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March 7, 2005

Full text blogging. Tom Watson on national observances:
The most striking image in the tragic death of Italian security agent Nicola Calipari, killed by U.S. troops on the road to the airport with freed hostage/journalist Giuliana Sgrena, is simple and striking: national mourning. Americans avoid it. Our leaders avoid it. Our trained seal national media avoids it. Have you paused to watch a national prayer service for our dead in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two bloody years? No, because it hasn’t happened. Do you recall that national day of mourning for the 1,500 killed in the Iraq incursion? No, because President Bush has never named one. Yeah, we have local stories about "our heroes" killed in Fallujah, Baghdad, and Mosul—local funerals, local ceremonies of grief, local newspaper stories about the high school athlete or the volunteer fireman who went to war and never came home. Nothing national. Nothing American. All of Italy is mourning Calipari’s death. His body is lying in state at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome, where visitors have been paying their respects, and a state funeral was planned for Monday. President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said he would award Calipari, a married father of two, the gold medal of valor for his heroism. In war zones, horrendous mistakes among jittery, scared, and heavily-armed troops will always lead to mistaken death and injury. It is part of the cost of war that our society has decided to accept, following the path laid out by our national leadership. What we don’t have to accept is the national silence that greets the dead from an administration that doesn’t want photographs taken of the coffins arriving Stateside. Why don’t we mourn as a nation? The reason is simple and shocking and damning: because our leaders don’t care.
And Anna Feruglio dal Dan on Calipari’s funeral, today:
One thing that Nicola Calipari got was a state funeral.

When his coffin came back there was the President of the Republic, who kept his raised hands on the coffin for the full two minutes the silence rang out, the Prime Minister, the Speakers of the two Houses, the Chiefs of the Police and the Military Intelligence, all in their neat blue coats and uniforms, and the director of the Communist daily Giuliana Sgrena writes for, with his editors and journalists, and Sgrena’s partner, with their parkas and drooping mustaches. Six men in different uniforms—Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, Carabinieri and Finance Guard—took the coffin, wrapped in an unpleasantly shiny Italian flag, and carried it a bit crookedly away. The honor picket was the police honor picket, and didn’t move in perfect synch.

There is something deeply comforting in realizing that one lives in a country whose soldiers can’t properly march in lockstep. Where funerals are rare enough that the protocol is a bit uncertain.

Yesterday morning the coffin was brought to what the Romans call “the Typewriter”—the huge white marble monument to the Unknown Soldier built in 1921 for the dead of the Great War. The writing on the Vittoriano says Patriae Unitati on one side, and Civium Libertati on the other. For the unity of the nation and the freedom of its citizens.

People started coming under a chilly drizzle. Some were carrying Italian flags, some were carrying the rainbow flag of peace, some of them were carrying flowers, lots of them were carrying umbrellas. They started filing in front of the body lain in state, some of them crossing themselves, some of them crying, some of them shouting thank you, some of them raising a clenched fist. The room was supposed to close at sunfall but the people kept coming and so it was left open through the night. When the body was taken away for the funeral something like 100,000 of them had passed.

10,000 showed up for the funeral. Lots of them had Il Manifesto under one arm. The Communist daily’s special edition had a photograph of Calipari, the secret agent, with a small smile and somebody’s hand on the shoulder, and the headline said simply: With you. The blond widow sat through it with her head occasionally falling, occasionally nodding, never leaving her daughter’s hand or the head of the Military Intelligence chief. Sgrena’s brother was sitting in the second row, weeping.

Italians are weepy people, it’s well known. Calipari’s direct superior spoke from the pulpit, and though he didn’t weep it was a close thing. He said “He was a man. A good man, an honest man, a loyal man, an intelligent man, a prudent man, a determined man.” Sgrena’s partner, who had said “As soon as I met him I knew he would bring her back home to me,” and the stern militants from the Manifesto wept quietly. Berlusconi sniffled.

His brother the priest did not cry. He thanked people: people who had not left them alone, people who had written to the family from abroad, people who had lost a loved one in Kosovo or Afghanistan or Nassirya, to comfort them.

Then he said quietly: there is probably nobody here who does not wish for a world without war, death, strife. But a better world can only be built if we accept the necessity of giving ourselves in gift. Only people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others can change the world.

