Saturday, November 14, 2009

Britain takes stock of Iraq war abuse claims

News from London that the British government has launched an investigation into more than 30 allegations of abusive conduct by its soldiers in Iraq makes it likely that the staunch U.S. ally has already realized that the price of war goes far beyond the cost in treasure. In a statement released Saturday, the British Ministry of Defence said many of the claims filed by Iraqi civilians have been pending for awhile but would be resolved, according to Cable News Network (CNN). "We are now looking into these new cases," a ministry spokesman told CNN. "Some of the cases we are looking at though go back a while, some are even from February this year, so all 30-something cases are at different stages in the investigation." An attorney for the Iraqis told Independent Television News, a CNN affiliate in London, that most of allegations involved sexual abuse of civilians. "There was a lot of sexual abuse," said the attorney, Paul Shiner, who likened the abuse to what happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Shiner said allegations include forcing a 14-year-old boy to commit sexual acts and the rape of an Iraqi man by two soldiers. "It is using sex as a mechanism to humiliate," Shiner said. "There are too many cases. Armed forces minister Bill Rammell said it was too early to jump to conclusions about the allegations but all would be investigated. "Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast, vast majority have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behavior, displaying integrity and selfless commitment," Rammell said. "While there have been instances when individuals have behaved badly, only a tiny number of individuals have been shown to have fallen short of our high standards." But soldiers who engage in sexual abuse of prisoners and children are not merely 'falling short' of some lofty standard. They are not just boys letting off a little steam. They are criminal deviants who have no place in human society, let alone handed sophisticated weaponry and entrusted with the defense of one of the world's great countries. It looks like the British armed forces, like the U.S. military, must at a minimum put more energy into understanding the psychological makeup of their soldiers and into understanding the effects of what is certainly unimaginable stresses on them. And if military leaders of both countries do not want to or are incapable of taking this seriously, both countries must find other military leaders who will and can.

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