Douglas Murray

The oldest trick in the detainees’ book

The oldest trick in the detainees' book
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The £31 million al-Sweady Inquiry is in. And it describes claims that up to 20 Iraqis were killed and mutilated by British troops after a battle in 2004 as "without foundation":

‘Sir Thayne Forbes said Iraqi detainees who alleged they were tortured and abused - and subjected to mock executions - had given evidence that was "unprincipled in the extreme" and "wholly without regard to the truth".

The detainees in question were fighting as ‘insurgents’ at the time. But once they were detained they used the now familiar route of claiming they had been abused by their captors. This is not only an al-Qaeda tactic. The Iraqi insurgents (from the Mahdi army) also knew that they could simply take advantage of their enemy’s increasingly self-defeating playbook. Claim that your infidel British or American captors have tortured you and at the very least you can cost them years of torment, tens of millions and domestic front pages for years to come which will proclaim British troops to be war criminals and torturers. It is a win-win for any of Britain and America’s enemies. The surprising thing is not that our enemies do this, but that we allow and encourage them to.

However, I don’t want to minimise this. Some serious accusations were upheld:

‘Sir Thayne, a former High Court judge, found there had been instances of ill-treatment during "tactical questioning" of the detainees at Camp Abu Naji, near Majar-al-Kabir in southern Iraq, on the night of 14 May.’

And what were these outrages? They included the claim that the insurgents weren’t given a meal fast enough once they were detained; that they were kept up longer than they should have been and that some were spoken to in raised voices during questioning. And there is worse. On at least one occasion there was an instance of:

‘ interrogator banging a tent peg on a table and walking around a blindfolded detainee blowing on the back of his neck.’

The Independent – to take just one example – headlines this story today: ‘British soldiers mistreated Iraqi detainees in breach of Geneva convention.’

Written byDouglas Murray

Douglas Murray is Associate Editor of The Spectator. His most recent book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity is out now.

Topics in this articleInternationaliraq