The Sun newspaper reported the battle of Danny Boy in a suitably gung-ho style. “After a bloody battle which raged for four hours at least 28 of the enemy lay dead,” it said.
“Fleeing cohorts are thought to have dragged away at least the same number of bodies…They leapt into the first trench, killing three enemy with SA80 rifle bullets and ‘cold steel’.”
But what actually happened on 14 May 2004 in Iraq is not such an easy story for British imperialism.
The battle began when a patrol of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were ambushed at a checkpoint near Majar Al Kabir. Six British military police had been killed in the town a year before.
Some 28 Iraqis were killed in the battle.
Then an extraordinary order was issued—pick up the dead to check them against a list of those wanted for killing the six policemen.
The British Army said soldiers logged and photographed 20 bodies at their Camp Abu Naji base. They handed the bodies to their families the next day.
Iraqis say some people were alive when they entered the camp and were brought back dead.
An injured British soldier, Mark Keegan, saw what happened to one young prisoner.
He said, “All the blokes were running past and punching him in the head and there was a massive ditch and he was on his knees in there.
“Every time he kept crying out he was knocked to the floor with his hands tied behind his back.
“Then they’d leave him for a bit until he started squirming, lift him up again until he started moaning again.
“I see him have massive rocks thrown at his head, and yeah his face must have been pissing out with blood underneath that sandbag.”
This prisoner is Hamza Al?Maliki. He is deaf as a result of his beating.
Prisoners were passed on to other interrogators and guards.
They were held in disused toilets, their blindfolds replaced with blacked out goggles. Then the beatings began.
One prisoner, Hussein Fadhil Abbas, thought there were about 15 people being held because of the cries he could hear.
Before he was blindfolded at Danny Boy, he said he saw his friend Hamid al-Sweady among the prisoners.
Hamid had a minor wound to his leg. A number of witnesses say they saw the 19 year old Hamid alive.
Others say they spoke to him in the prison.
Shots were fired. Prisoners feared they were listening to their friends being killed.
Prisoner Hussein Fadhil Abbas said, “There was the sound of gun shots. Takh Takh! About five to six.
“Then there was a very loud scream. The sound one makes when one is in great pain, or had something broken or something like that.”
Hamid al-Sweady was among those delivered dead to their families.
When and how he died is neither agreed nor clear.
Iraqis say that some prisoners’ eyes were gouged out, some were shot in the head at close range, and that others had suspicious neck injuries.
Heider Al Lami’s death certificate records that his penis was severed.
The military police concluded that these were typical battle injuries made worse by transporting the bodies.
The military denies any wrongdoing.
The al-Sweady Inquiry into these events finally opened its public hearings last week. It was set up in 2009.
Up to 200 military witnesses will be called and 45 Iraqis will give evidence. It is expected to take two years to report on what happened.