FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Shooting Sgrena

 

Giuliani Sgrena was wounded by US soldiers not long after being freed from her guerrilla fighter captors in Iraq. This incident put her on the front pages of newspapers around the world. In addition, it put her in the hospital and her rescuer six feet under. Of course, no apologies were forthcoming from the US military or Embassy. Instead, a series of excuses and lies were issued, while any evidence pointing to US culpability was destroyed. The good news is that Ms. Sgrena survived to tell her story. As my daughter exclaimed after she read the book jacket of my copy of Sgrena’s story: “Man, she really had an adventure! It sounds like the Americans wanted to get her.” Indeed, the story within the pages of Friendly Fire is quite an adventure. In addition, the text, just published in an English translation by Haymarket Books of Chicago, USA, is a reflection on captivity, the motivation of her kidnappers, the meaning of her journalistic work, and the situation in occupied Iraq.

Her gratitude to the forces that freed her is apparent throughout the book, as is her ambivalence about her captors. Although she never yields to their rationale for kidnapping her, she does acknowledge the tactic as one with some military and political value. Although she never seems to understand fully that all Westerners are potential hostages merely because of their nations of origin, Sgrena admits that her kidnapping was important in that it provided the Iraqi resistance with a forum to express their opposition to their nation’s occupation. In addition, the response to the kidnapping in Italy provided Italians and other non-Iraqis opposed to the occupation a means to express their opposition while supporting the release of the hostages. This was best expressed in the slogan Free Iraq! Free Giuliani! that appeared in rallies across Italy. With this statement, any pro-occupation sentiment in the movement to free Sgrena was effectively sidelined.

Like many other hostage tales, there are moments of true human interaction between the hostage and her captors. Interestingly enough, but not surprisingly, some of these moments occur during various soccer matches that are watched by the kidnappers. Although Sgrena is anything but a sports fan, her Italian nationality gives her credence if only because of one of the kidnappers obsession with Italian soccer. She describes her discussions of religion and non-belief with the mujaheedin holding her and their difficulty in understanding her relationship to her unmarried longtime partner. Unlike other hostage tales, especially the recent story by US journalist taken hostage Jill Carroll, Sgrena refuses to accept the rationale of the occupiers and insists thgoughout the text that it is the occupation that is the primary culprit in Iraq, not the resistance. The descriptions of the aforementioned conversations reminds the reader of the contradictory nature of the human condition–warriors able to hold a woman prisoner yet curious enought of this person from another culture to converse with her and debate, even though their commanders and clerics might not approve.

As regards Sgrena’s thoughts on Iraq, it is her contention that the fighters against the occupiers are primarily composed of two elements: the nationalist insurgency and the jihadists. Sgrena states that the jihadists want the US in Iraq because it gives them a front in their war on the infidels, while the insurgency wants the US and other occupation troops out so they can get on with their lives. As I write this review, the news broadcasts are reporting on a demonstration of hundreds of thousands against the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli war on Lebanon in Baghdad. The primary component of this demonstration were Shia Iraqis that support Muqtada al-Sadr. According to the news report, US officials claim to be concerned that this massive show of strength by these Shia Iraqis could provoke attacks on them by members of the Sunni community in Iraq. While there may be some truth to this possibility, the fact that the US command is expressing concern is so transparent as to be laughable. After all, the US military and intelligence have certainly killed more of Sadr’s supporters than their fellow Iraqis have. It is more likely that the US is concerned that the solidarity being expressed across religious lines and across the Arab world for the resistance of Hezbollah to Israel’s onslaught will become the dominant current in Iraq. If that occurred, the resistance to the occupation would be nearly universal among Iraqis. That would spell the end of not only the occupation, but of the jihadists as well.

Of course, the Pentagon and White House (with approval from Congress) remains convinced that the situation can be remedied in favor of Washington via military means. Indeed, the commander of US Central Command, General Abizaid, went on record in early August stating that he could “imagine” the US military “winning” Baghdad. As Sgrena’s book clarifies (once again), this imaginary scenario is nothing more than a pipe dream for the US generals and a nightmare for the Iraqis. As the occupation and its consequent mayhem continue no one is certain what the next phase will look like. The civil strife between various religious trends is but one facet of the aforementioned mayhem. Underlying it all is the continuing dismal state of most Iraqis’ economic lives and the lack of any apparent future of peace.

Sgrena’s understanding of this desperate situation and Washington’s fundamental role in creating and maintaining it are the subject of much of her commentary in the book. It is interspersed with a narrative describing the physical realities of her captivity and her means of dealing with the boredom, fear, and hopelessness that are part of any imprisonment. Her journalistic abilities are quite apparent in these descriptions–one feels that they know the characteristics of the room she spent her captivity almost as well if they had seen a walk-through video of it. Her discussion of the emotions she experienced are interwoven into her story in such a way that they become like the darkness of her mask that the kidnappers insist she wear at times of their choosing. Or the daylight that we assume will always be. They exist but they do not overwhelm. In fact, that is how Sgrena tells her story. Perhaps it is her journalistic detachment or perhaps it is the only manner in which she could write it down. No matter what the reason may be, it works. Friendly Fire is more than the tale of one hostage’s ordeal and it is more than just another tract on the US-created debacle that is Iraq. It is not a cry for revenge, but a tempered statement on a nation’s shattered psyche and an individual attempt to share a perspective influenced by her unforeseen role in that nation’s history.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail