Thursday, September 08, 2011

I Hate The War

Clive Baldwin of Human Rights Watch weighs in on the findings in the inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa:

The name Baha Mousa has become the most famous in the history of abuses by the British army in Iraq. Thursday's publication of the report of the inquiry into his death in British custody in Basra in 2003 is a remarkable conclusion to the persistent efforts of his family and their representatives. The report's condemnation of the leadership, loss of discipline and moral failings of the 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Iraq and comprehensive recommendations on the banning of hooding and stress techniques are to be welcomed. But to prevent future cases, the British government needs to acknowledge the wider implications of Mousa's death, which the inquiry has only touched on.

Most important is acknowledging that this was not an isolated incident. Later this year another inquirywill begin to look into the alleged torture and killing of up to 20 people in British detention in May 2004. Last year, the lawyers for Mousa's family applied for a general public inquiry into the treatment of over 140 people in Iraq, offering detailed allegations of abuse. The government's response was to set up an "Iraq historic allegations team", but it has said that its report will not be ready until 2012 at the earliest.

The killing of Baha Mousa illustrates three key problems with military detention. First is the general lawlessness around detention by the British army. By denying that international human rights law applied to the British army, the then government authorised British forces to detain Iraqis when they wanted, for almost any reason, and for as long as they wanted. The government denied there was any requirement to bring all detainees in British custody before a judge, a critical step to ensure the legality of detention and avoid abuse.

The white wash makes it very unlikely that justice will be provided for anyone. The New York Times write up is a jubilant chorus of praise. How does that happen?

Oh, right John F. Burns. Shame 'media critic' Greg Mitchell didn't know enough to call out Burns when weighing in on the paper's Iraq coverage. Steve Bell more accurately captures it in his cartoon. As does this segment of The World (Australia's ABC).

An accurate report would have to take the actions in Basra and chase them up the chain of command. The findings of the inquiry did not do that.

Much to the relief of many, I'm sure.

But if you want accountability you have to do more than point the finger at the ones carrying out the orders, you also have to name the ones who gave the orders.

And if, in all that testimony, you honestly couldn't find the others giving orders, then you just charge the chain of command with dereliction of duty since this was an ongoing problem. If the chain of command was truly not giving the orders, they should have caught what was going on. So it's either participation in War Crimes or it's dereliction of duty.

The findings gently overstep that reality and others.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Two Thursdays ago, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4477. Tonight it is [PDF format warning] 4477.

The e-mail address for this site is