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(Continuing a Memorial Day weekend 2005 salute to the fallen. This post originally from November 2003 acknowledges what many would deny, the presence and sacrifice of our coalition partners.)
A look at a hero, from The London Times, November 14, 2003 (subscription required)
BRIGADIER Giuseppe Coletta, killed in Wednesday's bomb blast in al-Nasiriyah, believed that it was his God-given duty to help the child victims of war.The story also notes that the attackers killed nine Iraqis, including a three-month-old baby. More recent reports put the death toll at 31.
For the handsome Sicilian officer in the Italian military police, peacekeeping work was a way of mourning his son, who died three years ago of cancer at the age of 6.
He was one of 19 "simple heroes" lauded in the Italian press yesterday after an atrocity they dubbed "our September 11".
Brigadier Coletta, 38, who was due to fly home on Sunday, was described as a strong and generous man who had twice won awards for his courage in helping children. Two years ago he was given a military medal after saving a drowning boy in Kosovo. Last week he won a Shield of St Martin, an Italian humanitarian award, for his work in Bosnia, where he raised funds to pay for dental treatment for children in Sarajevo left disabled after the war.
In his last phone call home on Tuesday night Brigadier Coletta told his wife: "Don't worry, I'll be home in a few days", and spoke of his visit that same afternoon to a children's hospital armed with biscuits and chocolate.
The children were his new friends, he said, and he hoped to make one last visit to the hospital before returning home.
Although prime minister Silvio Berlusconi supported the military campaign against Saddam Hussein, Italy did not contribute combat soldiers to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Italy sent troops after Baghdad fell to help in the reconstruction, and now has a 2,300-strong contingent in Iraq.
But will the cowardly murder of Brigadier Coletta and 18 of his countrymen convince Italians (like so many Americans) to turn tail and flee Iraq? Perhaps, according to New York Times reporter Frank Bruni in Rome:
...as Italians absorbed the horror of that bloodshed, it was clear that Mr. Berlusconi's commitment to helping the United States in Iraq would come under newly intense scrutiny and perhaps newly intense opposition here...The story quotes Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's remarks to parliament: The New York Times:
"Our determination must be the same as that of the Italians in uniform who have brought honor to themselves and to the coalition that is committed to supporting Iraq's journey toward democracy."As you might expect, The New York Times is desperately trying to paint a picture of a nation divided, if not in outright opposition to its leadership:
"No intimidation will budge us from our willingness to help that country rise up again."
But the depth and durability of that willingness, both inside and outside Mr. Berlusconi's center-right governing coalition, are unclear....says the NY Times article, which immediately contradicts itself at great length:
A majority of Italian lawmakers voted last spring to authorize an Italian military presence in Iraq, and many of Mr. Berlusconi's opponents did not wage much of a fight against it. That presence was framed as a humanitarian, not a combat, mission.Then follows what must be absolutely incomprehensible to a Times reporter:
But the authorization expires at the end of the year, and it is expected to come to another vote in Parliament just before then.
One Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that while the bombing would certainly prompt dissent and debate, "I don't think that this dramatically shifts the equation."
The diplomat predicted that the Italian military presence would be authorized anew.
Several Italian political analysts and politicians agreed, saying that Italian lawmakers would not want to act in a way that made Italy seem fickle or easily cowed by terrorists.
For the most part, lawmakers in the opposition avoided partisan comments, saying that a debate about Italy's place in Iraq could wait while the country mourned.Unable to find authentic Italian anti-Berlusconi quotes, our undaunted Times reporter composed his own, and included it in his report:
Even at moments when other Western European leaders recoiled from President Bush, Mr. Berlusconi embraced him, seemingly happy to have the hug to himself.Bruni then reverted quickly to facts:
Some Italians said today that they were glad that Italy was playing a part in trying to build a democratic Iraq, and some said that Italy should help, however possible, in the American campaign against terrorism around the world.Before triumphantly ending his story with a quote
But many other Italians said that being in Iraq made no sense and was not serving any purposes.It's certainly not difficult to imagine Mr. Bruni, who likely expected quotable outrage to be shouted from every street corner in Rome, dejectedly calling it a day and stopping off for one last drink before quitting time. What an unexpected lift he must have gotten from the expressed misery of his disgruntled bartender. I wonder if he left a tip?
"It's useless to be there," said Valentino Valentini, a 27-year-old bartender here. Mr. Valentini said that he was enraged by both the Italian military presence and its bitter consequence, adding: "What we should do is send the politicians to Iraq."
Small wonder then, that The London Times notes in regards to our fallen hero that:
Yesterday the brigadier's colleagues cordoned off the street in the Naples suburb of San Vitaliano, which had been his home for the last 20 years, to protect his grieving wife, Margherita, and her infant daughter from the glare of television cameras.Implying they let print reporters through?
Resto nella pace, Brigadier Giuseppe Coletta, rest in peace. Brave men die, their dreams live on.
(Original post: 2003-11-17 09:02:15)
Do you have the email address of the Italian Embassy in Washington DC? I would like to send my condolences to them for a good man who did his job faithfully and well. It is no wonder that the Roman Empire endured for two millenia; they did not give in or give up. Unlike the Phrench...was there ever a Phrench Empire that lasted longer than fifty years?Posted by La Femme Crickita at May 30, 2004 08:45 PM
A brave warrior and a brave man. Concern for the world's children is one of the greatest virtues.
Rest in peace, your dreams do live on, fine man.Posted by Steve at May 30, 2004 08:46 PM
Uh-rah.Posted by Mike H. at May 30, 2004 09:22 PM
Another Italian we should honour is Fabrizio Quattrochi, the man who, before his execution at the hands of terrorists in Iraq, tore the hood from his head and yelled "I'll show you how an Italian dies!"
God bless him and his courage.Posted by Debbye at May 30, 2005 12:42 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(4) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)