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Friendly Fire: The Remarkable Story of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq, Rescued by an Italian Secret Service Agent, and Shot by U.S. Forces Hardcover – October 1, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 2004, Sgrena, a reporter for a Communist paper in Italy covering the plight of war-torn Falluja, was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents, held for a month and released safely-only to be fired upon by U.S. forces guarding the road to the airport. The well-publicized incident, which resulted in the death of high-ranking Italian intelligence official Major General Nicola Calipari, is recounted here with righteous anger by Sgrena, along with the ensuing cover-up by the U.S. military commission assigned to find out what went wrong. Sgrena begins each chapter with details of the kidnapping, followed by analysis of the situation in Iraq, based on her first-hand experience reporting there. She is unstinting in her criticism of the war's conduct, bringing a perspective that American readers-for all the polemical war commentary they've been subject to-will find fresh and intriguing, such as her sense that the U.S. intent in Iraq is to partition the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurd areas, and that steps towards this goal have already been taken. While Sgrena's sometimes strident tone may be off-putting for Americans (either she or translator Riva fail to distinguish between government and citizens in reference to "the Americans"), her book is a valuable insider's look at both the personal and political costs of the interminable Iraq conflict.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sgrena, an Italian journalist for Il Manifesto, was kidnapped in Iraq in February 2005, held for 28 days, and rescued by an Italian secret-service agent who was shot and killed by U.S. forces. In this absorbing account, she recalls her hostage experience as well as her coverage of the war in Iraq as a nonembedded reporter. She marked the days of imprisonment by tying knots in the fringe of a shawl, keeping track of time in the darkened, windowless room by the calls to prayer, fighting to remain hopeful. Her captivity evoked memories of covering the women subjugated to strict Islamic law. Before her kidnapping, Sgrena focused her coverage of the victims of war in Falluja, the town bombed by the U.S. military as a major center of resistance. Since her rescue, Sgrena remains haunted by anxiety and fear and obsessed with questions about why she was kidnapped and why her secret-service protector was killed by the U.S. military, as well as broader questions about the war itself and the safety of journalists covering the war. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931859396
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931859394
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,240,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Like many other hostage tales, there are moments of true human interaction between the hostage and her captors in this book. Interestingly enough, but not surprisingly, some of these moments occur during various soccer matches that are watched by the kidnappers. Although Sgrena is anything but a sports fan, her Italian nationality gives her credence if only because of one of the kidnappers obsession with Italian soccer. She describes her discussions of religion and non-belief with the mujaheedin holding her and their difficulty in understanding her relationship to her unmarried longtime partner. Unlike other hostage tales, especially the recent story by US journalist taken hostage Jill Carroll, Sgrena refuses to accept the rationale of the occupiers and insists thgoughout the text that it is the occupation that is the primary culprit in Iraq, not the resistance. The descriptions of the aforementioned conversations reminds the reader of the contradictory nature of the human condition--warriors able to hold a woman prisoner yet curious enought of this person from another culture to converse with her and debate, even though their commanders and clerics might not approve.

As regards Sgrena's thoughts on Iraq, it is her contention that the fighters against the occupiers are primarily composed of two elements: the nationalist insurgency and the jihadists. Sgrena states that the jihadists want the US in Iraq because it gives them a front in their war on the infidels, while the insurgency wants the US and other occupation troops out so they can get on with their lives. As I write this review, the news broadcasts are reporting on a demonstration of hundreds of thousands against the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli war on Lebanon in Baghdad.
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Format: Hardcover
"Hostages are weapons of war, a powerful means of blackmail in an asymmetric conflict like that in Iraq. In two years of occupation, all foreigners have become the enemy; there's no longer any distinction between governments and those who oppose them..."(page 68)

In November 2004 the United States launched an especially violent assault on the resistance stronghold of Falluja, laying siege to the city and creating a civilian refugee crisis. On the trail of this crisis, interviewing civilians, antiwar Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena found herself sucked into the war in a most unexpected way: One of the resistance groups kidnapped her.

Sgrena's powerful book not only documents her personal drama as a hostage but reflects on the wider situation in Iraq that led to hers'--and many others'--kidnappings. She clearly explains why the "unbearable" living conditions feed into a general discontent that is (literally) violently stirred up by the presence of Coalition troops and their sledgehammer anti-insurgency tactics...tactics which almost led to her own death and did lead to the death of her liberator, Nicola Calipari.

"What happened to me after my liberation, the car hit by "friendly fire", took me back to the real origins of the current situation in Iraq: the war. The violent fall of Saddam did not bring liberty, but the decline into barbarism of Mesopotamia, cradle of civilization of the Sumerians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. This is the reality." (page 187)

(Kudos to the translator and editor for producing a highly readable English account of the author's remarkable story and exceptional political insight.)
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Format: Hardcover
The journalist author of FRIENDLY FIRE reported under war conditions, was kidnapped, rescued by an Italian secret agent, then shot by U.S. forces. If her name sounds familiar, it's because her story was detailed on 60 Minutes and other world media, but no show could prove the punch and impact of her memoir FRIENDLY FIRE, which chronicles her experience as a hostage. Any who would understand occupied Iraq in general and both military politics and hostage situations will find this packed with insights and answers lending to both study and browser interest. Especially recommended for military and public library collections.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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Format: Hardcover
Irony is hardly the word to describe the situation of this hostage. Not only is she a stalwart champion of the suffering Iraqis including the ones who kidnapped her, but also she has little politically in common with the Italian Prime Minister who negotiates her release.

The book was most interesting when Sgrena spoke to her own experience. More that 1/2 or more text was devoted to the issues such as utilities and insecutiry in Baghdad, the factions, the role women, religion, etc. 50% (or maybe more) of the text could have been written by others.

It seems to me, readers interested in Sgrena and her story would be well versed in the Iraqi situation and would buy her book to hear what she has to say that speaks to her experience.

I would have liked this book to be more about her captivity, her understanding of others who have been held hostage in this way, her observations of her captors, and a more precise reconstruction of the negotiations to free her.
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