John Simpson article on Calipari incident

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  1. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    from the Beeb:

    Published: 2005/05/03 17:10:59 GMT

    US must learn from Calipari

    By John Simpson
    BBC world affairs editor

    It's no surprise that the Italian investigation into the killing of a senior secret service agent should have arrived at very different conclusions from the American one.

    Nicola Calipari was shot by American soldiers near Baghdad airport on 4 March.

    Calipari was escorting the Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, just freed from being held hostage, out of the country.

    The American report, though it contains deleted references to poor communication, clears the soldiers of wrongdoing.

    Approaching an American roadblock is one of the more nerve-racking things you have to do in Iraq.

    Once you have spoken to the US soldiers on duty and managed to establish your good faith, things are easier, even for Iraqis.

    But the worrying time is as you drive up to it. The soldiers are understandably nervous, looking for any sign that your vehicle may be a suicide bomb.

    If the road through the checkpoint is complicated or badly marked and you make a mistake of some kind, then you are in real danger of your life.


    Once, near a big American installation, I watched an old man in a beaten-up car, with an equally old wife in the front seat and a child, perhaps their granddaughter in the back.

    An American soldier waved at him to stop, but the old man panicked and managed to get into a completely wrong lane.

    Inexperience and stress might have led some soldiers to instinctive and little-controlled reaction

    The soldiers immediately started shouting and waving their guns at him, and the old man stalled his car.

    There was more excited yelling, but in English, which only seemed to confuse the old man further.

    As I stood there watching, it seemed inevitable that someone was going to be killed.

    It was only when an Iraqi translator ran over and calmed the soldiers down that the tension eased.

    You can't really blame the soldiers. The violence against them is growing almost daily. They understand little of the country they are in, and usually none of the language.

    The Italian report into Nicola Calipari's death puts it this way: "It is likely that the state of tension, stemming from the conditions of time, circumstances and place, as well as possibly some degree of inexperience and stress, might have led some soldiers to instinctive and little-controlled reaction."

    Recently, when I went through an American checkpoint in Baghdad and we had just started to relax again, I glanced at my companion, a long-serving soldier in the British army, now working as our security adviser. He was visibly angry.

    The Americans, he said, had no idea how to run a roadblock. It was badly sited and poorly protected.

    No wonder, he said, they take so many casualties.

    "They ought to get out and patrol the roadsides, and take the war to the other side, instead of sitting there and waiting to be attacked."

    Lessons learned

    There was a time when the British army behaved like that in Northern Ireland: jittery, resentful, too quick to fire, an easy target.

    Thirty-five years ago, in Belfast and Derry, I saw British soldiers behaving just as aggressively towards local people as the Americans do in Iraq.

    That was before it dawned on the British army that if they treated every passer-by as an enemy, it wouldn't be long before every passer-by was an enemy.

    The army's eventual success against the IRA in Northern Ireland owed a great deal to this basic change of attitude.

    Yet it isn't just at the level of the ordinary soldier at the roadblock that the campaign has to be waged.

    Some senior US officers understand this fully. Lt Gen David Petraeus, for instance, an impressive man who is now in charge of training the Iraqi police and army.

    I spent some time at a US base to the north of Baghdad with one of his top men, a highly intelligent US Marine colonel, Dave Flynn, who had a clear appreciation of the way this war in Iraq might be fought successfully.

    Holding to account

    But for Iraqis, the daily problems at roadblocks continue.

    The killing of Nicola Calipari was only a better publicised example of what usually happens when American soldiers kill someone by accident - there is a brief internal enquiry, which tends to find that the action was justified. End of story.

    Some of the worst "friendly fire" cases of the 2003 invasion were never properly investigated. The killing of the British ITV television team, headed by the distinguished reporter Terry Lloyd, for instance.

    When 18 people, including my Kurdish translator, were killed in a bombing incident during the invasion, we were assured that a proper investigation would be held.

