» Friday, April 30, 2004


Asked the Prime Minister’s reaction to the pictures of the Iraqi POWs which had been widely publicised today, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the US army spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, had said this morning that he was appalled and that those responsible had let their fellow soldiers down. Those were views with which the UK Government would associate itself. At the same time, we would also associate ourselves with the view that this was not representative of the 150,000 soldiers who were in Iraq. People should not judge the Coalition as a whole on the actions of a few. However, what had happened was regrettable, to say the least. Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to President Bush about the pictures, the PMOS said that these were matters which the US Administration and the US military were dealing with.

Put to him that the pictures would have a ‘terrible effect’ on Iraqi public opinion, the PMOS said that that would depend on how the issue was portrayed. We fully accepted that these things should not happen and it was important to underline that actions of this kind were in no way condoned by the Coalition. Questioned further, the PMOS observed that the images publicised today were a clear contrast to what had gone on under Saddam’s regime, which had carried out actions like this as a matter of policy. The actions publicised today had been carried out in direct contravention of all policy under which the Coalition operated. Asked if he would agree that the pictures were a ‘propaganda gift’, the PMOS said he did not think anyone underestimated how wrong these actions were. However, it was important for people to recognise that they had been condemned by the US military, who had now taken the appropriate measures. Of course that did not excuse what had happened. However, it did set the matter in perspective.

Asked if Downing Street was confident that no British soldiers had been involved in anything similar, the PMOS said that any allegations which were made would be investigated by the Special Investigations Branch (SIB), as every soldier who wore the British uniform knew. Asked if there were any current investigations into abuses by British troops, the PMOS said that as he understood it, there were eight cases relating to allegations of mistreatment which were currently being reviewed by the SIB. He referred journalists to the MoD for further detail. Asked if the investigations into the allegations had been made public, the PMOS said yes.

Asked for an assessment as to how the search for WMD in Iraq was progressing one year on, the PMOS said that it was being conducted by the Iraq Survey Group, which had already found multiple breaches of UN Resolution 1441, as detailed in their reports. Other questions had yet to be addressed. We were perfectly content to allow the Iraq Survey Group to continue its work. Asked if Downing Street believed that WMD would be found, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister’s view on this matter, as stated on many many occasions in the past, had not changed. The Iraq Survey Group should be left to carry out its work. He took the opportunity to point out that, one year on, progress was being made in what were clearly difficult circumstances in Iraq. This had been demonstrated clearly by the visit to the UK this week of a delegation of Iraqi Ministers, representing the Iraqi people, to reinforce the reconstruction effort. That progress should not be underestimated.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. I would clearly be wrong to tar the entire US military with the same brush and I feel that it would be unfair to view the actions of these few war criminals as typical. However, I do feel they are symptomatic of an underlying problem.

    The people torturing Iraqis are soldiers, people who are used to obeying orders and only using their initiative within the confines of their mission. When they committed these acts they must have felt that they were consistent with their view of their role in Iraq. I’m not going to claim that their acts are consistent with the US military’s view of their role in Iraq but clearly the messages the soldiers are getting are blurred enough to allow these soldiers to believe that torturing Iraqis was acceptable behaviour.

    The problem, I think, is that the soldiers think that they are at war. They are not a ‘liberation force’ and they see Iraqis (and maybe arabs in general) as their enemy. This is generated by Bush’s rhetoric about being at war and the US military’s approach to dealing with opposition e.g. the bombing and shooting of residents of Falluja.

    I know that there will be condemnation of these atrocities but court-martialling a few squaddies and a sacrificial officer will only tackle a symptom, not the cause.

    Comment by Uncarved Block — 30 Apr 2004 on 5:24 pm | Link
  2. Don’t confuse the U.S. military with our own; in the U.S., as a criminal, you may be offered the opportunity to serve in the military rather than serving a prison sentence. In the U.S., being a good killing machine is good money; a well-paid job that sets you up with a decent education once you get out.

    The attitudes of people going in are entirely different; the attitudes while they’re in are shaped by the reasons that brought them to the U.S. armed forces in the first place.

