The reporter for Italy’s left newspaper “il manifesto” was kidnapped in Iraq. At this dramatic moment, her colleague writes an editorial questioning why journalists who get too near to Fallujah disappear.
The Truth of Giuliana Sgrena
It’s time to know now, what exactly happened in Fallujah? Why is it that anyone who gets too near to knowing about those frightening days of the assault and conquest gets damaged or disappears? Like our Sgrena, for instance, or her French colleague Aubenas. What happened down there and why is it so delicate, so dangerous to recount? It could seem like an idle question at this time, and like all of the details in this moment of fear and shock, seems to border on cynicism.
And yet, if one looks closely, within this question there is the complete and entire sense of what Giuliana was doing there. Fallujah, naturally. Which equals Kandahar, which equals Mogadiscio, which equals Kabul. Which equals all of the places in which the blinding of the factions doesn’t consent third positions, problematic visions, desire to understand and recount. It’s better that there are no witnesses: the war is an affair like a mafioso deal, one would be polite enough to accept the official versions, keep your nose out of it.
No one who resolves problems by shooting, by truck or arial bombs is too pleased with these intrusions of intelligence that are questions, requests for explanations, stories that speak of people’s reality. Friend/Enemy is the elementary binary system – I would say primitive – that generates and feeds the war machine. Incidentally, and with deplorable timeliness, the sparse but significant rubbish which has appeared in several of the papers of the right have reminded us of this logic.
Every hawk favours a hawk as his enemy, and for the doves, there’s going to be some hard times. Yet, it seems that now is precisely the moment to speak loudly and clearly that the opposite is true. That the capacity to escape this blinding logic is the only way to escape from it. And that is, to look at and to recount that which is happening, to look at who lives or tries to live in spite of this logic. Just as Giuliana does, as a matter of fact, as those who don’t stop with the offical versions, who go and ask questions, who listen (something so rare) to the responses. In this way, the Iraq that Sgrena recounts isn’t exactly the same one that the others are recounting. The disenchanted and tired voters of her reportages are not those enthusiastic and “liberated” ones that we have seen and heard in other more accommodating reports. And behind the index finger dirtied by the ink of the many voting Iraqis, she know how to tell us the sad complexity of a situation, a human or even a private one, that is part of a mosaic of a piece of history that many are telling us about in a different way.
To know what happened in Fallujah, now, you see, doesn’t seem like an emergency, perhaps one day we will know and we’ll be able to put another piece of the mosaic of the barbarity of our day in its place. But, at least in metaphor, never before like in this precise moment, is it necessary to know. Because it’s not only the news here that couts, but the possibility of the freedom to do so, to search and to recount to everyone. The claiming of a right to know a little bit more, to not be embedded in the brain and the sacrosanct right to not be enlisted forcefully in a war that is a mistake, a folly and terribly painful. This difference, this being out of key against the official sheet music, this looking at the war from the inside, but as a pacifist, is an asset, and not – as the usual “let’s get our weapons and go there” people would like us to believe – an ill-considered contradiction.
It is in this difference, in this way of looking at things, that all – and I do mean all – of our distance from this war and the logic that produced it, rests. No one knew how to give us that information, recount those things better than Giuliana Sgrena. It is to her choices and her field of view, to her special perspective as a woman, pacifist and journalist. It is obvious that she must be freed as soon as possible, because her perspective is as precious as it is rare. And because – among the many things – she has to tell us what is behind this war. And also what has happened at Fallujah.
from “il manifesto”, 6 febbraio 2005