    Nothing more has ever been heard about it

    If American soldiers, understandably nervous and rarely trained for the job of patrolling foreign streets, know that even if they kill a man as prominent as Nicola Calipari, nothing will happen to them, it is scarcely much of an incentive to be careful.

    The British army learned a difficult and sometimes painful lesson in Northern Ireland about operating successfully in a hostile environment.

    Holding ordinary soldiers, the unfortunate grunts on the front line, to account for what they do is a part of it.

    But there has to be a change of attitude at the top as well.


    John Simpson has reported on Iraq for twenty years. He was one of the few Western journalists to have met and interviewed Saddam.

    Considering that the 'blue on blue' incident he refers to above ( in which the column of Kurdish troops and US Special Forces he was travelling with to Baghdad was bombed by a USN ac )left him partially deaf and carrying US shrapnel in his hip to this day, it is a fairly measured piece.

    his book " The Wars Against Saddam: Taking the Hard Road to Baghdad "
    (ISBN: 1405032642) is well worth a read.

    If Barnes & Noble don't have it try
  2. The author is absolutely wrong - no surprise there. The anti-american crowd blames the uS. But reality is that it was an Italian operation. They chose not to coordinate with the US. Anyone who has ever run a patrol at night beyond friendly lines knows how tricky a passage of lines can be at 0 dark 30. Throw in the fact that the checkpoint was warned to be on the lookout for 2 cars that might be car bombs - one was blue and the other was white. Throw in the fact the the female reporter's version of the story changed with each telling. What happened was unfortunate but the blame is on the Italians. If they had chosen not to pay the ransom she wouldnt have even been on the road that night.
  3. I think John Simpson has a lot more reason to be alot more bitter than that after the attack he suffered. Have a watch of the footage and you'll see what I mean.
  4. Tomahawk,

    Its true it wouldn't have happened if the Italians hadn't paid the ransom or if they had paid it but let the Americans know they were about to travel through the area. But it also wouldn't have happened if the checkpoint had been better designed. The American report actually suggests the use of better signage etc.

  5. The check point had already stopped and searched 30 vehicles without incident.
  6. well you hit the nail on the head there Tommy!! US didnt want ransoms being paid, one gets paid and car gets nailed by the US!!

    Maybe it was a case of trigger happy/untrained/scared US troops v a car that allegedly ignored all warnings, still stinks.
  7. Yes but maybe those 30 vehicles were not in a hurry? I completely accept that the shooting wouldn't have happened if the Italians had warned the Americans they were coming or if they hadn't driven too fast or perhaps in an aggresive manner. But it also wouldn't have happened if the checkpoint had been laid out better.

    Ideally, everyone should drive sensibly... but if they are foolish and don't then the price should not be to get a shot at.... it should be absolutely obvious to drivers that they are approaching a checkpoint. (of course if they still drive too quickly then that is their tough shit). What about locals getting a patient to a hospital in an emergency? or a nervous driver such as the one John Simpson's article making a mistake?

  8. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    Yeah ? Zatso ? So you can tell me the results of the USN Board of Inquiry held against the aircrew who bombed the US Special Forces column he was travelling with then ?

    I'm sure Mr Simpson would be pleased to know that they had been exonerated......the dumb anti-American hasn't even filed a claim for damages against Uncle Sam.....

    Le Chevre
  9. The problem is that the US never finds it’s forces culpable for their actions against others.

    USM pilots take out cable car (Capt. Richard Ashby)
    USAF bomb Canadian soldier in Afghanistan (Maj. Harry Schmidt)
    Was there a result to the patriot missile that took out the Tornado
    What happed to the pilot who took out the Guard’s CVR(T).
  10. With regards to the Calipari incident:

    The greatest killer of US Special Operations Forces in the world since Vietnam is US Naval Aviation and Air Force. None of those pilots were charged either. The incident Mr. Simpson refers to had a more chilling effect: The senior Kurdish Leader, Barzani, lost a brother in that same strike. Imagine being the senior officer on the ground having to go and explain that one...

