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Thursday, June 22, 2006 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES
2006-06-22

Kidnapped in Iraq, Shot by U.S. Forces: Italian Journalist Giuliana Sgrena Says U.S. Army Destroyed Incident Logs; Wants to Meet Soldier Who Killed the Secret Service Agent Who Saved Her

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We spend the hour with Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena. In February 2005, she was kidnapped in Iraq. She was held for one month and then released. As she was being driven to Baghdad International Airport, the car she was riding in came under fire from U.S. forces. Her escort, Major General Nicola Calipari–Italy’s second highest-ranking military intelligence officer–died in the shooting as he tried to protect her. Sgrena was seriously injured.

The U.S. military has maintained that the shooting was justified and that the car carrying the Italians was traveling at high speeds and refused to stop at a checkpoint. Giuliana Sgrena and the Italian government have denied the U.S. claims. While the Pentagon cleared the troops involved of any wrongdoing, Italian prosecutors are still pursuing the case and requesting the indictment of U.S. Army Specialist Mario Lozano. [includes rush transcript]

In Italy, federal prosecutors are calling for a U.S. soldier from the Bronx to stand trial for the killing of Italy’s second highest-ranking military intelligence officer, Nicola Calipari.

Calipari was the Italian intelligence agent who had traveled to Iraq in March 2005 to help secure the release of Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist who had been kidnapped a month earlier.

Sgrena was in Iraq reporting for the daily Italian newspaper Il Manifesto. She was abducted on February 4, 2005 shortly after interviewing refugees from Fallujah.

She was held for one month. During her time in captivity, a video was recorded of her calling for the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq.

On March 4, 2005 she was released. But her nightmare did not end then.

As she was being driven to Baghdad International Airport, the car she was riding in came under fire. Her escort, Major General Nicola Calipari, died in the shooting, as he tried to protect her. Sgrena was seriously injured herself and required weeks of hospitalization.

The gunfire however came not from Iraqi insurgents but from U.S. soldiers. The shooting made international headlines. Thousands of Italians attended the funeral of Nicola Calipari. It was televised across Italy. He is now remembered as a national hero.

And the shooting remains a source of tension between the Italian and U.S. governments. The U.S. military has maintained that the shooting was justified and that the car carrying the Italians was traveling at high speeds and refused to stop at a checkpoint.

Giuliana Sgrena and the Italian government have denied the U.S. claims. Although the Pentagon cleared the troops involved of any wrongdoing, Italian prosecutors are still pursuing the case.

Just last week an Italian prosecutor requested the indictment of Army Specialist Mario Lozano, a member of the New York National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment.

The U.S. Army, however, is refusing requests to extradite Lozano whose whereabouts are unknown.

Today, Giuliana Sgrena joins us in our Firehouse studio. For the first time since the shooting, she has come to the United States. She has just written a new book titled 'Friendly Fire,' published by Haymarket Books.

  • Giuliana Sgrena, Italian journalist kidnapped in Iraq, rescued by an Italian secret service agent and shot by U.S. forces. She is author of "Friendly Fire."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, Giuliana Sgrena joins us in our Firehouse studio for the hour. For the first time since the shooting, she’s come to the United States. And she’s just written a new book. It’s called Friendly Fire. It’s published by Haymarket Books. It will be out in the fall. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

GIULIANA SGRENA: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. How does it feel to come to New York for the first time?

GIULIANA SGRENA: It’s very [unintelligible]. I was a little bit afraid, I have to say, before coming here, because after what happened to me, it was for me a new step to face after my abduction and after the shooting. But now that I’m here, I’ve found many friends, and I think that it’s very important to be here to tell my story and to let know what happened, not because I want revenge.

