The Socialist 15 May 2004
Get The Troops Out
Torture Revelations: Shock Turns To Anger
NEW REVELATIONS hit the headlines daily about the brutal treatment of prisoners in Iraq by occupying forces. To listen to Bush, Rumsfeld and Labour ministers speaking, you'd think these barbaric acts were just some kind of blip on the part of some 'rogue' soldiers and private contractors.
However the grim reality is that torture is used regularly and has been used throughout history by states around the world, particularly during wars. The British state is no stranger to torture as its bloody history shows.
During the 1950s Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, British troops killed 10,000 Kenyans. In the concentration camps used there, conditions were so bad that 402 imprisoned Kenyans died in one month.
In fact, concentration camps were initiated by the British military in the Boer war. In Northern Ireland Irish prisoners were regularly tortured by British state forces.
US troops in Vietnam tortured the local population by dragging them to death behind a jeep with a rope tied round their neck while special forces officers kept human skulls in their huts inscribed with the words "one down, a million to go". In the 1991 Gulf War one US commander said "we count every screwdriver but we don't count dead Iraqis."
Imperialism uses racist ideas to incite troops into these barbaric acts by describing the forces opposing them, and the local population, as less than human.
The level of torture and the techniques used by British and American troops in Iraq, called R21 and including the sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners, is high. During training, some troops being trained in these methods have had to walk away - some have had breakdowns.
The US commander in charge of military jails in Iraq says that they use more than 50 special "coercive techniques" to help make the prison staff "more able to garner intelligence as rapidly as possible".
The way these prisoners are captured shows how the occupying troops are brutalising the local population. One private contractor, working at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison as an interrogator for the US, described a report that he had read from US units gone out to capture prisoners:
"The target was not at home. The neighbour came out to see what was going on and we grabbed him." Private contractors are used as interrogators as part of capitalism's attempts to privatise everything that moves. But this contractor's evidence shows that this systematic torture is sanctioned from the very top.
In spring 2003, the Pentagon approved new techniques for interrogations at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. These included making detainees stand for long periods, depriving them of sleep and having female interrogators question male prisoners.
The arrest and subsequent torture and killing of a hotel porter has lifted the lid on the British troops' involvement in these scandals. None of the people arrested in this raid have been charged but they were subjected to vicious beatings whilst hooded. The porter killed was so badly disfigured by the beating that his father could hardly bear to look at him.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, even coalition military intelligence officers believe that 70%-90% of Iraqi detainees were "arrested by mistake".
Both the US administration and British government have been trying to keep these actions from the public eye despite Amnesty and the Red Cross's attempts to publicise them.
But now the news is out, it has stirred a huge wave of anger that will reverberate not only in Iraq but around the world.
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