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April 29, 2005

When is an ‘Attack’ an ‘Ambush’?

In editing Chris Shumway's compelling piece, I struggled with what term to use in the lead (and throughout the story) to describe the fateful incident around which so much controversy has revolved. Chris originally used the term "shooting incident." That's certainly accurate, but a bit passive. I am very inclined to refer to it as an "ambush."

We run into questions like this all the time, and I thought it would be interesting to ask our readers what they think from time to time, starting with this dilemma.

The problem is not whether we could call the incident an "ambush" if we knew for certain that Sgrena's version of the story is correct. We haven't seen her refer to it as such, but the situation would clearly fall under our "tell-it-like-it-is" rule. That is, if we knew for certain that a duck is a duck, we call it a duck. We don't quote a zoologist telling us it's a duck.

But we don't do this when we suspect or even stronly "believe" something is the case. We try to err on the side of skepticism in all cases, regardless of our own perspective.

In this case, though, the question is not whether we should buy Sgrena's or the Pentagon's version of the truth. No, this one boils down to a simple semantics issue. My question is, even assuming US patrol was visible and gave what it said were warnings, if they were done in such a way that the vehicle's driver could not detect them on time (which almost certainlywas the case, or else he would have stopped the car), does the incident qualify as an ambush?

Again, it doesn't matter what happened. We have to assume that Sgrena and the driver could be wrong -- either mistaken or lying. The question is whether an incident can amount to an ambush even if the perpetrators, who it is known were lying in wait, make an undetected attempt to warn the target before engaging it...

In the end, we went with the term "attack."

Comments...

lionhead: When is an ‘Attack’ an ‘Ambush’?

"We try to err on the side of skepticism in all cases, regardless of our own perspective."

Facts. Perspective. (Are not facts usually reported from some perspective? How can one ever avoid perspective?)

When neither facts nor perspective can be presented "neutrally," when someone and everyone has one or another stake in how the event is communicated, I guess the best thing is to be transparent about one's stake so that it can be taken "with a grain of salt."

Save reverting to first principles (e.g. how did the context of this event come to take place--which would amount to writing and re-writing the history of Bush's Iraq war), even the most careful reader is held hostage by either their own or the writer's axe.

goprisko: When is an ‘Attack’ an ‘Ambush’?

Forgotten in all this hand wringing are several facts.....

Segrena's car was on a secured road. This meant they had been cleared onto it. Their presence was known. Their car's color, make, model, and number of passengers known. Their importance known. Their rate of travel known. Destination known.

Segrena was shot in the back by a 100mm tank round. The car passed the tank. The car was not threatening the tank. There was time to check in and verifiy who the car was, were the patrol not sure.

Segrena's bodyguard was an embarassment. For the umpteenth time.... He had to go.

Ambush is too timid a headline... Assasination is more like it.

This is nothing new. It was done all the time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. What is new is your experience with it.

In his excellent book "The Unconquerable World", a point long forgotten is made. The arrogance of the empire creates its own resistance.... from nothing...

So, now we see upheaval in Italian politics.... too....

More will happen...

Or as we said 35 years ago "Shit happens"


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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.