We want only to know what happened. We want only the truth, me and the family of Calipari, so it’s just to know, not to scapegoat Mario Lozano — is not that, our goal, because we think that all these things happened because there is a war. So, all these people are involved in the war and also Mario Lozano. So, what we want is just to know more about what happened that night in Baghdad to get aware of the situation, because I think that the American inquiry justified what happened, but the Italian inquiry demonstrated other details of the fact, just examining the car where we were traveling that night.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, interestingly, one of the soldiers who was in the group that night, not Lozano, was interviewed recently in the newspaper that I work at, the New York Daily News, and he again reiterated much of the same information that has come out from the U.S. Army, claiming that the car that you were riding in, that was taking you to the airport, actually failed to stop after numerous warning shots, and it was only then that the soldiers opened fire. Clearly, in your book and in the accounts that the Italian government has pieced together, it’s a very different story.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, it’s very different, and all the experts, Italian, one of the Italian justices that examined the car when it was given us and came to Italy, they could verify from the sequence of the shooting of the bullets to the car, the speed of the car, and in the moment was [inaudible] was 60, 65 kilometers per hour, and not 80 or 90 miles. And they verified also they started to shoot when we were at 100, 130 meters from the — it was not a checkpoint. It was not by patrol. It was not on the road. It was outside the road, in a curve, so it was impossible for us to see them, because they were not on the road and it was dark, and so no signal at all.

And so, they decided that they started to shoot. They shoot to us 58 bullets, and only the last one took the engine of the car, so if they wanted really to stop us they had to shoot the engine of the car and the wheels of the car and not at the passengers. And also, as they shoot at 100 meters, 130 meters, it means that they had no time to give us warning signals and then to start to shoot, so all these elements collected by the experts — they are experts of the Italian justice. They are not from my part or from part of Calipari. So they realized all these elements and that for these reasons that the — just the judge, they ask for a prosecution for a voluntary killing of Calipari and voluntary intent of killing of me and the other agent of the intelligence, Italian intelligence.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was driving the car. Giuliana Sgrena, let me read to you from the New York Daily News exactly what one of the friends of Mario Lozano is saying. He’s with the Manhattan-based 69th Infantry Regiment. He told his friends this week that "he had no idea who was in the car carrying Nicola Calipari, another agent and Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena when the vehicle came toward him en route to Baghdad’s airport on March 4, 2005. Staff Sgt. Edwin Feliciano, a member of Lozano’s platoon who was on the airport road that evening said, 'He was just doing his job. That car was moving too fast. It didn't respond to at least three warnings.’" Feliciano, the other man who was there that night, said about Mario Lozano, "He was devastated. He couldn’t sleep after that. We just had to keep telling him: 'You did what you had to do. You had to do your job.' He felt really bad. We all did."

So, they say that the car was moving too fast, that they fired at least three warnings at the car. You were in the back seat with Calipari?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, I was in the back seat with Calipari, but my testifying and the one of the agent that was driving the car — and I have never met him, and I don’t know him — are the same. So no one, not me nor the other agent, we have seen this warning. So maybe they were so in a tension, because I imagine that the soldiers that are there, they have been there for a long time and they don’t used to stay a long time if they are mobile patrols. They used to stay only 15 minutes, and they were there at least an hour, so I can imagine they were very in tension. And I don’t know if the commander, they knew that the car was carrying us to the airport, but I don’t know if they gave the information to the patrol.

So there are many things that we don’t know and we would like to know. I don’t want to accuse Mario Lozano to know who was in the car and to shoot because he knew that there, there were agents and me. But we want the prosecution just to know, to have more information of what happened, because we gave the information to the commander, the Italian one that was in touch with the American one in the airport, that we were on this road to the airport. And we know that they were monitoring the telephone that we used in the car, the Americans, and they were monitoring the mobile telephone on the satellite.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Because there was an interview of an ex-member of the national agency of security, American one, that it was investigating about Echelon in Europe, that he knew from the friend that the ex-colleague that was in Baghdad that, as usually in a state of war, the military, the Army, they are monitoring all the communication, because, you know, also the insurgents, they use cell phones to make explosions, so they use to monitoring all the cell telephone and also satellite, of course.

