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Journalist's Rescue Amidst The Killing of Italian Hero, Revisited

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Journalist's Rescue Amidst The Killing of Italian Hero, Revisited An old story with new questions, of a Journalist killed and another wounded in an escape from kidnapping, but by American National Guardsmen and with a report from the Military which whitewashes the event, with a story witnesses say are lies. The following tired scenario has worn thin in the telling, too many times. The Pentagon declined to talk with 60 Minutes Wednesday, and the Army issued the following statement the night of the shooting: "Vehicle traveling at high speed refused to stop at a check point." [soldiers] "attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots...when the driver didn't stop the soldiers shot into the engine block which stopped the vehicle." In an interview with 60 minutes host Correspondent Scott Pelley with Italian Journalist Giuliana Sgrena, the facts from her vantage point came out Sunday evening. Italian Journalist Giuliana Sgrena, when Correspondent Scott Pelley, asked about the above report, said, "I think that is a lie." "Let's take this piece by piece," says Correspondent Scott Pelley "Vehicle was speeding." Sgrena answers, "No." Pelley, asks, "Attempted to warn the driver by hand signals." Again Sgrena says," No," "Arm signals. Flashing white lights. Firing warning shots," Scott Pelley asks. "Nothing at all," Sgrena answers. Then Pelley, asks, "What you're saying in this interview is that none of those things happened?" "Nothing. No, I'm sure." She answers. Who am I speaking about? In February, Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena was taken hostage in Iraq. Nearly a month later (28 days), she was rescued by the now famous Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari. Sgrena, Calipari, and their driver all thought they had escaped to safety, but out of nowhere and suddenly an American patrol began firing at their car. Calipari, the Italian national hero, was killed; Sgrena herself was wounded. Although last week President Bush visiting Rome expressed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi his regret in person for the incident, it has placed a pall over the so-called "coalition." How could such a thing occur? The Army is mum on the subject. However, now in her first American TV interview, Sgrena relates to 60 Minute's Correspondent Scott Pelley the fatal rescue that has enraged the Italian people where, with 70% of the population against it, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, none-the-less refuses to remove Italian troops. In Italy, the killing of Nicola Calipari is considered a national tragedy, despite the reality that few Italians knew who he was before the killing and those who did know his name certainly were not aware that he was a secret agent who, over a period of several months, rescued no less than five kidnapped Italians in Iraq. Calipari's last assignment was to be the gallant rescue of female reporter Giuliana Sgrena. Sgrena's captors forced her to make a video in which she was to beg that Italian troops be withdrawn from Iraq. She did plead the case, saying they would kill her if Italy didn't remove its troops from Iraq. Wednesday evening, She told 60 Minutes that she was frightened of being beheaded. She just wanted them to shoot her instead. "I thought I am a woman, so they will kill me with a shot. Not cut me, the throat." The interview between 60 Minutes, Sgrena and her husband took place on the balcony of their Rome apartment a few days after she left the hospital, where she had several surgeries trying to recover from a shoulder gunshot wound. She is a 56 year old a veteran reporter for a communist newspaper, and like most sane people stands against the war and has said as much in her reports. One day in Baghdad, several armed men yanked her out of her car in depositing her in a house as a prisoner. There she made a decision to pretend to be braver and stronger than her captors might expect of a woman. "Sometimes, they told me, 'Why you don't you cry?' Normally, I cry for everything when I am at home,'" she said "And so my kidnappers told me, 'Cry. It will be better for you. Think of your family. So maybe you can cry.'" However, Sgrena would not cry, at all, except once when the kidnappers ordered her to beg her husband, Pier, for help. Her incarceration angered the Italians and a rescue attempt became a national point of honor in Italy. A photo of Sgrena's face draped the city hall in Rome's and the leading Roman soccer team all wore "Liberate Giuliana" jerseys. Oddly