Miscues at Roadblock in Iraq?
The classified version of the 42-page report investigating the Italian roadblock shooting incident that wounded journalist Giuliana Sgrena and killed agent Nicola Calipari was inadvertantly released. National Public Radio says that this version further exhonerates American forces. The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, says it shows severe problems.
A U.S. military probe into the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq has found that the soldiers who opened fire had only recently been trained on how to conduct a roadblock, did not know that the Italians’ car was expected along their stretch of road, and, because of a communications breakdown, were manning their irregular nighttime post long after they should have been.
According to an uncensored version of the Army’s report on the March 4 shooting, which killed agent Nicola Calipari and wounded an Italian journalist whom he had helped free from hostage-takers, the soldiers had been ordered to block an onramp along the road to Baghdad’s airport to allow safe passage of a convoy carrying U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte. The report said the troops were asked to set up the roadblock around 7:15 p.m. and they “expected to maintain the blocking position no more than 15 minutes.” Negroponte’s convoy apparently passed by the onramp shortly after 8 p.m., but because of poor communications, the troops were still in place when Calipari’s car approached just before 9 p.m.
The troops’ immediate supervisors had arrived in Iraq just weeks earlier and March 4 was their “first full duty day,” said the uncensored report, which was obtained by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and published in full on its website. As for the troops manning the roadblock, the 42-page report, prepared by Brig. Gen. Peter Vangjel, found that “there is no evidence to indicate that the soldiers were trained to execute blocking positions before arriving in theater.” They were trained for 10 days in February by troops who were leaving Iraq.
The report found no wrongdoing on the part of the soldiers. Period. The fact that they’d been on duty a few extra minutes and were inexperienced at manning roadblocks could have led to problems, to be sure. But they didn’t.
Indeed, the report on NPR’s Morning Edition–hardly a Pentagon apologist–indicates that the classified information gives details into the procedures put in place that bolstered the report’s conclusion that the soldiers involved were not blameworthy.
The U.S. military issued a report this weekend on the killing of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq. But it appears computer users were able to access classified information about U.S. military operations in an online version of the report.