The pictures coming out of Iraq, alleging the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British and US servicemen are a matter of great concern and shame; if they are proven to be true.
The US and British governments are currently investigating the accusations; and have let it be known that should the accusations be proven, the perpetrators will be punished.
The question is how far up the chain of command will the recriminations go?
No doubt the men and women on the field, who are in these photos, will be punished. However, it is extremely unlikely that they were acting without the direct encouragement of more senior personnel and other agencies.
Will these people and agencies be investigated and punished?
There is also a more troubling question; the young men and women in the US and UK armed forces were sent into Iraq on the pretext of stopping the spread of WMD, and reducing the risk of terrorism spreading.
The senior politicians in the US and UK, specifically President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, made it very clear that the mission was one of “Good vs. Evil”. Those sent into Iraq were, in my view, “pump primed” by Bush and Blair to believe that in effect they were fighting for the very existence of the West’s way of life.
Under those circumstances it is quite possible that, many miles from home in an inhospitable country, the young men and women of the armed forces may act with an almost zealous fervour to achieve their mission.
In other words, they were acting out the roles scripted for them by the politicians.
Bush and Blair need to keep this in mind when they next make moralistic pronouncements about events and countries.
Additionally there are a number of uncomfortable questions arising from this disgrace:
- If the scenes of abuse have come as a total surprise to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, then the chain of command and control has suffered a catastrophic failure. The responsibility for this failure rests with those at the top of the chain.
- If the scenes of abuse have not come as a surprise; then it means that either these acts were being perpetrated on the express/implied orders of Bush and Blair, or that they were informed of it some weeks/months ago before the newspapers published the story. In which case Bush and Blair are guilty of suppressing a scandal that should have been placed in the public domain, as soon as it had been discovered.
Either way Bush and Blair need to consider their positions. The credibility of the coalition forces, and the last shred of justification for the invasion of Iraq, have been blown away by this scandal.
Meanwhile the people of Iraq must be wondering if they are, in fact, any better off.