enough, her kidnappers happened to see that on TV, and were amazed. The kidnappers demanded that Italy remove it's troops from Iraq. However, Sgrena informed them that their chances were slim. "I told them, 'If you want me to ask to Berlusconi that we withdraw our troops, if not, you kill me. So, do it now'" "'Kill me now," She told them. Berlusconi, however, did not pull his men out of Iraq, and indeed, instead he sent another man to Iraq-the great Nicola Calipari went to the Middle East intending to bargain with those captors of Giuliana Sgrena. Shortly thereafter, the kidnappers came to tell her the good news, "They told me, 'You are going to Rome!'" "I am going to Rome? I couldn't believe." No one knows what, or even if, Calipari offered anything in exchange for Giuliana. The Italians have denied that a ransom was offered. However the kidnappers released her and stuck her blindfolded in a parked car. Her eyes were covered with cotton and sunglasses, and a Babushka-like scarf coveredher head. Very soon after being left she heard a male voice speaking Italian close to her ear, "'Giuliana, Giuliana, I'm Nicola. I am a friend of Gabriele, of Pier. Now you are free. Come, don't be afraid. You are free. You are free.'" "'You are free. You are free.' Yes, and this was really a very, very, it was just so happy, so really for me, it was a new life,", she blurted out. Her heroic rescuer, Nicola Calipari took Sgrena to a car and a second Italian agent was to drive. They quickly began the ride to the airport. Meanwhile, back in Roma, there were cameras in the newsroom as her peers began a celebration at her newspaper Sgrena's paper. Her boss, Gabriele Polo, was called to Prime Minister Berlusconi's office, where he and Sgrena's husband Pier were closely following her rescue. Unfortunately, less than 2500 feet from the airport tragedy struck ...and very hard. The sound of gunfire and the THWACK of bullets piercing the vehicle were sickening. "Seven hundred meters more, and we are in the airport, and we will be safe and we will be in the airport. And in the same moment, started the shooting." Sgrena says that as the vehicle car rounded a turn, driving under 30 miles an hour, several rounds of ammunition and a spotlight hit it. Calipari and Giuliana were sitting in the back seat when the firing began. "He [Calipari] pushed me down and with this, the body, covered me," Sgrena said. "He pushed me down in the car. In addition, I was asking, 'Why?' Nicola doesn't say, he doesn't speak it, doesn't say nothing." Then she heard Calipari's last breath: "I realized that Nicola was dead, without saying anything, nothing, no word, nothing at all," His last act of heroism was to give his life, "No greater love than this hath no man, than that he give his life for a friend." Jesus said that and Nicola Calipari did that. The question is begging to be asked, WHY? Well, the three Italians had come across a checkpoint of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard. The guardsmen had been in Iraq for eight long months, and they had specialized in securing roadblocks. This evening however, it was a raining night and to complicate matters worse, a bomb nearby a few days before killed two battalion soldiers. Bad luck for Nicola Calipari, bad luck for Italy. However, Nicola Calipari had completed his mission with extreme honor and bravery. He was, a man on a mission and he carried it out to perfection, giving his life willingly, in the process. The fly in the ointment is that it was American soldiers, which killed him. American soldiers had liberated Italy with the joy and gratitude of the Italian people-they threw flowers and kisses as our boys entered city after city. Our relatives over there wrote fearful early in the years before the war, that we might soon, be killing each other. The Italians never wanted to fight Americans, they had many relatives over here, and they quickly and willingly surrendered at the first chance in many places in Italy. It was something they had planned. That was what Bush was hoping would happen in Iraq-it did not. There is one sadder footnote to this "war." It has cost the lives of more than 200 journalists thus far and the cost keeps rising, with 5 killed in one day last month. In comparison, there were only two journalists killed throughout WW I, and 68 in WW II, and 77 in Viet Nam.

 

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Professor Bagnolo has majored in: Cultural Anthropology, Architectural design, painting, creative writing. As a child prodigy, abed with polio for almost two years, he was offered an opportunity to skip three grades at age 8.
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