    Every member of my team was KIA six months after I changed command because of ten-penny washer failing in the main rotor assembly of their helicopter. Investigation revealed that it should have been caught during a routine maintenance check, but someone was in a rush, etc. No charges were filed against the maintenance crew.

    Incidents like the Calipari Affair happen with much less frequency than in the past; but they still happen. To everybody.

    Welcome to our world.
  11. A co ck up.
    Both US and Italian failings.
    Civis tend to think that military coms work as per Hollywood.
    In the real world message arn't passed immideately and as per original instructions.
    Troopers on duty, the word is that two suicide bombs are possible, we all know it's better to be judged by 12 then carried by 6, fast aproaching car.
    The photos I have seen the car was not 'Riddled' with bullets only a couple seem to have struck the car and one the bodeygaurd.
    Was there a need to wisk the 'jurno' out of the cuntry before she could be debriefed ?
    A co ck up and one dead brave man.
  12. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    Yeah....the point being that 'Sh7t happens' ?

    The hallmark of a professional organisation is the ability to learn from it's mistakes.

    So why do these 'blue on blues' by overwhelmingly US flyers keep happening ? During Telic One there was a grim acknowledgement that our ground troops were probably in more danger from Coalition air assets than from the Republican Guard.

    T-P, the fact that your own side ( standfast 160th SOAR to my knowledge) has suffered from shortcomings in the aviators' training and awareness should surely make you guys the ones who are shouting loudest to get them to admit to their errors and make the necessary changes ?

    How often do USAF / ANG pilots fly training missions where ground vehicles are non-US ? If it isn't a Bradley it must be enemy - FOX ONE!

    ....let me know when the USN F14 crew are due to appear before a court-martial - I'll send John Simpson a formal invitation.....

    Le Chevre
  13. msr

    msr LE


    # A US report cleared soldiers over the death of the Italian agent Nicola Calipari after he was shot taking the kidnap victim Giuliana Sgrena to safety
    # Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, the former US commander in Iraq, and three of his senior deputies were cleared last week of any wrongdoing relating to the Abu Ghraib scandal

    # US Army sergeant Tracy Perkins was cleared of manslaughter for ordering soldiers to force two unarmed Iraqi men caught disobeying curfew to jump into a river. One drowned

    # A US soldier was discharged for manslaughter for shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner last year, despite sufficient evidence to pursue a murder charge

    # US soldiers who shot down a British aircraft in Iraq in 2003 were cleared. An inquiry claimed the aircraft was not transmitting appropriate “friendly” signals,,7374-1600500,00.html

  14. Cheap shot.

    You're assuming we don't shout at all. We do. A lot. Sometimes it sinks in.

    If you look at flying hours, in total and in combat, noone on this planet has a higher op-tempo than US Military Aviation. In terms of accident rates, the US is still one of the lowest. We push people and machines to their limits to deliver the fire where needed and when needed. Name another country on this planet can mass fire, manuever and personnel the way we can. Nobody. Sooner or later, there will be accidents. The Europeans call it the "Fog of War".

    How often do European pilots fly training missions where ground vehicles are U.S. ? Better yet, how often do European pilots fly any training missions? Less than the US. In some cases, a whole lot less. Who sponsors more training missions and exercises? U.S. The USA invites many countries to participate in joint exercises because we realize how important it is. What's the common excuse to not participate? Can't afford it, not trained enough handle Lo-Lo-Lo missions in a high-threat ADA environment, etc.

    Never happen. Fog of War and all that...
  15. Eh?

    RAF pilots are some of the best, if not the best pilots in the world at low level. At a Red Flag exercise a few years back (yes, a US one) two Buccaneer A/C were observed attacking a target after approaching underneath a Vulcan bomber that was itself scraping the bushes.

    The fact that RAF sqns have walked away from the likes of Red Flag on numerous occasions with top honours (not bad for a bunch of borrowers) goes to prove that some air forces have all the gear and no idea.