And when I was released to my car, there was an American helicopter going around, so I think that they knew. I don’t know if they gave the information to the patrol. I don’t know what the patrol knew, what Lozano knew about that and also the commander of this patrol. So if we want a prosecution, it’s just to know more. I don’t want to say Mario Lozano is responsible, and I think that he’s not — if he shot, he’s not the only responsible of what happened. I think maybe he’s the less responsible of what happened.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, as you say, there were 58 bullets fired at the car, so that indicates at least that there was more than one soldier firing — right? — that there were several.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yeah, there was three rifles.

AMY GOODMAN: Three rifles?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, why are they just saying Mario Lozano?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Because they say that he was the one in charge of the shooting, because in each patrol there is one that is in charge, but he was in charge of warning, of give us all the signals, and to shoot, in the same time. So I think that it was really impossible. We have not seen any warning, and when we saw the light, there was a very strong light, they started to shoot. So it was in the same moment that we received the light and bullets. So I think that it was really impossible to do all these kind of things in the same moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you like to meet Mario Lozano here, while you are here?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, I would like, because I think that it would be useful for me to see, to speak. I don’t want — as I tell you, I am a pacifist, so I don’t hate. I don’t hate Mario Lozano. I don’t hate my kidnappers, because I think that they are victim of this war. But I think that it could be useful for him and for me to have an exchange of opinion. I don’t want to make a case of this, but if it was possible, I think that it will be useful for both to see each other.

AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana Sgrena is our guest for the hour, the Italian journalist who was kidnapped in Iraq, rescued by an Italian secret service agent, and as they made their way to the airport, the agent was killed. Giuliana Sgrena was injured, as was her driver. They were fired on by U.S. forces. We’ll be back with her in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our special guest for the hour is Giuliana Sgrena. She is the Italian journalist whose name became known around the world when she was kidnapped in March of 2005 and then was released. When she made her way to the airport, when people thought that her ordeal was over, her car was shot at by U.S. troops. She was injured and the man who rescued her, number two man in Italian intelligence, was killed. Her driver, also Italian intelligence? Was he Italian intelligence?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: He also was injured. I’m here with Juan Gonzalez.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask you about the man who was killed that day. You had only known him for minutes, in reality, and I’m interested in knowing if you knew how high ranking he was in the Italian intelligence, and also he saved your life, in essence, jumping on you when the shooting started. If you could talk a little about him and his heroism.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. He was number two of the intelligence structure in Italy — the SISMI, it’s called. And when I was waiting for people to come to pick me up, I was wondering who will be and how I can trust in him. And when he came, Nicola Calipari was so human, and he told me, "Giuliana, Giuliana, I’m Nicola. I’m coming to free you and now you are free. Don’t be worry, and we will bring you to the airport and then to Italy." And so, it was really a man that, if I could imagine before, a man of intelligence, I will never thought that he could be like that. But he was really a good man, working for and he did what it was in his possibility to free me, and before me, other Italian hostages, because it was always Nicola Calipari that worked for dealing for our liberation. And before that, he was engaged only on other social issues, also when he was responsible of immigration in Italy. He has another approach, not only a police approach to the question, and that’s why he was celebrated as an hero when he came back from Iraq, not only by the government, not only by the police, but by the people. So, I mean, I discovered that there are people like that also in the intelligence.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m sure in your newspaper before that, in Il Manifesto, you were very critical of Italian intelligence.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Of course.

AMY GOODMAN: Was he involved with the negotiation for the release of the Simonas, the two human rights workers who were kidnapped and released before you?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: And one other question on the issue of what happened that night: Aren’t there Army logs, Army diary, that is kept that night, a record of what happened?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. During, of course, all the commands during the — when there is a patrol, when there is a checkpoint, there is a recording of all what happened during — all the commands, the communication exchange. And when the — there was a commission, inquiry commission, made by Americans, and they accepted two Italian inside this commission, but when they asked where are the taping of this communication, they said, "Oh, normally we destroy them, because we can’t keep all these recording." But if there is a man killed, it’s very strange that the recording of the communication disappeared and there is no sign of this communication, because from that we could know what happened and who was the fail, who was the responsibility.

