Abusing Iraqis: How much is enough?
Telegraph photo/News of the World
Yesterday's front page of the News of the World (U.K.)
Even for Britain's sex-and-scandal-loving tabloids, yesterday's alarming
front-pager in the News of the World came with a mixture of
titillation and a genuine sense of unease.
"The horrifying scenes on these pages will shock the world and
ignite a huge military scandal," the paper declared in
report about the apparent abuse of civilians two years ago by
British troops stationed in Basra, in southern Iraq. Back in March
2004, riots around Basra over job shortages turned violent. Protesters
threw stones and homemade bombs at British troops. "In a standard
tactic adopted in Northern Ireland and now used by Britain's 8500-strong
force in Iraq, snatch squads were sent out to arrest the
The News of the World cited a videotape that has surfaced showing how
British troops apparently mistreated some of the demonstrators they
apprehended during the Basra flare-ups. "Today we expose a rogue
squad of British soldiers who savagely attacked a defenseless bunch of
Iraqi teenagers - and...brought shame on our nation and its proud
army," the paper reported. It described and presented still pictures
from the video, which had "apparently [been] filmed for 'fun'"
by a British corporal; the tape showed his comrades beating several
Iraqi teenagers "senseless with vicious blows from batons, boots and
fists" - and enjoying it.
The News of the World noted that, in the video, the soldiers can be
seen, "[i]gnoring [the Iraqis'] pitiful pleas for mercy, until the
incident climaxes with what appears to be an [non-commissioned officer]
delivering a sickening, full-force kick in the genitals of a
cringing lad pinned to the ground. All the while the callous cameraman
delivers a stomach-churning commentary urging his mates on, cackling with
laughter and screaming: 'Oh yes! Oh yes! You're gonna get it. Yes,
naughty little boys! You little f***ers, you little f***ers. DIE! Ha,
In another sequence, "the camera approaches an Iraqi corpse while a
soldier draws back a blanket to display it as a sickening trophy. The
cameraman then commits an act considered the ultimate insult to an Iraqi
- and kicks the dead man twice in the face, humiliating him in
death." As the twenty-something man's head "is lifted to face
the lens, a soldier sniggers:
'He's been a bad mother****er.'"
The newspaper explained that the video had been brought forward by
"a disgusted whistleblower" after it was shown to its
maker's "pals at their home
base in Europe." The whistleblower told the paper: "These
Iraqis were just kids. Most haven't even got shoes on." (Copyright
rules prohibit reproduction of the News of the World's video stills, but
they can be seen
Advising that "caution is in order" when digesting this latest
"tabloid shocker," especially since fake abuse pictures have
turned up in the U.K. press before, Britain's
Guardian nevertheless lamented that images from the News of the
World's tape had been "quickly broadcast on TV across the Arab and
Muslim worlds," making for "a grim addition to a catalog of
violence that for many represents an indictment of Western policy in
the region." News analyst Peter Beaumont, writing in the
Guardian's sister publication, the
Observer, notes of the latest allegations of abuse by Iraq's
foreign occupiers: "What is particularly disturbing the level of
dehumanization of the Iraqi people that British and American troops were
sent to liberate."
Guardian reports that a spokesman for the leader of
Al-Fadhila, an Islamic party that is strong in Basra, said that he
and his colleagues "were 'shocked but not surprised' by news
of the video. He added: 'Many of our supporters have reported ill
treatment at the hands of some of the British forces. I don't think they
would behave that way in Britain. Why do we deserve it?'"
Britain's Ministry of Defense has launched an investigation of the
alleged abuse of Iraqis in Basra.
(Telegraph) British Prime Minister Tony Blair responded
to the news of the videotape by saying, "We take seriously any
allegations of mistreatment, and those will be investigated very fully
indeed." He asserted that the "overwhelming majority" of
U.K. soldiers in Iraq have "behaved properly" and have done a
"great job for our country and for the wider world."
In its own
, the News of the World seemed to agree. Still, it noted, "Those
responsible for the events we depict must be identified and brought to
book. Our troops simply cannot be allowed to behave in this way -
however bad the provocation."