Jumpy and Trigger-Happy Teenagers

Iraqi insurgents freed Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena only to have American soldiers fire on her car as it approached the airport. Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, who had negotiated her release, threw his body over hers, and was killed; she was wounded by shrapnel. Apparently, her captors had warned her that the Americans wanted her dead. It is known that American authorities disapprove of ransom payments. U.S. and Italian accounts of the shooting differ, Italians have elevated Calipari to the status of a national hero, and demanded an explanation. Under the circumstances, it’s hard to blame Sgrena for accusing the Americans of intentionally targetting her.

But there is another side to the story. Imagine yourself a young soldier, full of hormones, in what is, for the most part, hostile territory. The might of American military power seems a lot less persuasive when it’s just you and a few of your buddies manning a roadblock. You have no way to tell whether that approaching car is friend or foe. The local people are overwhelmingly opposed to your presence; and some of them are willing to martyr themselves just to kill you.

Maybe you see something. Or maybe you just think you see something. Are these the circumstances in which you’re going to make your finest judgments?

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