Iraqis hate American checkpoints. The New York Times says that "[n]ext to the scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, no other aspect of the American military presence in Iraq has caused such widespread dismay and anger among Iraqis" (John F. Burns, "U.S. Checkpoints Raise Ire in Iraq," March 7, 2005). No wonder -- the US rules of engagement give soldiers "authority to open fire whenever they have reason to believe that they or others in their unit may be at risk of suicide bombings or other insurgent attacks" (Burns, March 7, 2005). Paranoid fear comes easily to soldiers in counter-insurgency warfare, making them think that all moving shadows are cast by elusive guerrillas.
Two children are held by G.I.'s after their parents were killed when soldiers fired on the family's car near Tal Afar, Iraq, on Jan. 18. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
The incident of US soldiers opening fire on the car carrying an Il Manifesto correspondent Giuliana Sgrena, wounding her and killing Nicola Calipari, the Italian security agent who secured her release from insurgents who had held her hostage, demonstrates that no one is safe at US checkpoints in Iraq. There is no official statistics of the numbers of Iraqi and foreign civilians killed like Calipari, but, according to the New York Times, "[d]aily reports compiled by Western security companies chronicle many incidents in which Iraqis with no apparent connection to the insurgency are killed or wounded by American troops who have opened fire," and "a series of unclassified government reports that receive extremely restricted circulation" document "at least six incidents since December in which American troops have fired on vehicles carrying Westerners in the area around the airport" (Burns, March 7, 2005).