Giuliana Sgrena V: The Commissioners' Report
Update: Liberal Avenger is dialoging with a military blogger in Iraq, Dadmanly. In today's post, Dadmanly implies that the US military has taken on the mission of interdicting Italian ransom payments to the insurgents. Do you think he has just let the cat out of the bag? The statement, assuming Dadmanly is not a fraud or a Little Green Quarterback, seems rather damning to me.
The joint commission investigating the Sgrena affair could not agree on a conclusion. The US wants a whitewash and Italians get a political football. Fiorenza Sarzanini of Corriere della Sera reports on the details:
If we can continue to be successful [at] both financial and supply interdiction (think Italian ransom payments...
Rome. The ball is now in Italy’s court. Palazzo Chigi will have to establish what stance to take after the joint commission charged with investigating the death of Nicola Calipari was unable to reach a shared consensus on its conclusions. The two Italian delegates, Ambassador Ragaglini and General Campregher, returned to Rome yesterday night and may file their final conclusions today. In the report itself, contrasts and discrepancies are underscored between the versions of the two survivors of the incident – the SISMI major and reporter Giuliana Sgrena—and the US patrol which opened fire on the vehicle leased by the two intelligence officers, killing Nicola Calipari.
Tomorrow Presidential Undersecretary Gianni Letta is to meet US Ambassador Mel Sembler and deliver Italy’s decision on its course of action. The appraisals and investigations carried out during two months of work did not succeed in clearing the air over the major point of contention: the warnings issed by the US troops before opening fire. The SISMI major has always said that he saw a bright light “as I was in the middle of the curve” and that “at the same time, heard several gunshots”. Mrs. Sgrena backs up his version of events. The US soldiers claim that they first aimed the spotlight, then issued the order to halt and finally opened fire. For US Command, this would mean that the rules of engagement were implemented which can only lead to a single conclusion: “No responsibility can be placed on the members of the patrol”.
This is a finding which the two Italian delegates find unacceptable and will lead to the likelihood that the investigation will be concluded with the issue of two separate reports. The willingness on the part of the US Department of State and the CIA to lend assistance ran into pressure from top officials at the Pentagon, who were worried that a guilty verdict would have a negative impact on US troops deployed to Iraq. It stands to reason, experts underscore, that with morale in mind, the US Command will be absolved of all responsibility as it was in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Because all technical evaluations are in, the question is now keenly political. The Italian government must decide if it will accept the American version, thus setting aside the testimony of the SISMI major which served as the basis of the briefing to Parliament by Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini.
The alternative is to stick with the Italian version of events and to conclude the investigation with a report issued by the two Italian delegates. Several times this week, the pair met with representatives and diplomats from both countries in an attempt to reach an agreement which would not negate the work of the commission in ascertaining what transpired that night on the road between downtown Baghdad and the airport. On March 9, five days after the incident, Undersecretary Letta forwarded a request to the Rome Public Prosecutor, who is managing an investigation into dual charges of voluntary homicide and attempted homicide, “to proceed with the request of the automobile involved in the incident pending the start of the joint commission’s work.” This issue must be dealt with. And it is not the only one. In addition to the requested transfer of custody of the Toyota Corolla, Italian ministry officials requested the name of the twelve members of the US patrol which opened fire. Meanwhile, the automobile could be in Italian hands by next week.
It is even a more complicated matter to obtain the identity of the soldiers. In a letter sent last week to Rome Prosecutor Giovanni Ferrara, the US Department of Justice informed the Italians that “the request will be taken into consideration when the work of the commission has concluded.” But Italian magistrates entertain little hope that the request will be honored. It is likely that in the final report the United States will decide to omit the names, claiming military secrecy. To access the information, it would be necessary to question Ambassador Ragaglini and General Campregher as witnesses. But even in this case, it is impossible to know what the two delegates will decide: to violate military secrecy or accept the US imposition.