    The cause is as the cause always was – and it’s a long-standing problem inside the American military, and every American knows about it. The problem is, we have a good laugh about what Army men are like when they’re out and about in civvies, but most Americans don’t think of the Army as a peacekeeping force.

    At least now they know why it’s so poorly suited to the job.

    Comment by Gregory Block — 1 May 2004 on 11:44 pm | Link
  3. To kick off this glorious Monday morning, and obviously to pre-empt any statement on the issue; things have advanced, and British troops are now accused of the same sort of behaviour.

    As an ex-serviceman, firstly let me say that I personally believe the pictures printed in the Daily Mirror were fakes. I’m not condoning the behaviour if it happened, it’s just that those pictures are missing a certain something of authenticity. It’s easy to mess about with digital photography, and there are plenty of opportunities for bored squaddies or anyone else for that matter to mess about with images to produce pretty much what they want.

    Having said that, I do believe there is always a loutish element to any organisation of blokes, and especially in the male-dominated, testosterone-fuelled confines of an organisation which is (or used to be!) trained to be "physical" on a lot of different levels. Mannish competition, especially in the circles of rugby-clubs and suchlike super-macho inner-circles, is ever-present, bringing with it all the implications of trying to outdo ones competitors. Naturally, this kind of behaviour is tolerated (even encouraged up to a point) within certain limits, and it is only the superior training and discipline of mid-ranking NCOs (troop-level sergeants and staff-sergeants) which sets those limits. Most NCOs I ever knew were of the highest standard in terms of integrity and discipline; I only ever recall 2 or 3 who deviated grossly from this standard.

    Having said that; I agree with Libby Purves (The Times, this morning), especially when she says "Army morale has been chipped away by political correctness, a weaselling civilian safety-first culture, and a terror of ‘heritage’". To very briefly paraphrase her; what she says is that of COURSE there is going to exist an underlying current of fear and hatred for Arabs – after all, to the minds of relatively uneducated squaddies (and not all are gorillas; in fact only a very small proportion) it is these people who are deliberately threatening their way of life with terrorist attacks and so on. A little bit of simple propoganda via rags like the Sun and Mirror goes a long way. So childish revenge cannot be ruled out either.

    I only hope the MoD investigations do not turn into a quagmire like Deepcut and produce some real answers – although it is too late to repair the damage done in the Middle East to our image, a thorough investigation with some concrete answers may help to redress the balance in at least a small way.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 4 May 2004 on 8:39 am | Link
  4. unfortunately it seems like the pics are mild compared to what is happening outside of the photo oppertunities. but what strong and percise timing to have a story come out to inflame and give terrorists more fuel for their rampant ignorant fire. as an american again i feel as it’s all a set-up for us. rubbing stuff in our faces. specially now with these image tactics that spread around like crazy. it seems like these photos were designed to infest and cause more reason to be attacked. you get the collection of photos for the media feed off of. which cards will they play next. i’m sure they have tons of great photos and stories to confuse people and stir things up for decades. i’m just sad seeing all these signs of subliminal warnings and down right in your face warnings about the upcoming terrors that will be inflicted on the US again. it will be a sad time. around elections i guess, who knows. i can only hope to be with friends and family.

    Comment by Kevin Smith — 4 May 2004 on 12:05 pm | Link
  5. Quite an elaborate set-up, could always have avoided it by not invading of course.

    Comment by Lodjer — 4 May 2004 on 1:30 pm | Link
  6. Ah, but we HAD to invade – if we hadn’t, we ourselves could be speaking Iraqi by now. Or Al Quedian. Or something. Apparently, anyway.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 4 May 2004 on 2:36 pm | Link
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    Comment by buy digital cameras — 18 Aug 2004 on 9:56 am | Link
  8. I agree with you the way you view the issue. I remember Jack London once said everything positive has a negative side; everything negative has positive side. It is also interesting to see different viewpoints & learn useful things in the discussion.

    Comment by volume pills — 5 Oct 2005 on 1:35 am | Link

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