AMY GOODMAN: They say they destroyed the tapes, everything?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. Because they say, "after" — when finished the duty — "we destroyed."

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, this was a massive event, even for the United States. I mean, here was President Bush’s — one of his closest allies, his Prime Minister Blair of England and the prime minister of Italy, Berlusconi. Calipari was very close personally, as well as professionally, to Berlusconi, and Berlusconi for one of the first times was outraged at Bush, and this was immediate that night.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet they say they destroyed the Army logs, the Army diaries of what happened, the record?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. And they destroyed — when the two Italian named by the Italian government to participate in this commission, they arrived in Baghdad. Also, the place where happened the so-called accident, it was cleaned. No bullet there, nothing at all. And they ask why. Normally, you leave all the place of the crime.

AMY GOODMAN: A crime scene.

GIULIANA SGRENA: They said maybe they can — all the wheel of the —- all of the -—

AMY GOODMAN: Car?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, of the car. So it’s really — I don’t know. It’s something more than hidden the proofs. It’s something that —they think that the Italians, they are stupid, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is the car?

GIULIANA SGRENA: The car now is in Italy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to go back to — obviously, this was one incident in this enormous tragedy that is the invasion and occupation and the war in Iraq, and you were there to try to report on what was happening to the civilians in Iraq. Could you talk a little bit about what you were trying to do in Fallujah and what you found in your reporting before you were kidnapped?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. Usually I was more interested in seeing what was happening behind the fighting, because normally we know the fighting but not what happened behind, and overall about the destruction of Fallujah, as it was really difficult to go to Fallujah at that time. We had the report only of the journalists embedded with the troops. So I was interested to have the stories of people that were in Fallujah or they were refugees but they got the story of other people from there.

So I was going around to look for these people. And before I got some stories in Sadr City by other people that knew, and then they told me that in this mosque, in the campus of the university around the mosque, there were a lot of refugees. And so I went there to get information to interview these people and to get stories. These people were very hostile because they were very against — after this destruction of the city, they were very — they didn’t want to speak. "How we have to speak? You will help us to reconstruct our city. You are here for what? You are [inaudible]," so I tried to explain to them that I wanted only to know the situation, to let know to the people, to the public opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: This was after the siege of Fallujah of November 2004.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of thousands of people forced out of the city.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Not to mention the numbers that were killed inside the city. So these refugees had come to Baghdad and were living around this mosque.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So how did you get into the area even to talk, into this kind of refugee camp?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, before I had to ask the permission of the sheikh of the mosque, the religious man that was helping these people, because that was an organization of the camp, and they told me that I could speak, and even if it was difficult. After a while, when — because they asked me, but if you are a spy. I am not a spy, but I can’t show you that I am not a spy. So if you believe me. Well, if not, don’t speak. And there were a lot of woman that started to speak to me and children and then also men. So they were telling me the story, the stories. Some stories I knew before about the use of this white phosphorus. And another time, in Fallujah always, they told me about the use of napalm. And at the time it seems to be just propaganda of Iraqis, but then the use of napalm was confirmed by the Pentagon.

AMY GOODMAN: Of napalm.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. Even if in a different formula than the one in Vietnam. And also the white phosphorus, it was confirmed by military, by soldiers, American soldiers that were fighting in Fallujah. So it was true. But at the time it was not so known that this kind of weapons were used in Fallujah. But we have seen the image, you know, the picture of people killed in Fallujah, and it seems to be killed by some kind of weapons that were not normal weapons, because you see that maybe they are burned, but that the dresses, they are still normal, not in touch. So, some elements like that. But, I mean —

AMY GOODMAN: So you were investigating this, and then what happened?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: When were you kidnapped?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Just after these interviews, when I tried to go out from the mosque, from the campus of the university, as there is like a checkpoint —

JUAN GONZALEZ: And you were alone or were you with other journalists?

