No one will probably ever know who was at fault when an Italian security officer was killed by U.S. troops in Iraq after an Italian journalist held captive by the insurgents was rescued by him.
Nicola Calpari died after negotiating a release of journalist Giuliana Sgrena who writes for a Communist newspaper. They were fired on by U.S. soldiers as their car approached the Baghdad airport, Calpari, covering her body, took a shot to the head.
The rescue debacle was the top story over the weekend in Italian newspapers -- the Expresso devoting its first four pages to the news -- and on TV shows.
Angry Italians hailed Calpari as a hero as he was buried Monday in Rome in a state funeral, highlighted by the unusual lighting of the Colosseum over the weekend. The left-leaning daily L'Unita blared in a headline: "Segrena: Why did they fire?" Other papers said the event would have serious political consequences.
A demonstration against the shooting and the Iraq war, among others, was held close to the U.S. Embassy and near the famous Trevi fountain, where the movie "Three Coins in a Fountain" was filmed in better times in 1954. "No one dislikes Americans -- they just don't understand you," said one protestor.
Italy, a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq despite strong domestic opposition to the war, has provided 3,000 troops and resisted growing pressure to pull them out. A clerk at the Morgana Hotel, where we stayed, declared: "I am still trying to figure out why we are there in the first place. It is not our war."
A lot of Americans are trying to figure that out, too. This incident is just one more of the many horrible tragedies that have taken place in this war. Some 1,500 American soldiers have died, some 10,000 wounded or with limbs amputated, and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. The costs to U.S. taxpayers continue to grow beyond $200 billion. The bombings, the killings, the kidnappings, the beheadings, the costs -- there seems to be no end.
The U.S. military said they used hand and arm signals, flashing lights and other visible means to stop the "speeding car" at the roadblock. Journalist Segrene disputes this account, saying it may have been done purposefully because ransom was included, a method disapproved by the American government, a charge ridiculed by top Italian officials.
Whatever the case, the Iraq war has cost this country dearly in European friends. Recent stops in Paris and London show a real disdain for our war policy and for President Bush despite his recent efforts in Europe to modify them.
In London, a movement is under way to impeach Prime Minister Tony Blair because he lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destructuion. The British Financial Times, a newspaper read in the United States as well, devoted a full page to the Blair story Sunday and said it was being led by the growing opposition to an increasingly unpopular prime minister.
Even when investigations of the Italian shooting are completed by both the U.S. government and the Italian authorities, it is doubtful we will know the full story. Maybe no one cares. But surely our hides have not become so thick that we no longer are concerned about life and our image in the world.
What a price we are paying for this war.
Don Mills is a former editor of the Lexington Herald and the Sunday Herald-Leader. He has held a number of public positions including press secretary to former Gov. Edward T. "Ned" Breathitt and executive director of the state Public Service Commission. He has been visiting Europe this month.
© 2005 Courier-Journal