you stay in your home. What can this interview do for us?” The worse collateral effect, the war that kills communication was falling on me. To me, 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. Now I ask myself. Is their refusal a failure?”

“I who risked everything….”

I’m going to wrap this up because this is growing more disgusting the more I read. Fortunately, her “column” ended there.

Because the United States and Italy refuse to negotiate with terrorist kidnappers, and because she was the captive, Giuliana Sgrena believes President Bush and the Americans wanted her dead. She’s even said as much, to which the official U.S. Response is “absurd.”

What is absurd is that here is another lame excuse for an objective journalist. At least she saved her anti-war diatribe until after her sorry butt was extracted from Iraq.

And news flash: elections did happen in Iraq, Giuliana.

The only failure in this equation is hers. She believes her rescue, despite her nation’s policy, was some kind of humanitarian victory. The real victim in this whole episode is Special Agent Nicola Calipari, who paid for Giuliana’s freedom with his life. He followed orders; Giuliana felt that an exception should be made for her.

I wonder how many Italian journalists feel more at ease in Iraq today. The insurgents will avoid Americans like the plague, but it pays to kidnap an Italian.

Just ask Giuliana.