In his quiet way, and in a way he certainly did not wish, Nicola Calipari left a legacy. He had policemen and old Communists weeping together. People looked across the aisle and had to admit that there were others with the same grief, who had the same respect for the dead man. Everybody for a moment grudgingly acknowledged that across the ideological divide there were decent, even good human beings.

Not a small thing to achieve with one’s life, all in all. Not enough to comfort people who grieve, but not a bad way to change the world for somebody who had spent his life unassumingly serving his country.

What Nicola Calipari got was a state funeral, and a chance for his death to matter. It is not the least shame of this war that so many American dead were denied this chance.

UPDATE: Jeanne D’Arc reports on Edward Luttwak’s contribution to international understanding. [07:33 PM]
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Comments on Full text blogging.:

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 07:46 PM:

I don't believe there has been a national day of mourning here since JFK's funeral.

Great Britain had one recently, not for any of their war dead, but for Princess Diana.

But of course, we don't need one here, since "major combat operations have ended"...

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 08:06 PM:

I don't think it is a case of not caring . . . it's a lack of guts.

Look what happens when someone dares to print or blog an article about casualties: The administration's yap dogs and assorted soreheads pounce on them something fearsome. Bringing up casualties labels you as a coward, and by some bizarre convolution of logic, as Not Supporting the Troops.

I mean, cripes, look at the way Ted Koppel was savaged when Nightline showed pictures of the dead.

The only thing more depressing than living with the cowards we have in office is the thought of sharing the country with creeps and soreheads who support them.

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 08:41 PM:

Oh yes. Edward Luttwak speaks a passable Italian, and totally adores appearing on TV and shocking the natives. I think he gives a great and continuing contribution to the image of the United States of America in Italy.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 11:02 PM:

Weren't they trying to get us to mourn a week for Ronald Reagan?

Which says something. A man so evil that his supporters try to make him out as stupid in order to exonerate him.

Ralph ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 12:45 AM:

What we need is a day to mourn the end of our nation as a land that cares about human beings.

Now the image of the USA is as the country that values not "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," but death, imprisonment and the pursuit of greed.

Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 02:05 AM:

I live in a country where soldiers can't march in lockstep to save their lives, and where soldiers' funerals are a commonplace occurrence. I've been mildly appalled by the American treatment of their own soldiers and their deaths since long before this last war. I don't think it's only the administration that's trying to shove their names and faces out of the way.

Here in Israel, we note the death of every soldier. You always cock an ear towards the radio to listen to the names of fallen soldiers, just in case you knew one of them. On the one (and hopefully last) occasion in which I attended a military funeral, the place was swarming with media coverage. Partly this has to do with relative size and the fact that Israeli soldiers are drawn from all levels of society, but I've had Americans note to me the massive difference in the way we and they perceive the deaths of soldiers. The American government may be using this apathy for nefarious causes, but it didn't cause it.

Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 07:22 AM:

Yeah, Luttwak is nothing more than a wingnut, but in Italy he's seen as "the american insider" on foreign policy issues. Nevermind he's been proved wrong on so many occasions... but you know how big media work -- it's the same everywhere, possibly even worse in Italy (where people simply won't read books, and I'm sorry Anna, I'm not talking about you, but even your company's own standards nowadays are extremely low).

At the very least, this death will remind everyone that Italy is the fourth supplier of troops to the occupation in Iraq but we are still considered as worthless by our US masters. It doesn't matter that we have possibly the best *peacekeeping* forces, we have good techniques and great understanding of population needs and our recent missions have been huge successes (even the most-criticized one in Albania, a place so fucked up that only our ability in dealing with hopeless situations is keeping the country together).

The Clinton administration tried to appear as they were talking with allies; these arrogant neocons are barely able to speak... I'm sorry to preach to the converts here, but I see reports from CNN that the recent "european tour" went well -- it didn't. Everyone in Europe hates GWB, even staunch right-wingers fascists. They had to blind the US delegation to avoid protests _everywhere they went_!

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 09:49 AM:

No dispute on the industry standard from here. I'm the first to bemoan it. Though Meridiano Zero is an island of professionalism and care I have to say.

And we haven't been able to achieve much in Iraq, not even with our experience in peacekeeping. We thought so until Nassirya. It wasn't true.

Don Martin ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 10:42 AM:

re: Do you recall that national day of mourning for the 1,500 killed in the Iraq incursion?

Yes, Tom Watson, I remember two, and so does anyone else who gives it a thought. And it did not take President Bush to name them.

