A video shown on BBC TV on February 11, 2006 shows British soldiers savagely beating and kicking unarmed Iraqi teenagers in an army compound. Officials at the Ministry of Defense are said to have investigated and established beyond doubt the authenticity of the video.
Shot secretly “for fun” as a home movie from a rooftop in Basra in southern Iraq by a corporal and shown to friends at a home base in Europe, it was given to the News of the World later by an anonymous whistleblower. The footage shows soldiers pulling four Iraqi boys in their early teens into their army base after a riot and beating them with batons, then punching and kicking them repeatedly on the body and head and between the legs. Within the space of one minute, some 42 blows are rained on the four teens whom the whistleblower said “were just kids” who did not even have on shoes. One soldier can also be seen kicking a dead Iraqi in the face. The unidentified cameraman can be heard laughing and urging his colleagues on with vulgarities. (1)
This, mind you, is kinder, gentler Britain, whose exemplary interaction with the locals at Basra was held up as a model for American forces. The new video shows this up for the nonsense it is; the Brits on tape are every bit as gung-ho and turned on torturers of detainees as the soldiers at Abu Ghraib were.
And under-age detainees at that. Nothing new there either, of course. Despite all the breast-beating, the fact remains that the two worst crimes coming out of the prison scandal (assuming one can make a hierarchy of these things) -- the abuse of children and the complicity of medical personnel -- have yet to be given anything like serious examination by the fourth estate here.
So now Britain too is a paid up member of the Axis of Child Abusers.
Paid-up member two: The US
In July 2004, Germany’s TV news magazine, Report Mainz, cited accounts by the International Committee of the Red Cross that there were over 100 children in US custody and that soldiers had abused children. An eyewitness, Sergeant Provance, even described how interrogators molested a 15-year old girl and physically abused a 16-year old boy. (2)
More sensationally, in a taped lecture at the ACLU during the same summer, veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh claimed that he had heard tapes of children screaming as they were being sodomized in front of their parents. (3)
Hersh was late on the story. Buried in a Denver Post article a few months earlier was a brief but chilling reference to the rape of a young Iraqi boy by an American soldier. (4)
Paid-up member one: Israel, whose soldiers routinely mow down Palestinian children in their homes and schools. Just recently, nine-year-old Aya Astal was shot in the neck and had her stomach blown open when she wandered too close to Israel’s “security fence.” (5)
But a whole troupe of little ghosts go before her: Fifth grader Ghadir Mukheimer, a ten-year-old schoolgirl whom Israeli occupation troops shot in the chest and killed in October 2004 while she was sitting at her desk inside a United Nations school in a Gaza refugee camp. (6)
And thirteen-year-old Iman al-Hams skipping to school, left to die in a pool of blood when ambulances were denied access. Her body was riddled with 20 bullets -- five to her head -- most pumped into her body after death by Israeli soldiers. (7)
And four-month-old Iman Hajjour, killed at Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip by Israeli shelling that also left her mother and sister seriously injured. (8)
Officials have deliberately withheld the name of the regiment to which the perps in the British video belong. But maybe the public should demand it. Here’s why.
In May 2004, when photos surfaced in the Daily Mirror (UK) of members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment beating up and urinating on a hooded Iraqi detainee, General Sir Michael Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, rushed to claim that they only showed an isolated incident caused by the “ill discipline of a few soldiers.” But as The Independent pointed out immediately, by May 2004, the QLR (as well as the Royal Fusiliers and Black Watch) was already involved in six cases of death or severe abuse that the Royal Military Police had not yet completed investigated and that dated back more than a year. In May 2004, it was also eight months since the killing of 26-year-old Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist beaten to death in September 2003 by members of the same QLR. (9)
The QLR was at the time also facing a charge of having murdered an Iraqi detainee.
But in May 2004, the editor of the Mirror, Piers Morgan, was actually forced to resign over the abuse photos published in his paper. A government investigation -- never actually documented publicly -- found that they were a hoax. The Mirror’s owners, Trinity Mirror, and several prominent US corporations which held shares in Trinity, had opposed the Mirror’s anti-war stance long before the publication of the photos and it was their pressure that led to Morgan’s sacking on May 14.
Whatever the merits of the hoax allegation -- and mind you, it could plausibly have been a piece of government disinformation intended to muddy the whole business -- what it effectively accomplished was to take the spotlight off the QLR and other British troops in Basra and distance them from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal which was at the time just breaking in the world press. The new video shows just how important it was for the spotlight to be shifted somewhere else.
Should it turn out that the QLR was also involved in child-abuse, some one just might want to go back and check out the real story behind those “hoaxed” pictures.
There just might be more to it than what the government supposedly found.
And Piers Morgan just might be due an apology.
is a freelance
writer in Baltimore, and the author of the must-read book
The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the US
(Monthly Review Press,
2005) She can be reached at:
Copyright (c) 2006 by Lila Rajiva
1) “British troops videoed 'beating Iraqis',” Jo Revill and Ned Temko, The Observer, February 12, 2006. See also “Blair Promises Iraq Abuse Probe,” BBC, February 12, 2006. According to one progressive website, the cameraman is caught on tape gloating, “Oh yes! Oh yes! You're gonna get it. Yes, naughty little boys! You little f***ers, you little f***ers. DIE! Ha, ha!”
2) “Iraq’s Child Prisoners,” Neil Mackay, Sunday Herald, August 1, 2004. “Iraqi Children Among Abused Prisoners at Abu Ghraib,” The Scotsman, May 7, 2004.
3) “US Silent on Torture of Children,” Lisa Ashkenaz Croke, New Standard, August 16, 2004. “Sy Hersh at ACLU Convention,” Linda Wymore, Mother Jones, July 16, 2004.
4) “Sex Assault Cases in Iraq Often Stall,” Miles Moffeit, Denver Post, April 12, 2004.
5) “Israel's shooting of young girl highlights international hypocrisy, say Palestinians,”
Chris McGreal in Khan Yunis, The Guardian, January 30, 2006.
(6) “Israel Kills Palestinian Girl in Classroom: Doctors tried in vain to save fatally wounded Ghadeer,” Islam Online, October 13, 2004.
(7) “The Blood of Iman Al- Hams,” Amira Hass, Haaretz, February 9, 2005. See also www.palestinemonitor.org/new_web/iman_hams_cover.htm
(8) “3 more die in
Mideast, Israel takes arms ship,” Dispatch Online, May 8, 2001.
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