A Shakespearean Tragedy of the First Order

From Holden:

We should be mindful that four American Marines were killed as well today in Iraq, but the shooting of Ms. Sgrena and two of her countrymen [leaving one dead] seems especially tragic. I can imagine the impact on Italy will be devastating, the kidnapping had already put thousands of Italians on the street protesting their country’s involvement in the war.

[Italian Prime Minister Silvio]Berlusconi identified the dead intelligence officer as Nicola Calipari and said he had been at the forefront of negotiations with the kidnappers. The prime minister said Calipari had been involved in the release of other Italian hostages in Iraq in the past.

U.S. troops took Sgrena to an American military hospital, where shrapnel was removed from her left shoulder. Apcom said Sgrena was fit to travel and would return to Rome on Saturday.

Sgrena, 56, was abducted Feb. 4 by gunmen who blocked her car outside Baghdad University. Last month, she was shown in a video pleading for her life and demanding that all foreign troops — including Italian forces — leave Iraq.

Berlusconi said he had been celebrating Sgrena’s release with the editor of Il Manifesto, and with Sgrena’s boyfriend, Pier Scolari, when he took a phone call from an agent who informed them of the shooting.

“It’s a shame that the joy we all felt was turned into tragedy,” Berlusconi said.

The shooting came as a blow to Berlusconi, who has kept 3,000 troops in Iraq despite strong opposition in Italy. The shooting was likely to set off new protests in Italy, where tens of thousands have regularly turned out on the streets to protest the Iraq war. Sgrena’s newspaper was a loud opponent of the war.

“Another victim of an absurd war,” Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, leader of the Green Party, told Apcom.

“It’s incredible that a man who was busying himself with the difficult task of saving a life was killed by those who say they are in Iraq to safeguard the life of civilians,” said Piero Fassino, leader of the Democratic Party of the Left.

Of Course this is not the first incident of this type, it’s common knowledge that many Iraqis have been killed at American checkpoints. But this is also not the first such incident involving the Italians, nor is it the first to have resulted in a fatality.

It’s not as though the U.S. command in Iraq had no warning.

Iraqis have reported numerous incidents where confusion at U.S. checkpoints has led to U.S. soldiers killing innocent civilians.

In a 2003 friendly-fire incident involving Italians, American soldiers in northern Iraq shot at a car carrying the Italian official heading up U.S. efforts to recover Iraq’s looted antiquities. Pietro Cordone, the top Italian diplomat in Iraq, was unhurt, but his Iraqi translator was killed.