The people of this country realized long long ago that we'd need to hold them on a regular basis. So they named one, set the frequency at annual, and wrote it into law.

You could look it up.

Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 11:29 AM:

... and then they renamed it, forgot what it was meant for, and held white tag sales thereon.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 11:58 AM:

This is from Kause:

Have U.S. generals ever been through a U.S. roadblock in Iraq? Drudge briefly linked to this excellent CSM piece which asks that question after describing how easy it is for innocent, law-abiding Iraqi drivers and their passengers to get killed by U.S. fire. There's also a horrifying account in Evan Wright's Generation Kill. ("[A U.S. Marine] asks the father, sitting by the side of the road, why he didn't heed the warning shots and stop. The father simply repeats, 'I'm sorry,' then meekly asks permission to pick up his daughter's body.") ... Can average drivers detect so-called warning shots? Wright writes:

In the dark, warning shots are simply a series of loud bangs or flashes. It's not like this is the international code for "Stop your vehicle and turn around." As it turns out, many Iraqis react to warning shots by speeding up. Maybe they just panic. Consequently, a lot of Iraqis die at roadblocks.

Good God.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 12:34 PM:

Grief is not something that Americans as a people seem to deal with well. It is painful, and therefore bad, and therefore shameful, must be immediatley eliminated either through science (medicine), religion (born again), or legislation (punitive damages).
I wonder why that is. I wonder how it gets to the "shameful". I really do. It's something to do with the idea that there are winners and losers and if you're in pain you're a loser and deserve what you get. Maybe.

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 12:53 PM:

The strange thing is that looking at Calipari's funeral I thought how much better Americans would do this, American do this (anybody seen Gardens of Stone?). The flag would be matte, wrapped tightly and neatly, and the three stripes would fall precisely symmetrical instead of the green being slightly showing more than the red. The uniforms would be smarter. There would be gleaming buttons, smart snapping to attention, and that fascinating business with folding the flag triangularly.

I've seen all this, and so it's not as if it's not done. The ceremonial is there. Somebody somewhere in America's past thought that its fallen deserved to be honored. Americans can mourn just as well as anybody, and they certainly are not lacking in patriotism.

Of course, nobody stops to hold a full State funeral in wartime. You can only do it now and then, not every day of the year for years, with multiple caskets.

Still. The Israeli do it. Is it because they are solidly behind their soldiers? Yes, well, but Italians are overwhelmingly against this war and this doesn't stop them mourning collectively.

I guess it has to do with being uncomfortable with letting people perceive the full scale of the loss. Just as with the landmines ad, really. A sacrifice that people face in the full knowledge of what it would entail and the worthiness of the cause strengthens the unity of the nation and its resolve. Churchill promised blood, sweat and tears, and the British said, oh, well, ok. A sacrifice that came from a war declared on false premises.... eh. Best not dwell on it.

All in all, I guess we should be grateful that they haven't found a way to use the dead to their ends. like they did with 9/11. Because I think we would witness celebrations that would rival the May Parade if they had.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 01:03 PM:

Btw, Anna, your description of the funeral made me cry, seriously. A very moving post.

bliffle ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 02:03 PM:

"Days of national mourning" is an idea that I'm not fond of: I always thought it was pretentious. But aside from that, this whole thing is surrounded by ambiguity. I think it is bad bad bad for Italy or anyone else to pay a ransom to free a kidnapped reporter. More kidnappings will follow (to raise money for terrorism), and now the terrorists have a couple million $$$ more to buy C4 with on the black market. About 30-40 journalists have died in Iraq, as they have died in wars past, and that is part of the risk of the job. And why all the tears over the death of a spy? Since then about 30 more Iraqis have been killed by terrorist bombs, and has met a big ho-hum from all the Italian weepers. I think it is all posturing.


Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Personally, I am in favour of paying ransoms. Not paying a ransom in this case is tantamount to sentencing your citizen to death. This would be absolutely unacceptable to Italian public opinion, but it would be unacceptable to me as well. It's one of those cases when you have a whole lot of bad choices and telling the terrorists "go ahead and behead her" would not be, in my opinion, morally defensible. Of course the money is going to be put to nefarious use, but, on the one hand, it's not as if the insurgents seem to be out of resources, and on the other hand, they are perfectly able to, and in fact do, kidnap Iraqis as well. I hope nobody is going to attack the Iraqis because they pay to get their loved ones back. Though at this point it would really not amaze me if somebody did.

