Brutalising Iraqis, or British military barbarism matching that of Bush Jnr's armed forces Print E-mail
 16 - 22 February 2006 Issue No. 782

Comment: The terror of occupation

If coalition troops are protecting Iraq from terrorism, who is protecting Iraqis from coalition troops, asks Firas Al-Atraqchi

You, the reader, and a few of your fully-equipped and militarised police chums are enjoying a quiet afternoon at a summer retreat. Suddenly, you hear an explosion outside your domicile and you exit to find dozens of rock-throwing neighbourhood teens taunting you with abuses and the odd projectile.

You assemble a group of your best men and give chase, managing to nab four of the teens.

You bring them back into your summer retreat, and proceed to beat them with your fists, with your boots, and your batons.

While the four teens, most of whom are poor and shoeless, are screaming and begging for you and your buddies to stop, one of your "mates" videotapes the whole incident.

One teen is beaten so ferociously on his head that his knees give way as he apparently loses consciousness. Another teen is surrounded by eight policemen who promptly kick him in the back and stomach. Repeatedly.

Another teen's symphonic overtures come to an end when the police captain, who is meant to maintain decorum among the ranks, gives him an excessive kick to the genitals.

All the while, we hear a narrated audio track to this home production:

"Oh yes! Oh yes! You're gonna get it. Yes, naughty little boys! ... Die! Ha, ha!"

Imagine this happening in Alpharetta, Georgia, United States. Or perhaps in Copenhagen, Denmark. How about in Rome, Italy?

It is a little hard to believe such scenes could occur anywhere in the "civilised" world, right?

This is the scene as exposed by the British tabloid News of the World in its Sunday 12 February edition. Citing an exclusive videotape of the beating of four Iraqi teens by UK troops in riot gear, the tabloid says:

"Today we expose a rogue squad of British soldiers who savagely attacked a defenceless bunch of Iraqi teenagers -- and with 42 brutal blows brought shame on our nation and its proud army."

The tabloid also revealed sickening offences made against the corpses of two Iraqi males.

Following the scandalous torture and abuse revealed to have been perpetrated by US troops against Iraqi detainees in the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison, the world was told by the US military that "rogue elements" were behind such actions.

However, since then we have heard numerous reports of further such scandals. The US military promptly promised to investigate and pursue any wrong-doing.

According to US sources, there are some 250 such cases awaiting some kind of hearing or trial. And these are the ones we know of.

Famed New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke news of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, says there are many more pictures and videos of Abu Ghraib torture and abuse.

So many -- and so shocking to the "civilised" viewer that chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Richard Myers said last year releasing the footage to the public would incite hatred and riots against US troops everywhere.

That's ironic, to be sure; if the good general were so fretted by the damage such revelations would incur on the US military, why allow such crimes to occur in the first place? And where's the worry about the Iraqis who were violated?

Oh, yes, rogue elements -- I forgot, excuse me.

But infractions committed against the Iraqi people are not restricted to the domain of US troops.

In addition to the official tally of US military misconduct (perhaps, too polite a word) in Iraq, the hidden world of military contractors is also coming to light and revealing questionable, if not outright inhumane, treatment of the local populace.

There are some 20,000 private military contractors operating in Iraq and beyond the scope of local, military, or international law.

Last fall, video of military contractors firing randomly at Iraqi commuters sparked outrage. When military contractors opened fire on US marines, the outrage sparked action. US military commanders called the Iraqi Interior Ministry which said it would enforce a clampdown on the contractors.

Then reports surfaced that military contractors had been "roughed up" by US soldiers.

Nevertheless, no clampdown came. But the ministry did reveal that at least 12 Iraqis are killed by military contractors every week.

If such conservative figures are true, then some 1800 Iraqi civilians have been killed by military contractors since the war began in March 2003.

What is going on in Iraq? Is it the 21st century version of the Wild West?

Who are the foreign troops inflicting so much harm and damage on Iraqi livelihoods?

In August, the Associated Press ran a story of 55 US soldiers in the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Brigade tried and convicted of criminal charges, many stemming from drug and alcohol abuse. Both are prohibited by the US military.

Fifty-five soldiers in a brigade of 4000 may not seem like much -- accounting for just 1.4 per cent. However, if that ratio is applied to all 135,000 US troops we arrive at a figure of nearly 1900 military personnel.

Are these the "rogue elements" we have heard so much about?

In an article titled Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations, published in the November/December issue of Military Review, UK Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster accuses US military personally of being culturally insensitive to the Iraqi people in what "arguably amounted to institutional racism".

He says such misconduct (there's that word again) may have fuelled the resistance.

He would do well to advise his own country's troops.

But I find hope in the words of the commentary published by News of the World : "The winning of hearts and minds has been the central strategy in our Iraq campaign. That's why there can be no cover-up for those whose savage behaviour has disgraced, and perhaps even endangered, their service colleagues.

Unhappily, this video record of brutality does nothing to help the battle on the troubled streets of Iraq."

Indeed.