Britain's Abu Ghraib. (NSFW, but soon to be seen everywhere.)
January 19, 2005 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Britain's Abu Ghraib. (NSFW, but soon to be seen everywhere.) With Iraqi elections just days away and the next British elections scheduled tenatively for May, pictures have been released of British soldiers torturing and abusing prisoners in a style shockingly similar to Abu Ghraib. Soldiers are already being charged. Their defense? "I was just following orders..."
posted by insomnia_lj (35 comments total)
 
Is there a legal reason to blot out their faces?

Sickening.
posted by ORthey at 1:32 PM on January 19, 2005


(I mean the soldiers' faces, of course)
posted by ORthey at 1:32 PM on January 19, 2005


"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," Sen. James Inhofe said during a hearing on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

This is why these things happen again and again.
posted by Arch Stanton at 1:34 PM on January 19, 2005


Perhaps Inhofe needs a "simulated" beat down.
posted by Sellersburg/Speed at 1:36 PM on January 19, 2005


I wonder if any of the anonymous candidates will be talking about this at the debates they aren't going to have before voters make their way to the undisclosed polling locations.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:38 PM on January 19, 2005


Yawn.. I'm as liberal as the next guy and as anti-bush as them come, but from a soldier's perspective, it is clear that they were just following orders, which is what they've been trained to do without question.

These lower level guys have all been patsies from the beginning, and even us 'enlightened' people are falling for it.
posted by eas98 at 1:40 PM on January 19, 2005


I didn't really see any evidence of abuse until we got to the naked simulated sex shots and the guy in netting. But the others - standing up with hands on heads or running on the beach - did not seem so bad, and certainly not inhumane. But, I suppose the naked ones are bad enough on their own....
posted by adamms222 at 1:40 PM on January 19, 2005


Not sure, but it seems like it's supposed be a whole roll. So, no surprise that it's not all blatantly awful.
Even I can't fill up a whole roll of film with heinous cruelty without shooting a picture of my cat or something.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 1:42 PM on January 19, 2005


Perhaps Inhofe needs a "simulated" beat down.

Throw in O'Rilley, Hanity and Brit Hume and I'd be happy to help in any away. Please note that I do not work with dogs or sodomy. Otherwise, I'd be happy to help in the humiliation, degradation or physical abuse of these people or anyone else who thinks that this kind of inhumane crap is acceptable.
posted by Bag Man at 1:44 PM on January 19, 2005


Yeah, adamms222, people don't have issue with pictures in which people aren't abused. That's not the problem, but it's the ones with simulated sex acts, being tied to a forklift, etc. that are the issue. Or, you have to find out how long those people had to hold their hands above their heads and what their punishment for not doing it was.
posted by Arch Stanton at 1:45 PM on January 19, 2005


At the risk of self-linking, I have all the pictures displayed in a larger format in my most recent journal entry.

Larger photographs, frankly, are even more damning.

If those are simulated beatings, they sure used a lot of simulated blood...
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:46 PM on January 19, 2005


And the elections are when? Yeah, I'm sure they'll go off without a hitch.
posted by fenriq at 1:47 PM on January 19, 2005


As systematic as this seems to be, I don't see how it is possible to believe they were NOT acting on orders. If this happens once or twice, I can see people blaming a few "rogue" soldiers. This seems to be more punishment for being stupid enough to get caught. I'm no longer convinced that this wasn't approved from on high. I'm sure there is no paper trail or records that state that anybody over a sgt. rank knew anything about this, but it reeks of a systematic program.
posted by Numenorian at 1:47 PM on January 19, 2005


Not to derail: As an Oklahoman, I must apologize for both Tom "There are rampant lesbians everywhere" Coburn and James "I'm outraged at the outrage" Inhofe. Where is Will Rogers when you need him?

You may e-mail them lovely letters here.

posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 1:50 PM on January 19, 2005


"Not sure, but it seems like it's supposed be a whole roll."

Yep. They were taken in 2003, as reported in this story, but the pictures were kept under wraps all that time.

A soldier got his "vacation pics" developed at a high street shop, and this is what was on the roll.

As for it being an isolated incident or the violence being simulated, you have to take that statement with a grain of salt.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:59 PM on January 19, 2005


I agree that these actions are too widespread to not be organized from a higher ranking officer officers, but I thought soldiers have understood that, post-Nuremburg and post-My Lai, "just following orders" is not a defense that will avoid punishment. OTOH, if their were officers ordering the actions, why hasn't a single one of the charged individuals come out and spilled the beans by naming names?
posted by billsaysthis at 2:07 PM on January 19, 2005


"if their were officers ordering the actions, why hasn't a single one of the charged individuals come out and spilled the beans by naming names?"

They have. In Abu Ghraib, Grainer blamed the local military intelligence officers for ordering "softening up" before their interrogations, while in this case, the soldier in question blamed his C.O. who ordered Operation Ali Baba -- a major, I believe.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:16 PM on January 19, 2005


A longshot, but it would nice to see this topple Blair. Bush would be pretty darn fucked if the Brits pulled out.
posted by bardic at 2:21 PM on January 19, 2005


Presumably both the officer who gives the illegal order and the soldier who carries it out are culpable. Keep walking up the chain until you reach the person whose idea it was in the first place, or the CinC. Lock 'em all up.
posted by hattifattener at 3:04 PM on January 19, 2005


What are the two dots in all the pictures? Is that part of the film? What kind of film would have dots like that?
posted by odinsdream at 3:07 PM on January 19, 2005


Unfortunately, I don't think this is going to do too much damage to Blair. Too many people will just write this off as being "only iraqis".