One of the things paying ransom is for, in this case, is the protection of the freedom of information. You may not like what a journalist is writing, but the fact that journalists do go in a war zone and do report on it is a great service to your own citizenry. People need information to make informed choices, and they need it especially to decide if they want their own troops to participate in a war. In a word, defending a journalist in a hot war zone means defending the freedom of your own citizens. This, as the ad goes, is priceless.

Another thing that should be noted is that by targeting the foreign press the terrorists may gain a short-term financial advance, but their long-term goal is quite obviously to get all witnesses out. They do not want foreigners, they especially do not want journalists. Giuliana Sgrena bitterly said that the Iraqi people would dearly like their voice to be heard on the international stage, but right now this is simply not possible. The problem so is not so much that the kidnappers may buy more guns - they have shown to be able to wreak a lot of havoc with very little money - but that they managed to achieve a full media black-out. They wanted that. And they got it.

David B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Memorial Day is, indeed, supposed to be for mourning. Sadly, these days it seems mostly about buying stuff cheap.

I really, really want to write a lengthy response to Anna's post above, but I won't. Suffice it to say that I don't find paying ransoms to terrorists who will then use that money to kill many more people to be in any way, shape, or form morally defensible. It's about as far from morally defensible as one can get without pulling the trigger oneself.

It's also crazy on utilitarian terms; "The Italians keep paying up. Let's kidnap some more!"

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 03:58 PM:

Ah, the vigorous moral certainty of somebody with nothing at stake. Gotta love it.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 04:52 PM:

Yeah, so far, not paying ransoms has really been cutting into kidnappings and car bombings, hasn't it?

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 05:24 PM:

OK, I'm iffy on the issue of paying ransoms, but there's some logic missing here. We can't tell if the current level of kidnappings is due to or in spite of the fact that we have a general anti-ransom policy.

It does seem to me that Iraq is a country were many people are desperate, some so much so that they'll take money to fire an RPG, even though they have no particular ideological reason for doing so. It doesn't seem unreasonable to speculate that some people might go into the kidnapping-for-ransom business if ransoms were paid more often.

I, for one, don't have any moral certainty on this. Paying ransom is a devil's bargain. So is not paying.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 05:28 PM:

I think we should have a firm and inviolable do-not-negotiate-with-terrorists policy, just like Reagan did.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 05:29 PM:

We also can't tell whether the ransom kidnappings have anything to do with terrorism. If I was a freelance kidnapper in Iraq, I'd claim I was in Ansar e-Islam, too.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 05:35 PM:

David, absolutely true. The logic flaw I was pointing out was in "not paying ransoms has really been cutting into kidnappings and car bombings" - well, maybe it has. We don't know. Just because the level of both is very high doesn't mean it wouldn't be worse if we paid ransoms.

Doesn't mean it would, either, of course. We just don't know. And a controlled experiment is impractical and immoral.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 06:33 PM:

Anna: We don't hold State Funerals every day, but, as you pointed out (ref Gardens of Stone, a film I like a lot) we do have those fancy funerals all the time.

When I was at Walter Reed I went to Arlington, and got the chance to talk with the Caisson Crew (the ones who move the casket, with the body, to the grave). I've also been part of the Honor Gaurd at the funeral of former soldiers, who died of old age.

But, for all the ceremony, we seem, by and large; outside the Army, to be held cheap.

I lost my point in there somewhere.


David B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 06:34 PM:

The idea that I have nothing at stake with regard to terrorism or Iraq is laughable.

Avram: That is my position exactly. Xopher: It certainly encourages more kidnippings, at the least.

David B, ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 06:36 PM:

I should point out that I realize that Reagan was a hypocrite. I don't agree with REAGAN's position, only the do-not-pay part.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 06:37 PM:

David B.: only if there are people out there for whom the potential ransom outweighs the risk to themselves. I have no doubt that there are, but that's not something we know for certain.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 08:32 PM:

Anyone old enough to remember the 3 day agony that was John F. Kennedy's funeral cannot believe we do not know how to do state funerals.

Or perhaps, we used to know. Somewhere between there and here things got lost or forgotten.


Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 08:34 PM:

The WashPost reports on all the Arlington funerals, plus others in the local area. Two, yesterday.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 11:16 PM:

David B, do you get irony out where you live?