GIULIANA SGRENA: No. I was alone. I was with my translator and my driver. But before, at a certain moment, I found another journalist, a friend of mine, a photographer, and was the one that gave me the information of this place where I could find the refugees, because he used to go there to take pictures. So I was a little bit — I felt sure because also the photographer is here, so there is no problem, even if the situation it was not so comfortable.

And then the photographer left just a quarter of an hour before me, because I had to speak to the sheikh, because he gave me the permission to speak to the people, so I wanted for — it’s normal if some people give you the permission to speak to him and to thanks for this help. And so I spent — me, I spent some quarter of an hour, 20 minutes more than my friend.

And when I left — he was with escort, because he was working for an American matters. So me, I was without escort. I was with my car, but I didn’t feel insecure. And when we left, there was this block they use for control entering and going out, and they are three block of cement, three blocks. And when we arrived at these blocks, two cars — two or three cars, I don’t remember — they were blocking the go out.

AMY GOODMAN: The exit.

GIULIANA SGRENA: The way out. Yes, the exit. And so they stopped us, and it was very difficult to go back, because it’s like a place where they control. And so I — and then I was calling my newspaper to tell them that I did good work and also some friends that were waiting for me, they invited me for lunch in the hotel. And as I was calling, I was a little bit confused when I saw that the driver was escaping and somebody was shooting against him. And then came a very big man and took me from the car and bring me to the other car.

AMY GOODMAN: And that’s how you were kidnapped?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to an excerpt of one of the videotaped messages that you were forced to record during your time in captivity. This was first aired on February 16, 2005, twelve days after you were kidnapped. You spoke in French. We translated the message for our audience.

GIULIANA SGRENA: [translated] My name is Giuliana, and I work for the newspaper, Manifesto. I arrived in Iraq at the end of January to report on the situation in Iraq. The situation is terrible here. The people don’t have enough means to survive on a daily basis. Thousands of people are in prison — children, the elderly. Women get raped, and people die everywhere in the streets. They don’t have anything to eat anymore. No electricity, no water.

I beg you, please end this atrocity. I’m asking the Italian government. I’m asking the Italian people who have been opposing the war and the occupation to put pressure on the government. I’m asking my husband, please help me. Please do whatever is possible to help me. Put pressure on the government. Ask the government to end the occupation. Please rally our friends who, like us, have been against the war and the occupation. These people don’t want the occupation. They don’t want any foreigners, including Italians.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Giuliana Sgrena in captivity. When we come back from our break, we’ll ask her about the making of this videotape and the others she did while in captivity.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn back to Giuliana Sgrena. She has written a book about her experience. It’s called Friendly Fire: The Remarkable Story of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq, Rescued by an Italian Secret Service Agent and Shot by U.S. Forces . And she has come to the United States for the first time since her kidnapping and her release. I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Giuliana, before the break, we were talking about your capture by your kidnappers. Could you talk to us a little bit about that period in captivity? And we’ve seen one of the videotapes that you made while in captivity. Was the group ever identified, that held you during that time? And talk to us about the process that they had to get you to make these videotapes.

GIULIANA SGRENA: No, the group, it was not identified, because they put just Mujahideen Without Borders when they released this video, but was the first time that this name appeared and they never appeared again, so I think that was just to put something there and just a joke. And because I think that maybe they will be a part of another network of groups, but I don’t know, but they were not, for example, part of the terrorist groups of al-Zarqawi. They were a group, I think, part of the resistance, Iraqi resistance. I make a difference between terrorism, group of terrorists and group of resistors, because they have different goals. And about my staying there, my captivity, I can say that in some way I was treated as a war prisoner. It seems to me that they have some rules to —

AMY GOODMAN: Rules about prisoners of war?

