the Disillusioned kid
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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

According to today's Guardian four British soldiers are to face a court martial charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners:
The prosecution of the soldiers, from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was disclosed yesterday by Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, as the Guardian learned that military police are investigating fresh allegations of ill treatment by British troops after complaints by the Red Cross.
There are apparently 75 such investigations, more than twice as many as had previously been admitted.

Tragically none of this is as a major surprise. While there has been an attempt to present torture and brutality as the sole preserve of the Americans, it has been clear for sometime that their British counterparts are also guilty of serious abuses and even war crimes. Kamil Mahdi, writing at the start of June noted that
apparently genuine photographs have been in the hands of police and the Ministry of Defence's special investigation branch since at least May 2003. At that time, an 18-year-old member of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, Gary Bartlam, was detained by Warwickshire police when the film he took to be developed revealed images of British soldiers engaged in torture that is remarkably similar to that practised by US troops and mercenaries at Abu Ghraib.
It is apparently these photos which form the basis of the court martial case.

There remains a concerted effort, as in the US to present these "abuses" (the term "torture" not being acceptable in polite conversation) as the actions of a few "bad apples". Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said:
Those soldiers who besmirch the name of the British army should be dealt with quickly and transparently.

The people of Britain, and especially those of Iraq, need to see that we will deal vigorously with any bad apples in our military basket.
The problem of course is that "our military basket" is rotten. While each and every British soldier is ultimately responsible for their actions, they would not be torturing and abusing Iraqis if the UK had not participated in the illegal and immoral invasion of the country in the first place. A cursory consideration of occupations throughout history will show that they are typically accompanied by brutality on the part of the occupiers. The response then seems obvious.

While opposition to torture and abuse by the forces occupying Iraq is to be encouraged and fostered we should not lose sight of the bigger picture. Over the last eighteen months we have witnessed an overwhelming attack launched on a third world country, already devastated by years of war, sanctions and dictatorship, by the planet's leading military powers on concocted pretexts and in violation of international law. This has been followed by a brutal and incompetent occupation, which has unleashed various reactionary forces within the country, and the beginnings of a process of exploitation of the country by western multinationals. The torture carried out by US and UK soldiers does not tarnish our otherwise glorious achievements in Iraq as some would have us believe, it is instead simply another element to the collective punishment to which we have subjected the Iraqi people.

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