David Blackburn

Shaming allegations that reveal the full horror of the Iraq war

Shaming allegations that reveal the full horror of the Iraq war
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The Independent's front page splash about British troops torturing and sexually abusing Iraqis in 2003 has, to put it mildly, put me right off my cornflakes. The allegations are horrific. Acts of live pornography designed to humiliate sexually conservative Muslim sensibilities, the electrocution of detainees, beatings, rapes and widespread detention without charge - the echoes of Abu Ghraib resound.

Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing all the Iraqis, wrote to the MoD saying:

'Due to the wider access of information and disclosure in the US, we do know that sexual humiliation was authorised as an aid to interrogation at the highest levels of the US administration. Given the history of the UK's involvement in the development of these techniques alongside the US, it is deeply concerning that there appears to be strong similarities between instances of the use of sexual humiliation.'

There is bound to exaggeration and fabrication among some of these claims; but put simply, if any allegation is true then this is a shaming day for the British army and an affront to the memory of those who died establishing freedom and the rights of the individual in Iraq. It is wrong of me to rationalise the perpetrators’ motivations from the snug comfort of west London. This is in no way an apology and the victims must have justice. But as liberation became occupation, and goodwill degenerated into insurgency, and the full nightmare of fighting a murderous but invisible enemy became apparent, it is little surprise that some overstretched soldiers found solace in brutality.