Britain: British troops face brutality allegations

A SOLDIER from Warwickshire, Fusilier Bartlam aged 18, is being questioned following pictures of Iraqi POWs allegedly being mistreated.

He handed in pictures for developing at a photographic processors after a tour of duty in the Gulf. Reportedly some show an Iraqi prisoner trussed up inside netting being suspended by a fork lift truck and others show "sex acts" taking place near POWs.

The incident follows close on the heels of the investigation of Lt Colonel Tim Collins for alleged mistreatment of Iraqi civilians and bullying in his regiment.

The fact that Bartlam even handed in the film either shows someone in total denial of the brutality depicted or even someone who wanted the information revealed.

Will the Ministry of Defence try to use Bartlam as a scapegoat for worse abuses further up the command chain and to deflect attention away from how much the government knew about such abuses?

Wars tend to go hand in hand with brutality to the vanquished. Only once did news programmes depict what could be happening when they showed hooded and bound Iraqi prisoners quaking with fear and being roughly handled by British troops.

The media justified this saying that they were "suspected Ba’ath Party members" loyal to Saddam. But here they were POW’s who had surrendered.

The ruling class are trying, in the name of the "war against terror", to desensitise people to the horrors of war and imperialism. We are meant not to bat an eyelid as children are detained in the US Camp X-ray concentration camp, reputedly about to become the first death-camp run by a major industrialised nation since the Nazis.

Maybe that’s why Bartlam thought he could hand in his film like a set of holiday snaps with impunity.

If Bartlam and his fellow soldiers are culpable they should be punished. But just focusing on him lets off the hook New Labour politicians – whose actions in starting this war gave the green light to acts of hatred and brutality, the chiefs of staff who kept them hidden and the top brass who are implicated in mistreating POWs.

These incidents show the brutality of a war that led to thousands of working-class people on both sides being killed and injured in the name of US big business.

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June 2003