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The lies of Mario Lozano

April 20, 2007 | Page 7

GIULIANA SGRENA was shot and nearly killed by a U.S. soldier in Iraq on March 4, 2005, just hours after the Italian journalist was released by Iraqi insurgents who had kidnapped her. Nicola Calipari, the Italian intelligence agent who negotiated her release, was killed while shielding Sgrena from the U.S. gunfire that raked their car as they traveled toward the Baghdad airport.

This week, the U.S. soldier who fired on the car--Spc. Mario Lozano of the U.S. Army's 69th Infantry Regiment--will be tried in absentia in Italy for firing the bullets that killed Calipari and wounded Sgrena and a driver.

Though the U.S. has refused to hand over Lozano and dismissed all calls from the Italian government for action, Lozano complained to the U.S. media this month that he was a "victim"--and accused Sgrena of "making money" off the incident.

Here, Sgrena answers his charges in a statement published in Italy's Il Manifesto newspaper.

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AFTER TWO years of silence, Mario Lozano has marched forward to tell the truth--or rather, according to the version presented by the American media, to "expose the lies of Sgrena."

What else to read

Giuliana Sgrena tells her story in Friendly Fire: The Remarkable Story of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq, Rescued by an Italian Secret Service Agent, and Shot by U.S. Forces, published by Haymarket Books, with a foreword by Amy Goodman.

 

Too bad that neither he nor his advisors have noticed that in the meantime, my testimony has been confirmed by the results of the investigations carried out by experts appointed by the judiciary on the car in which we were riding that night of March 4, 2005, in Baghdad.

Mario Lozano has been summoned to stand trial for the voluntary political homicide of Nicola Calipari and the attempted voluntary homicide of Andrea Carpani and myself on the basis of investigations--not, certainly, on the basis of my "fantasies."

These are the essential points. According to Lozano, the car was going too fast. The investigation verified that at the moment of maximum velocity the car was going 65 kilometers (39 miles) an hour.

Lozano claims that when the car was 100 meters from the "checkpoint" (the entire American media speaks of a "checkpoint," though in reality, it was a mobile patrol located away from the road, behind a curve), he began to give warnings for us to stop: at first a light, then at 80 meters warning shots, until finally, when the car was 60 meters away, he took aim.

The tests by the judiciary instead maintain that the first barrage (altogether, there were three) was fired when the car was 100 to 130 meters from the patrol.

Finally, Lozano claims to have fired in front of the car, then at the tires and at the engine. The tests instead determined that of the 58 shots that struck the car, 57 were aimed at the passengers, and only the final one at the engine, when the car was already stopped.

Therefore, the experts say, he shot to kill. Thus, the charge of voluntary homicide.

Why doesn't Lozano come to present his version of the facts at the trial? He says that what is scheduled to begin on April 17 in Rome is only a "show trial." This contempt for the Italian judiciary would seem to warrant some kind of taking of a position on the part of our government.

And if it all just seems like a farce, why does it cause so much agitation and discomfort in its repudiation of the version put forward by the American military commission, which has already been taken apart by the Campregher-Regaglini report (from the names of the two Italians who took part in the commission).

On one point, however, Lozano is at odds with the military report, according to which, after the shooting, he--in a state of shock--kept at a distance from the passengers, leaving it to the other soldiers to approach Nicola Calipari and me.

Instead, he says that he also took on the role of helping me, and of having me carried "rapidly" (at 10 kilometers an hour, according to what I was told by the soldier who actually transported me, in the course of explaining to me how long it would take to arrive, seeing that I wasn't able to breathe due to a collapsed lung) in his Humvee to the hospital.

Ignoring the fact that when I was pulled out of the car, I was left for a quarter of an hour, half naked, on the pavement, before being taken to the hospital in the very Humvee from which the shots were fired, this is true.

After what happened it is easy to understand that Lozano might have nightmares--as I have, as the one who lived through the same event from the other side of the barricade.

We know that the rules of engagement are brutal, that the American soldiers in Iraq are terrorized--but there are many of them who had had the courage to rebel against this situation.

What is unacceptable is turning Lozano himself into a victim. This perspective is nurtured by U.S. journalists who interviewed him in response to an order from above, and who see no problem at all with a unilateral version of the facts, and with making denigrating references to my book Friendly Fire.

A real lesson in journalism "made in the U.S.A."

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