Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

The revelation of British military abuse at al-Basrah ...

... one had heard rumours, but today we were shown some of the photographs being used as evidence against three soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in their courts martial being held at Osnabruck in Germany. One of the three has already admitted being guilty of one of the 'lesser' crimes.

The allegations and photographs are deeply shocking and it may have been unorthodox, but was certainly timely, for General Sir Mike Jackson (Head of the British Army) to voice his utter condemnation of what seems to have occurred. It will be very interesting to learn, in due course, the verdicts handed down in the courts martial, but whatever transpires will most likely not protect the Army (and the UK as a whole) from the damge to its international reputation, most pertinently in Iraq itself. These alleged incidents invite comparison with what occurred under US jurisdiction at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and whilst it seems the British transgressions were much more limited in scale and the period when they occurred, this is only small comfort. It may be that our military effectiveness in the al-Basrah area is reduced by these revelations, as a result of the changed attitude toward our forces by many Iraqis; this may be why Jackson was provoked into making his statement before the conclusion of the courts martial hearings.

I have always believed that it was right to act militarily to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and I still cannot renege on that belief, even if the post-removal phase seems to have been handled quite badly in some respects. It would be hypocritical of me, someone who has never (luckily) had to serve in the military, to attempt to blur my support for our participation, in Iraq, now that these horrors have been revealed - bad things happen in war, even in the best regulated of armies and it would be naive to think that our forces would somehow be immune from such faults, or that similar things might not recur.

We must hope that the elections at the end of this month can be conducted without too much additional violence and loss of life; this won't cancel out the abuses by US and UK military personnel, but a good election process will at least show that some good is flowing from this sorry situation.

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