April 11, 2007

Some Are More Precious Than Others

The Italian government endured international criticism for freeing five Taliban fighters last month for one of its journalists after his abduction. When Romano Prodi got Afghanistan to deal for Daniele Mastrogiacomo's release, Prodi defended their actions by noting that "the life of a person is very precious," and that the exceptional circumstance "will never happen again." The Italians proved they were as good as their word by apparently leaving Mastrogiacomo's translater behind -- for the Taliban to murder:

The government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi came under fierce attack on Monday after the Taliban said it had killed an Afghan hostage who was a colleague of the Italian journalist freed last month in a prisoner swap.

That journalist, Daniele Mastrogiacomo of La Repubblica, was freed on March 19 in exchange for five Taliban fighters released by the Afghan government. Italy had lobbied Afghanistan to make a deal. At the time, the Italian government spokesman said, “We think that the life of a person is very precious.”

But on Sunday, the Taliban said it killed Mr. Mastrogiacomo’s translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi, after failing to arrange another prisoner swap. Taliban fighters had already killed the men’s driver.

At the time, the Italians insisted that they were only following the policies of the Silvio Berlusconi government before it. However, a charity group now claims that Prodi paid the Taliban $2 million to release another Italian journalist in October. That makes the claim of a "special case" for Mastrogiacomo somewhat less credible. The Italians will pay ransoms, and so the Taliban keeps kidnapping Italians as a result.

This has caused Prodi some political problems back home. Not only are they unhappy about enabling kidnappers, but they object to the rather callous decision by Prodi not to insist on including the journalists' co-workers in the deal. The opposition claims that the Prodi government rushed to free an "A-league" hostage but left the 'second-class" victims to their fate.

It probably didn't hurt that the Italians in question both worked as journalists. Berlusconi made the same decision with reporter Giuliana Sgrena in 2005, widely considered to have been freed for ransom. The Italians hid the deal from the American military in Iraq and tried to run past a checkpoint, and their intelligence chief, Nicola Calipari, wound up dead from a sentry's shot into the car.

Both Berlusconi and Prodi seem to favor ransoming reporters; can anyone guess why? Whatever the reason, Ajmal Naqshbandi didn't have the same precious value.

UPDATE: Wrong pronoun -- Mastrogiacomo is a male, not a female. Thanks to CQ reader Turner for the correction.


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Comments (4)

Posted by patrick neid [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 11, 2007 5:43 AM

par for the course.

who doesn't love italian fashion, food, movies, some furniture and a lot of their women but when it comes to being an ally you have got to be kidding. a casual perusal of their history would warn anyone off. their game ended will the fall of the roman empire. since then they have been next to useless........

Posted by Cousin Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 11, 2007 11:53 AM

This is really precious considering that Italy is about to try the American servicemen who fired the shots that killed Calipari in absentia. Maybe the U.S. needs to kidnap some Italian journalists so we can get in better standing with the Italian government.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 11, 2007 9:40 PM

I guess it was alright when the US freed that Iranian so Iran would free the 15 Brit sailors. Oh. Thats different I guess.

Posted by Stefania [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 13, 2007 6:19 AM

Point well-taken. As one of the few Italians disgusted at the behavior of the Italian governments (let's not forget that it's almost 50 years that the govts here appease terrorists), I agree with the whole post and add that I support US soldier Mario Lozano.

Also, pls remember that Emergency is not a 'charity' organization: the Afghan secret services recently accused them with having ties to the Taliban and even Al-Qaeda there. Also, Emergency is a communist-stalinist organization, whose leader Gino Strada often compares Bush to Bin Laden and even considers the former worst than the latter.

Rahmatullah Hanefi, one of the collaborators of Emergency, said to have "helped" in the deal with the Taliban to release Mastrogiacomo, is now detained in an Afghan prison for being a Taliban himself and even involved in the kidnapping.
Nevertheless, the Italian government is calling for his release in the very same way it has defended the terrorist Abu Omar.