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March 7, 2005
Reality Check For Italian Conspiracy Theorists

The death of an Italian commando and the wounding of Giuliana Sgrena has led to hysterical charges of assassination attempts and war crimes, all of which approach the ridiculous. Michelle Malkin has the best round-up of the media coverage today, including multiple reports that the Italians paid millions of dollars in ransom to free Sgrena -- money that will undoubtedly go towards murdering Iraqis and American soldiers, and certainly a reason to play a little misdirection with an accidental shooting.

The Washington Post provides a look at why Sgrena's car likely got shot in an otherwise rather hostile article by Jeffrey Smith and Ann Tyson:

The automobile was traversing onto a route -- the road to the airport -- where soldiers have been killed in shootings and by roadside bombs. U.S. soldiers had established an impromptu evening checkpoint at the entrance to the road about 90 minutes earlier and had stopped other vehicles. They knew a high-level embassy official would be moving to the airport on that road, and their aim was to support this movement.

But no specific coordination occurred between those involved in Sgrena's rescue and the military unit responsible for the checkpoint, according to the source, who said he cannot be named because the military's investigation into the incident is continuing.

Soldiers at the checkpoint have told U.S. military officers that they flashed lights, used hand signals and fired warning shots in an effort to stop the car, which they believed was traveling at more than 50 mph, a typical speed for that road. But Sgrena, who had just been released by Iraqi captors, recalled later that the car was not traveling very fast and that soldiers started firing "right after lighting" a spotlight -- a decision she said was not justified. Sgrena was wounded by shrapnel in the U.S. barrage.

The absence of advance communication between the Italians and the U.S. soldiers at the checkpoint appears to have put the occupants of the car in grave jeopardy, given what many U.S. officials describe as the military's standard practice of firing at onrushing cars from their checkpoints in Iraq.

"In my view, the main contributing factor was a lack of prior coordination with the ground unit," the source said. "If requested, we would have resourced and supported this mission very differently."

Besides, as a commenter to CQ, ERNurse, noted on an earlier post, the damage done to Sgrena hardly matches up with the kind of ordnance she claims they took from the fire. This describes the kind of damage one would expect to see from armored-vehicle fire:

I was a squad machine gunner many moons ago, and I was issued the trusty dusty M-60.

Let me tell you, that was a kick-*ss weapon. Standard ammo was the 7.62 ball round. No frills, but it was reliable, portable, and powerful.

I have seen what just one M-60 can do to a car with just a couple of ten-round bursts using ball rounds. And the car in question was some old beat-up Chrysler from a local junkyard procured for the purpose by Uncle Sugar, and NOT one of the crappy old K-cars from the Iacocca era. My target was some serious tailfin-sporting by-gawd American steel.

I fired from 50 meters, and I tore that sucker up. I mean I just shredded it. And I used two belts- a couple of hundred rounds. Now, my assistant gunner with his pea-shooter M-16 also put some holes in the car, but they were teensy-weensy, maybe just big enough to stick a pencil through. But still pretty effective. And an M-16's high-velocity round tumbles once it hits something. So while my rounds punched big holes but went on through the other side of the car, the M-16 rounds just flew all around the inside of the car and tore up the interior. It was crazy.

I don't know the specs on the new weapon that our soldiers have, but I will say this: if those troopers had fired half of what that [woman] claims, and at close range at that, she would have wound up looking like bloody hamburger spread all over the rear compartment.

I have yet to see a picture of the actual car, but that really doesn't matter. If only one person in that car was killed, and the [woman] in question is still walking- let alone still equipped with two arms- then there is no way she could be telling the truth, because a squad's worth of firepower would have shredded the El Cheapo tin cans that pass for cars over there.

It appears, so far, that what happened is that the Italians came up to a checkpoint that they hadn't anticipated on a road that is the most dangerous in Iraq. Not sure of who the people were waving for them to stop -- remember, they were still a ways off -- they intended to drive straight through it to get to the checkpoint they knew. The Americans tried warning the car and when it failed to stop, shot out the engine with a few rounds from an M-16 or similar weapon. The rounds bounced through to the interior or missed their intended target and went straight into the cab.

Long-time readers of CQ will probably find some similarity between this incident and one described by a friend of mine, a Special Forces veteran of three decades who worked checkpoints in Iraq last year. In his letter to his group of friends, he describes an encounter at his checkpoint that thankfully resulted in no fatalities:

A Taxi from Baghdad approached our front gate. Unknown to the gate guards, he was carrying one of our translators. He was ordered to slow down. When he didnt comply he was forcefully ordered to stop and get out of his vehicle. In panic he floored his accelerator pedal thinking it was the brake causing his vehicle to lurch forward toward the gate. Appropriately, the gate guards fired eight 5.56 caliber rounds into the taxi.

The vehicle veered off into a field and came to a stop. Miraculously, no one inside was seriously injured by the gunfire. After the vehicle and both Iraqis were searched it was determined that the driver made a near fatal mistake but it was not deliberate.

If the guards were blood thirsty, they could have continued to fire their weapons until they were sure that both Iraqis were dead. But they are professionals and they followed their current ROEs until the car was not a threat and then safely reassessed the situation.

The Italians understandably grieve at the loss of their serviceman in the kind of accidents that occur when communication fails between units. It doesn't give them license to accuse Americans of having an assassination policy, one by the way that would never have allowed Sgrena to leave the shooting site alive, and it definitely should not overshadow the fact that the Italians have started caving in to ransom demands from terrorists. That only guarantees that more hostages will follow and that the terrorists continue to receive funds to commit mass murder on Iraqis.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 7, 2005 7:02 AM

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» Press Frenzy and Italian Idiocy from The Key Monk
Ultimately, this is a colossal screw-up by THE ITALIANS, not the US soldiers. And Sgrena's theory that the US did this because it disapproves of the Italians' policy of paying ransom is just ridiculous on its face -- pure MoveOn-type lunacy. I hope h... [Read More]

Tracked on March 7, 2005 10:36 AM

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