Would Bush really be in trouble if the Brits pulled out? I'm sure we only make up a tiny proportion of the men on the ground.
posted by OldMansHands at 3:13 PM on January 19, 2005


Now that we know about the planned "gay bomb," which proves we wanted to use homosexuality to demoralize Iraqis, how can people NOT think the "simulated" sex acts are orders from on high?
posted by u.n. owen at 3:16 PM on January 19, 2005


Keep walking up the chain until you reach the person whose idea it was in the first place, or the CinC.

Exactly - whoever decided on this is probably watching quite happily from the sidelines, and never even had to get their hands dirty. Maybe if we start getting at the higher ranks, we'll stop getting so many comments like Sen. Inhofe's
posted by OldMansHands at 3:19 PM on January 19, 2005


Col. Jessep: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have more responsibility here than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That [Iraqi prisoner's] death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. I know deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you don't want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand to post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
posted by basicchannel at 4:22 PM on January 19, 2005


Of course, Jessep's the villain.
posted by muckster at 4:44 PM on January 19, 2005


These are just the ones stupid enough to take pictures of it, lucky enough to have those pictures slip through, then unembarrased enough to go public with them.

Each step would imply an order of magnitude more of these abuses going on.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2005


Too many people will just write this off as being "only iraqis".

I don't think so. I think it's easier to make the case that this wasn't a top-down policy, though that may suggest a naivety towards HMG's propensity to torture and secrecy. I suspect not, given that there appears to be no attempt to cover up what happened to the British detainees at Gitmo.

Take it up the chain of command as far as it goes. And I have utter respect for the person who developed the photos, then called the police.

Of course, Jessep's the villain.

For a moment there, I thought you meant Jessop's.
posted by riviera at 5:13 PM on January 19, 2005


Regardless of how far up the chain of command this goes, it unambiguously shows why the idea of using soldiers - people trained to kill, to defeat a specified enemy, to follow the orders of a superior officer rather than to follow the rules of law - to perform police functions is a really stupid idea.

Because, you know, history didn't make that quite clear enough. Northern Ireland didn't give us any hints in that direction, oh no.


The other thought is that this is so similar in appearance to Abu Ghraib - but why? According to the way it's being reported right now (hmmm), it was one small group of soldiers who took an (illegal) order to "work them hard" much too far. So why are they so reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib photos? Is it because the official story is B.S., and it was part of a more organised regime of torture? Is it because, maybe, word had spread amongst the troops of good ideas for torture, like what the Americans were doing over in Baghdad? Or are ideas like forcing the prisoners into sexually degrading positions just the natural instinct for a large number of people who might be in a position to torture people?

Isolated incident... Abu Ghraib produced so many photos because they were deliberately posing photos. This is just the result of the one pillock who took pictures on his personal camera and was stupid enough to have them developed on the fucking high street when he got home. If this was an isolated incident, I'm a bucket of ricin.
posted by flashboy at 6:35 PM on January 19, 2005



What are the two dots in all the pictures? Is that part of the film? What kind of film would have dots like that?


I think they were on someone's Rolodex...
posted by Balisong at 9:52 PM on January 19, 2005


Is there a legal reason to blot out their faces?

Because they're currently undergoing trials I suspect.

Exactly - whoever decided on this is probably watching quite happily from the sidelines, and never even had to get their hands dirty. Maybe if we start getting at the higher ranks, we'll stop getting so many comments like Sen. Inhofe's

As insomnia_lj notes, those corporal and two lance corporals currently on trial fingered their major for giving them the orders to "work them [the prisoners] hard". As OldMansHands notes, they won't be getting into trouble for it. 'No disciplinary action against army officers'

Yeah, adamms222, people don't have issue with pictures in which people aren't abused.

That's not necessarily the case, there are specific limits on what pictures you're supposed to take of prisoners of war and it doesn't include getting jolly pictures of those people you're allowed to order around.
posted by biffa at 3:42 AM on January 20, 2005


it is clear that they were just following orders, which is what they've been trained to do without question

to follow the orders of a superior officer rather than to follow the rules of law

The British armed forces do not teach this. There is an emphasis on not following illegal orders in the training that these men undertake.

Let's be honest here, like the Lyndie England photos showed, the soldiers enjoyed doing this, that's why they "followed orders" and that's why they deserve no sympathy.
posted by fullerine at 4:07 AM on January 20, 2005




Blair being Labour gives the left in the UK very little to do.

The only hope for ousting him is a grand (and temporary) alliance of all the major opposition parties (Conservatives, Liberals, Greens, the regionals), where they agree that Labour will contest only one opponent in each constituency.
posted by MattD at 7:32 AM on January 20, 2005


MattD: Frankly such an alliance would see me back in the Labour camp immediately. At the moment I'm planning to help out my Lib Dem candidate in the next general election but there's no way I'm prepared to tolerate a Conservative-dominated alternative, essentially Labour on foreign policy and home affairs but with less spending on public services.
posted by biffa at 9:57 AM on January 20, 2005


Yawn.. I'm as liberal as the next guy and as anti-bush as them come, but from a soldier's perspective, it is clear that they were just following orders, which is what they've been trained to do without question.

Like said above about the Brits, the US Forces are very clearly taught that illegal orders MUST NOT BE FOLLOWED, and that the Geneva Convention MUST be obeyed. At least so i was taught.

(Unfortunately, our leaders almost universally did not have military service, and therefore had no such training.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:37 PM on January 20, 2005


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