Inkwell is pleased from time to time to bestow our coveted Rigoberta Menchu Award on some deserving soul who has not allowed the facts to interfere with what she or he regards as a “higher truth.”
As connoisseurs of the higher truth will recall, Ms. Menchu won a Nobel Peace prize for I, Rigoberta Menchu (1992), her harrowing tale of her life as an oppressed Guatemalan peasant. She donned peasant garb to propagandize for the Marxist-guerrilla group known as the Sandinistas.
When it turned out that Ms. Menchu had made up the whole thing whole clothe (she was from a well-to-do family that had provided her with a convent education), the left said that was okay because Rigoberta was telling a “higher truth.”
We may not yet have the full story of what happened on that airport road in Iraq after Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was rescued from her terrorist captors, but it does appear that Ms. Sgrena, who claims that U.S. soldiers shot at her convoy, killing a guard and wounding her, on purpose, deserves a Rigoberta.
Ms. Sgrena had been ransomed by the Italian government and was on her way to safety with Nicola Calipari, who had negotiatied the release.
Here’s how London’s Independent newspaper describes the incident:
“Italy is well aware that its habit of paying large sums to secure the release of its nationals is disapproved of by the Americans and British. All negotiations are therefore carried on in secret. But at Baghdad airport Mr Calipari explained at the US headquarters what his team had come to do. It was arranged that an American colonel would be on hand at the airport when Ms Sgrena arrived for her flight back to Italy. By the time the team had rented a four-wheel drive it was already 5pm.
“At 8.20pm, Mr Calipari’s team reached the rendezvous on the outskirts of Baghdad. The vehicle they were looking for was there. Ms Sgrena’s abductors had left her blindfolded in the back of the car. ’I’m a friend of Pier and Gabriele,’ Mr Calipari said, naming Ms Sgrena’s partner and editor. The 57-year-old journalist was a bundle of tension as they got her into their vehicle and left for the airport.
“By now it was dark and pouring with rain. Baghdad is far too dangerous for people to go out after dark without excellent reason, and all scheduled flights had left. But the Italians decided that, with their plane waiting on the Tarmac, it was better to get Ms Sgrena home without delay.
“They passed two American checkpoints along the airport road without incident and were 700 metres or so from the airport building. The road narrowed to a single, one-way lane and took a 90-degree turn. The car was going slowly now, approaching the end of the journey.
“’At last I felt safe,’ Ms Sgrena said. ’We had nearly arrived in an area under American control, an area more or less friendly, even if it was still unsettled.’
“Then, turning the corner, they found their progress baulked by an American tank. They were blinded by a powerful light. ’Without any warning, any signal, we were bombarded with a shower of bullets,’ Ms Sgrena said. ’The tank was firing on us, our car was riddled with bullets. Nicola tried to protect me, then his body slumped on top of mine, I heard his death rattle, then I felt a pain but I couldn’t tell where I had been hit. Those who had fired came up to the car, but before I was taken to the American hospital there was an interminable wait, it’s hard to know how long I was lying there wounded but perhaps it was 20 minutes.’
“Was Ms Sgrena, correspondent of the communist daily Il Manifesto, who has repeatedly demanded an end to the occupation, the true target? She couldn’t rule it out, she said. ’Everybody knows that the Americans are opposed to hostage negotiations. So I don’t see why we must exclude the possibility that I was their target. The Americans don’t approve, and so they try to frustrate the negotiations every way they can.’”
Okay, savor that semi-allegation: Ms. Sgrena will not “rule out” the possibility that American soldiers have attempted to assassinate her, in the process killing an Italian official, because Ms. Sgrena opposes our Iraqi policy and because we oppose negotiating for hostages.
It wasn’t long after the unfortunate shooting that the left was referring to “the accident” on the road to the airport. One critic of the U.S. even suggested that Ms. Sgrena was safer with her terrorist captives than in propinquity to American soldiers, putting our fighting men and women on the level of thugs who behead captives.
The facts behind the tragic event still require further investigation, but the Italian government has determined that it was an accident. The cause may, in fact, have been Italy’s failure to notify U.S. troops of the negotiations. U.S. soldiers would have had every reason to assume that the vehicle carrying Sgrena and her rescuer was hostile.
But none of this will matter to Ms. Sgrena and her fans–her almost accusation that the United States targeted her embody a higher truth, you see. What is that higher truth?
Here is Giuliana Sgrena’s higher truth, as told in an account by a Dutch journalist who met her before she was captured:
“’Be careful not to get kidnapped,’ I told the female Italian journalist sitting next to me in the small plane that was headed for Baghdad. ’Oh no,’ she said. ’That won’t happen. We are siding with the oppressed Iraqi people. No Iraqi would kidnap us.’
“It doesn’t sound very nice to be critical of a fellow reporter. But Sgrena’s attitude is a disgrace for journalism. Or didn’t she tell me back in the plane that ‘common journalists such as yourself’ simply do not support the Iraqi people? ‘The Americans are the biggest enemies of mankind,’ the three women behind me had told me, for Sgrena travelled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who hated the Americans as well.”
And the envelope, please…