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Foxy Knoxy and the Flying Marines

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Amanda Knox, the 22 year old American undergrad studying in Perugia, Italy, has been found guilty of murder in the slaying two years ago of her British roommate, and sentenced to 26 years in prison. It's hard to imagine a more unlikely "perp" or a less likely outcome.

Amanda, who had worked three jobs to pay for her trip to Italy, had no history of violence and was shocked, after she volunteered to try to help the police, to find herself interrogated late into the night and physically abused to coerce a confession that the police, in time-honored and apparently international police fashion, decided to get from her.

There was no physical evidence linking her to the murder. The man whose DNA and blood were found all over the scene had already been found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 30 years.

The case against her was based on ephemeral evidence that must have seemed fantastical even to the Italian authorities. For example, the blanket thrown over the body, which prosecutors said would have been done by a woman, not a man, therefore made her guilty. Or because, they said, there had to be more than one murderer. Her lapses during the interrogation were turned into proof of guilt rather than the mistakes of a frightened, novice scapegoat. They concocted a tale of sex, drugs and violence that any fiction writer would have envied, and the British and Italian tabloids lapped it up.

As the character assassination grew more lurid, the tabloids created an alter ego for Amanda whom they named Foxy Knoxy, a promiscuous, drug addicted and drunken party girl. The young woman they put on trial was Foxy Knoxy, and neither Amanda nor her attorneys could help her.

The jury was not sequestered. The case was tried by a panel of judges and the verdict, we hear, was not unanimous. Nevertheless, unless an appeals court overrules the lower court, Amanda Knox will be living a nightmare for the next 26 years at the expense of the citizens of Italy who, by all accounts, are more than willing to pay the cost of housing her in their prison system

What is going on here? The conviction of this girl was such a transparent travesty that it seems clear that something else must be happening, as though the anger directed against her belonged somewhere else.

When it came to the facts, the guilt or innocence of Amanda Knox was not actually on trial. It's more likely that she was a stand-in for long simmering rage in Italy against the U.S. military residing there.

At the end of WWII American soldiers took up permanent residence in Italy, Germany and Japan. It was the real, in earnest, beginning of the American empire which has since expanded to virtually every corner of the globe.

While host governments rationalize the financial benefit provided by the U.S. military, local citizens generally have an unadulterated and undisguised antipathy. It is they who are up close and personal with the daily reports of drunken brawling, rape, murder and property destruction, as well as the arrogance and disdain of foreign youth wearing uniforms who treat them with a profound sense of entitlement and disrespect.

No place has been more vocal about their hatred of the chaos that accompanies American military occupation than the residents of Okinawa, Japan. With good reason, they are so adamant that the Americans go somewhere, anywhere, else that it has even made news in the U.S.

Despite the best, and usually successful, efforts of the military to cover up crimes committed by soldiers against local residents, the only people left in the dark are Americans. The citizenry of every country housing U.S. soldiers is well aware of atrocities committed by mostly young men who commit criminal acts and are abruptly shipped home and beyond the reach of local authorities. Our military makes every effort to protect American soldiers from the consequences of their own behavior.

And that's what they did with the incident of February 3, 1998, in Cavalese, an alpine ski town in Northern Italy.

That was the day that marine pilots flying at 500 to 600 miles an hour and 260 feet off the ground sliced the cable of a gondola carrying 20 skiers down a mountain in the Alps. No one on the gondola survived. The dead suffered horrific injuries and could only be identified from the effects they were carrying.

The plane few back to base where the pilots initially feigned surprise that they had caused any damage. It was the Who, me? defense.

Both the plane's speed and low altitude were violations of military policy, as was the pilot's destruction of the cockpit video. The deaths caused by the pilot's hot-dogging were violations of Italian law.

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Cameron Salisbury is a biostatistician, epidemiologist and grant writer living in Atlanta.
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