GIULIANA SGRENA: About prisoners of war, because I was well treated from the material point of view, so I had food. I had medicines, if I need medicines. But, of course, I had no freedom, because I was closed in a small room and, as in Baghdad, there is no electricity. Only two or three hours a day there is electricity, so I was always in dark. I have nothing to write. I have even no watch to know what time it was. So it was very hard, even if I was not so —

AMY GOODMAN: And the statements you were making on these videotapes.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: One just showing there, another showing in front of you a lot of fruit and food, but behind you the armed soldiers.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Ah, the second one, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And that one that we played, by the way, was from February, because, of course, you were released in early March. The statements you made.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yeah. Of course, the first one I discussed a lot with them, because it was at the beginning of my kidnapping, so I wanted to really know who they were, and also I didn’t want to make a speech that was all "Berlusconi, withdraw the troops; if not, they will kill me," because it was too closed a message, and I tried to discuss with them, and they allowed me to make a more articulated, we can say, message. In the second —

AMY GOODMAN: Did you speak Arabic?

GIULIANA SGRENA: A little bit but not enough to speak with them in Arabic to understand something.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you communicate with them?

GIULIANA SGRENA: In English and in French, and sometimes also in Arabic with my guards, because I could understand sometimes, but I couldn’t answer, so we could arrange also with Arabic, because they speak Arabic. I studied classical Arabic, and they speak the Iraqi language but — so we could manage also a little bit with Arabic.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What had happened to the translator? I know you mentioned that the driver ran when they kidnapped you. What happened to the translator?

GIULIANA SGRENA: The translator was interrogated by the Americans two or three days and then was released, and the driver was detained by the Iraqi police, because he denounced that they stole the car, and so he was detained himself. It’s so strange in Iraq.

And so, to go back to the second tape, it was — so they asked me to say — they told me before, "For us, it’s finished. The question is closed. Just we have to arrange something for your release, but in one or two days you will go back to Rome. So you have to say that you were well treated and not threatened, and you were — " so they wanted to show that I was well treated.

But, of course, I couldn’t decide what to say. They told me what to say. And I had beside me two men with Kalashnikov, Koran, and so making an appeal. So I didn’t understand really what they said before my taping. So I was worried, because I was so worried that I could couldn’t understand even the word that normally I understand in Arabic, because it was reading like a proclaimer with a lot of religious formulas, and so I was very worried, even if they told me, "You will go to Rome in one or two days." And then I spent five days more there, and then I really went.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you think during your month in captivity you would be killed?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, many times. Yes. They didn’t tell me, "We will kill you." They told me, "We don’t want to kill you, but in case there is some intervention to free you, probably you will be killed." Or when we they told me, "Now, you will go back to Rome," but this is a very difficult moment, and I was aware that was a very difficult moment because when you have to be transferred from a place to another, it’s very difficult. And so they told me that I was in a car full of explosive. So if something had been — if a patrol, an Iraqi one or an American one stopped us and I gave some signal that I was or they realized that I was the journalist kidnapped, there will be fire. They will open the fire, and we’ll all explode.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Did you have any indication of what the Italian government or others were doing behind the scenes to be able to get you freed?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I knew at a certain point that there was a negotiation, because I sent a proof in life. I wrote the letter, and they sent my watch to prove that I was in there. And I asked sometimes to my guards, and they told me that, yes, there is some negotiation. And I asked them also what happened in Italy, and they told me in Italy there are your photos everywhere, there are people in the street, "Berlusconi No, Giuliana Si," so just they —

AMY GOODMAN: The signs said, "Berlusconi No, Giuliana Yes"?

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes. "Berlusconi No, Giuliana Yes." And also when they were very excited when the captain of football Italian teams, they went to play, they came with a t-shirt with written "Free Giuliana." So this, for them, was very exciting.

