Sunday, March 06, 2005

When an accident is really an error...

OK, time to get political. You all knew this would happen at some point.

Yesterday evening, Giuliana Sgrena, a journalist from the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto was finally released after having been held hostage in Iraq for about a month. As she was heading to the airport, her car was fired upon by American soldiers, wounding her and killing the secret service agent who supposed to protect her. White House communications director Dan Bartlett commented on the incident on CNN, saying, "This is a horrific accident, on which President Bush personally called Prime Minister Berlusconi to offer his condolences, as well as to make sure that there is a full investigation, so we're able to understand the very facts that are now being discussed."

I call bullshit.

Not that the incident didn't happen, nor that this isn't horrific. But it is far from an "accident" as this staffer wants everyone to believe. It's a question of connotations: an "accident" implies lack of culpability or fault. My son is likely to have many accidents -- particularly when toilet-training, I suppose -- when it really won't be his fault that he couldn't hold it in anymore. Motor vehicles can be part of an accident when no one is at fault as well. And guns can go off accidentally, I suppose, such as when it is being cleaned or if one trips and falls on one's gun (see Steven Soderbergh's movie Out of Sight).

But how does a car get shot up by an exceptionally large number of bullets and still be considered an "accident"? Those kinds of guns have to be aimed. And correct me if I'm wrong, but in order for those many rounds to hit the car, you need to hold your finger on the trigger for a while. And re-aim.

I am willing to believe that the American soldiers did not know that the car was not terrorist-oriented. (That seems unlikely, but fine, for the sake of this argument, I'll take it.) But such an act is not an accident: it's an error. Errors happen, and people die from other people's mistakes. And people -- armies, countries -- take responsibility for their mistakes. It's high time this administration starts taking responsibility for its actions. If we are so gung-ho about this war, let's not shy away from our mistakes.

Or is it simply that if we started doing that, we'd be owning up to way more than we'd want to admit to?

Rant over. Back to happy stuff about movies and my-wife-is-still-large next time...

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