Socialist Worker

The allegations New Labour refused to hear

Issue No. 1901

AFTER THE shocking images of torture by US and British soldiers come the shocking lies and excuses from New Labour ministers. The Red Cross says it "repeatedly made its concerns known" about reports of Iraqis being tortured for more than a year.

It was visiting jails in Iraq from as early as March last year, shortly after the war started. It visited around 13,000 prisoners into November. Red Cross says the visits led routinely to immediate verbal and later written reports to the "coalition" forces.

Jeremy Greenstock, Blair's former representative in Iraq, says he was handed a full report in February this year. Yet the defence secretary Geoff Hoon had to be asked four times on Radio 4 before he finally admitted that he had only read the report last week.

Amnesty International adds that it raised concerns "in writing and face to face" with the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office at least five times since May last year. These included "deaths in custody, torture, detention conditions, killings of civilians".

In July it went public with those concerns. The Ministry of Defence responded in September via e-mail saying that it needed further information. In April Amnesty International again contacted Hoon raising the killing of civilians in Iraq. Blair's armed forces minister Adam Ingram told Amnesty last October military police were investigating the case of Baha Mousa, who was killed in custody.

Ingram said in parliament last week that he had received "no adverse or other reports" from the Red Cross about the conduct of British soldiers in Iraq. Blair and his government were prepared to do anything, even ignore murder and torture, to carry on with the war in Iraq. That reality is even beginning to hit home with vehement supporters of the war like "left" Labour MP Ann Clwyd. Blair was happy to ship her out to Iraq to be his human rights envoy. But she wasn't sent a copy of the Red Cross report detailing human rights abuses.

Blair and his ministers want to repeat the strategy they had over the Hutton report into the death of Dr David Kelly-deny any knowledge, cry a few crocodile tears and hope to ride out the storm. This time the scandal is more bloody and goes to the heart of US and British troops role in Iraq.


Message that ran from top to bottom

THE TORTURE was not carried out by a few rotten apples. It was not restricted to one particular regiment. It was an inescapable result of the occupation itself. Even the Army Times, a newspaper for the US military, says, "This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential-even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war. The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes."

The killings and the torture are part of a systematic attempt to terrify Iraqis into accepting whatever fake government the US and Britain force on them.

Occupying powers always resort to such methods to subdue resistance to their rule. It was the same with the US in Vietnam, with the French in Algeria and with Britain in its colonies.

As the damning evidence against the British army piles up, defence secretary Geoff Hoon is only interested in saving his skin. To divert attention, Hoon accused the Daily Mirror of publishing photos that reconstructed scenes of torture, rather than showing the actual torture.

But British troops are torturing Iraqis. They have been doing it since the occupation began. They will be doing it until the occupation ends.


Another sinner repents

TONY PARSONS is a columnist in the Mirror. He backed the war and dubbed anti-war activists "appeasers". On Monday Parsons wrote, "Time to say all of us who supported this war were wrong. Hideously, horribly wrong. About as wrong as you can be. We should have been marching with the peaceniks."

He wrote, "Stop me if I am missing something here, but if former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic can end up on trial for war crimes committed under his leadership, then why can't Tony Blair? Blair is guilty as sin. He will not stand trial, of course. There will be no ritual humiliation and bringing to book for the Butcher of Baghdad, the way there was for the Butcher of Belgrade."


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Sat 15 May 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1901
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