The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 21st January 2005
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British cruelty and abuse in Iraq -
WHO GAVE THE ORDERS?
by Daphne Liddle
THE BRITISH public were
shocked and stunned last Wednesday as photos of British soldiers
abusing Iraqi civilians were splashed across newspaper front pages.
The photos, 22 in all, are part of the evidence being presented
at the court martial of three of the British soldiers involved. They
show appalling violence, intimidation and humiliation forced on a
number of Iraqis, who are naked or nearly naked, some of them bound in
The events depicted in the photos are reported to have happened at a
storage base near the Iraqi town of Basra in the weeks after the
illegal American and British invasion of Iraq. The court martial is
taking place at British army base at Osnabruck in Germany.
The soldiers, of the First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of
Fusiliers, claim they were “only obeying orders”. They say the Iraqis
were looters, stealing food meant for humanitarian aid and they had
been told to “work them hard”.
It does not seem to have occurred to them or their officers that
there is a staggering irony in their moral condemnation of these no
doubt hungry men for stealing food, when they had just taken part in
the violent theft of a whole country – an invasion that destroyed
Iraq’s infrastructure and food supplies and did not trouble itself to
restore them quickly.
The pictures are so bad that Tony Blair and various senior army
officials have been forced to condemn them in public and to disown the
soldiers as a rotten handful.
General Sir Michael Jackson, the head of the army said that
65,000 servicemen and women had served in Iraq since the invasion.
“Only a very small number are alleged to be involved in incidents
of this type, and in consequence the number of open investigations into
deliberate abuse against Iraqi citizens is very small,” he said.
Tony Blair described the pictures as “shocking and appalling” but
said they should not be allowed to “tarnish the good name of our armed
forces”. He added that the “vast majority” of soldiers who served in
Iraq had done so “with courage and honour”.
In this way those responsible for putting these men in this
situation wash their hands of responsibility.
Just last week an American soldier was jailed for 10 years for his part
in the abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib. And in the same way the US
government is trying to portray the scandal at Abu Ghraib as the work
of a few rotten ordinary soldiers, rather than the inevitable outcome
of a brutal invasion and the subjugation and oppression of its people.
Some of the 22 pictures came to light when one of the soldiers
took a reel of film to be developed in a photographic shop in Tamworth
The shop staff called the police when they saw the pictures. A
police investigation found the other photos as it questioned the
soldiers involved. Several of them had taken pictures. This indicates
they cannot have realised they were committing a crime.
Army officials have claimed that soldiers were told to treat Iraqi
civilians with respect and were instructed in the relevant clauses of
the Geneva Convention.
But it would take a very brave soldier indeed to refuse to carry
out an order because it contravened the Geneva Convention.
The intimidation and oppression of the entire Iraqi population is
the deliberate policy of the invaders. The racist attitudes towards the
Iraqis and their culture are part and parcel of what is, in the end, a
Imperialist armies traditionally brutalise their soldiers and
then hypocritically claim to be shocked by their behaviour.
The British army has a long-standing reputation for its cruelty
in Ireland, India, Africa and many other places.
On the same day as the 22 pictures were published, the
Independent ran a feature article on the “torture, starvation, rape
mutilation and mass executions” carried out in Kenya under British rule.
Ordinary soldiers are made cruel by being subjected to cruelty in
their training. There is a direct link between the shocking events at
Deep Cut and the abuse in Basra.
Those soldiers would not and could not have acted in the way they did
without senior officers knowing about it, without believing that this
is what they were supposed to do.
It is not enough to bring these three to trial. The investigation
must continue and all those responsible for this policy, up to the
highest levels, must be brought to trial.
The madness of George W Bush
REPORTS that the
United States has sent commando teams into Iran to target the Islamic
republic’s nuclear installations have heightened tension in a region
racked by the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq and the continuing
Israeli persecution of the Palestinian Arabs.
According the New Yorker magazine, US special forces have been covertly
operating inside Iran for the past six months selecting sites for
future air strikes. Though Washington has dismissed the report as
“riddled with inaccuracies” it has ominously not denied it outright.
Iran has long been a thorn in the Americans’ flesh. The revolution
drove out the hated Shah, imperialism’s chief stooge in the Middle East
in 1979 and Iran has been at loggerheads with the Americans ever since.
While Democratic presidents like Carter and Clinton worked to contain
Iran, the Bush’s, father and son, have always favoured a more
Iran is on Bush’s “axis of evil” hit-list for daring to support Syria
and the Palestinian resistance. Its considerable oil reserves are
coveted by the big oil corporations who will never be satisfied until
they control the world’s entire oil production. And the Islamic
republic’s legitimate efforts to develop its own nuclear industry with
Russian assistance, is portrayed as a direct threat to US interests by
the war-mongers in the White House.
Though American air power can wreak havoc in Iran the consequences of
such an attack would be disastrous. Iran’s religious leadership
stretches right across the spectrum of the Shia Muslim community far
beyond its frontiers. No one doubts that the response from the Iranian
people and the Shia community would be robust in its fury if Iran was
France and Germany, the major powers in Europe, opposed the
Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and they’ve worked to develop good
relations with Iran. They recognise the strategic and economic
importance of the country and they’re mindful of the fact that if
Turkey joins the European Union, Iran will be one of their neighbours.
Britain has also supported the EU’s constructive dialogue with the
Iranian government over the past two years.
Where does that leave Tony Blair now? As usual waiting to see what the
Americans do next.
Blair would have us believe that British imperialism is able to exert
back-door influence on Washington in return for doing American
imperialism’s bidding in Iraq and throughout the world. But what has he
got for all his crawling to the White House?
All Blair can chalk up is a third-rate “peace” conference on Palestine
in London that has been shunned by all except the hapless Palestinians
The anti-war movement is mobilising for the next mass demonstration in
London in March. Hundreds of thousands on the street will send a clear
warning to Blair and his cronies not to plunge the country into another
illegal war and give support and encouragement to those in the labour
movement struggling for a change of leadership.
Top of the agenda is the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of all
British troops from Iraq. The next must be opposition to an attack on
Iran or any other country by US imperialism.
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