Socialist Worker

Secret prison shows up Britain's dirty role in war

The government claims that the military is in Afghanistan to uphold the law. But Ken Olende shows the brutal reality behind Britain’s ‘war on terror’

Issue No. 2356

Britain’s secret prison at its massive Camp Bastion base in Afghanistan is the latest outrage in the “war on terror”.

Western forces have made the names of Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib notorious over the past decade.

Photographs of US soldiers torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison shocked the world in 2004.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond admitted last week that the British army has been holding around 90 people indefinitely, without charge at Camp Bastion. 

He now says they will be processed. Hammond said the prisoners are suspected Taliban fighters. He claimed that the army detained them for their own safety as they could be mistreated if handed over to the Afghan government.

Hammond shouldn’t be quite so smug about the treatment of prisoners by British troops. The father of one detainee told the Guardian newspaper how his son vanished and for two months he didn’t know if he was dead or alive.

The British detained his son in March 2012. But he still has not been told why he is being held. And his family has no reason to assume he is safe in Western hands.

The torturing to death of two prisoners at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan led to 15 US soldiers facing charges in 2005. The British military was quick to say that it had too much experience to lose discipline like the Americans. 

Boasted

Indeed in the years following the invasion of Iraq, British generals boasted that their troops were so popular that they could patrol in “soft hats”. 

The barbaric reality of the occupation was revealed in the treatment of hotel clerk Baha Mousa. He died after suffering 93 separate injuries while in British custody.

And the Al-Sweady inquiry is currently investigating the battle of Danny Boy that took place in southern Iraq in 2004.

It is looking into whether British troops killed and tortured detainees after the battle.

The British military has a long tradition of “counter-insurgency”. This is also a long tradition of mistreating prisoners.

The British perfected the concentration camp as a place to detain untrusted civilians during the Boer war in South Africa in 1900. 

A minimum of 28,000 women and children died in the camps, largely from neglect.

The British held tens of thousands in concentration camps in an attempt to crush the Mau Mau independence movement in Kenya, east Africa, in the 1950s.

Detainees were tortured, including the castration of men and rape of women with glass bottles.

These are just a few examples of how the British army systematically uses torture as a part of its military campaigns.

The goings on at Camp Bastion are just a small part of Britain’s murky foreign policy.


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