AMY GOODMAN: Did Berlusconi, did the Italian government pay for your release?

GIULIANA SGRENA: I don’t know. But I don’t know if they paid, but I know that there was also a political discussion, I mean, that I was also — it was a political kidnapping. It was not — if there was also a part of money, I don’t know, but there was also political side.

JUAN GONZALEZ: When you say a political side, when you got back to Italy, did you get a sense of how — what the impact of how Berlusconi and the Italian government reacted afterwards, whether this had an impact further on what eventually became the elections recently there?

GIULIANA SGRENA: But I think that in this case, as I was a journalist of a very left newspaper, and Berlusconi and the government decided to do everything possible for my freedom, so they decided to discuss with my husband — he’s not my husband, but — and the director of my newspaper, everything, every step of the dealing of the moving towards my liberation, and that they couldn’t do it hidden, because we are at — everybody knows that we were against the government. And so it was a very clear dealing, and so the government was dealing with people to get my freedom, and in the same time my newspaper and the left in Italy, the pacifist movement, were organizing themselves to protest and to make mobilization for my freedom. And the slogan was very — it can explain. It was "Free Giuliana, Free Iraq."

AMY GOODMAN: "Free Giuliana, Free Iraq."

GIULIANA SGRENA: So this was the synthesis of the work they did together and separately.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to the White House press spokesperson to the shooting. In May, Scott McClellan, who was then the White House press spokesperson, was talking about an Army investigation that determined the incident was "a tragic accident." A Pentagon press release at the time declared the shooting to be "wholly unintentional and not attributable to negligence by the soldiers." The investigation was done by Brigadier General Peter Vangjel. We invited him to join us on the program, but the Pentagon told us he wasn’t giving interviews at this time. This is what White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said just days after you and Calipari were shot. He was killed by U.S. forces.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: This road that we’re talking about, this road is one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq. It is the road that leads to the Baghdad airport. It is a road where suicide bombers have carried out attacks. It is a road where regime elements have fired on coalition forces.

HELEN THOMAS: Was it lack of communication, that they never got the word at the checkpoint that this car was coming?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: I wanted to finish a couple of points. Our men and women in uniform are in a combat zone. This is a dangerous area. Oftentimes they are having to make split-second decisions in order to protect their own security and safety. And we appreciate the job that they’re doing. They go out of their way to protect civilians and avoid civilian casualties.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Scott McClellan, the White House press spokesperson right after the shooting, days after. Your response?

GIULIANA SGRENA: But what I can say is that, of course, the situation in Baghdad is danger. In this road is danger, but the insurgent can reach these places only by mortars and not by shooting. The mobile patrol has been keeping there for a long time, so this is unusual. So I think that there was something behind that that is not normal, even in a situation that is not normal. I mean that if they keep this mobile patrol for a long time and the captain, the commander on this patrol was asking, "We have to leave. We will be attacked if we stay here too much time. We have to move. Never we stay here so much time." And they told him, "You have to stay there," and this was the last call at 8:30. They told him, "You have to stay there because in 20 minutes will come the convoy of Negroponte." And at 8:30, we had already called the commander in the airport to say that we were on that road, and Negroponte has arrived to where he has to go in the airport, because —

AMY GOODMAN: He was the ambassador at the time.

GIULIANA SGRENA: Yeah, the ambassador, the U.S. ambassador — because that night he went to a meeting or to a dinner in the airport area. He arrived in the house at ten to 8:00, and the escort communicated to the commander that Negroponte entered the house at ten to 8:00, and he will come back in helicopter because the weather was getting better.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. I want to thank you very much for being with us, Giuliana Sgrena. We’ll be doing a public interview with you on Friday night at Columbia University, Lerner Hall. Giuliana Sgrena’s forthcoming book is called Friendly Fire: The Remarkable Story of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq, Rescued by an Italian Secret Service Agent and Shot by U.S. Forces.

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