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2005, 04:45 AM:

Terry: yes, I've been at Arlington myself and been duly touched. (Except by the Challenger memorial slab, my, is that thing ugly *g*).

And yes, this is very much on my mind right now. The US military seems to consider non-American lives much less worthy than American ones, and this becomes twice creepy when you realize just how (sarcasm)much (/sarcasm)they value their own soldiers.

DavidB: I'm still curious if Iraqis themselves should be sternly told that they shouldn't pay ransom for their own either.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2005, 04:56 AM:

It certainly encourages more kidnippings, at the least.

David B., I think your equation is a bit too simple. An insurgent organisation that uses kidnapping as one of its methods regards "pay/no pay" as win/win, in that if ransom is paid, they get money, and if it is not paid, they get to stage a brutal demonstation of power.

I don't speak for the Italians, certainly, but paying ransom in cases of kidnapped journalists would result in both short and long term positives, aside from the obvious:

1. Italian journalists would be more willing to stick their necks out to get stories, knowing their government will do its best for them.

2. The intelligence they can get from a repatriated kidnappee may be of enormous use in shutting down the kidnappers for good.

"No money for hostages" is a tough sound-bite, but it's not a practical approach to hostile diplomacy.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2005, 07:55 AM:

DavidB: It's about as far from morally defensible as one can get ...

Okay, David B, your opinion has been noted, and should you be kidnapped by terrorists, we will urge your family and friends not to pay any ransom to get you back alive, since you find the idea so objectionable.

But, even though I accept you have the right to make this decision for yourself (not, of course, for other people) I kind of hope your family and friends would tell us to get stuffed and pay up, because they love you and they want you to live.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2005, 10:40 AM:

On ransom, which I've been arguing about with elsewhere as well. The argument was that well now they are likely to kidnap more Italians. They won't kidnap Americans because Americans don't pay ransom.
Yeah, well, that means they just kill the Americans immediately, doesn't it? It doesn't mean the Americans are any safer because their govt doesn't pay ransom.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2005, 08:10 AM:

I note with interest the conflation of "kidnapper" with "terrorist", and ask what political agenda it furthers. In a country with 70% unemployment and where every family has automatic weapons, kidnapping rich folks has become a cottage industry. Foreigners are rich folks in Iraq -- the remaining journalists are employees of organizations with relatively deep pockets. Finally, as noted elsewhere, ordinary criminal kidnappers have nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain by declaring themselves to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Terror, Inc.

I'm deeply suspicious of the "no negotiations with kidnappers" crowd -- they're wilfully refusing to look at reality on the ground, and they're pricing human life at a steep discount, both of which are symptoms of the kind of political fanaticism that gave us WW2 -- on the bad guys side.

TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2005, 12:09 PM:

"No negotiation" means only that the negotiations are secret. We don't want kidnappers to talk about how much they are paid.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2005, 12:29 PM:

Charlie Stross:

A politician is unlikely to make a career-ending move by saying: "No negotiations with Satan." Or, for that matter, "No negotiations with Cthulhu." Terrorists, as a set, are not mythological. But you make a good point in saying that any given kidnapper (or other criminal-of-opportunity) is only very tenuously linked with terrorism. In any case, being on the terrorist suspect list in the USA does not prohibit you from buying a gun. Many Americans are vague on the notion that the State defines who is the Enemy of the State. I think that Bradbury got that right, in Farenheit 451. Or, as Andy Warhol put it in an alternate world: "In the future, everyone will be a terrorist suspect for 15 minutes."

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2005, 12:38 PM:

Anna: When I was last at Arlington I was wandering about (I ought to scan some of those photos, from up inside, where all is ajumble with odd monuments, and re-burials) and saw the Challenger slab, from the back, where it looks all right. I forget what the inscription is, but it caught my eye.

It isn't, as I recall, from "High Flight" but some other poem.


Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2005, 01:03 PM:

Terry Karney:

"Poem on back of Challenger monument/group headstone: HIGH FLIGHT..."


I think that my "14 Haiku for Challenger" was published by Scott Greene in some small press magazine, but I'm not sure. I have not published my "14 Haiku for Columbia."

It breaks my heart, as someone who worked for years on the Space Shuttle, and could not get the authorities to fix what I said was broken, in half a dozen different systems. As a poet, I am unable to capture that heartbreak, except inadequately, in memorium.