Wednesday, January 19, 2005

British "Torture" Photos

It seems that Britian is facing its own 'prisoner torture scandal.' Tony Blair today condemned "shocking and appalling" photographs of alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers...

I don't want to rehash the debate about whether the photos show what I consider to be torture. Anyone who has read this blog more than once knows what I think (for what it is worth). There are at least 22 photographs including images of naked Iraqi prisoners simulating sex acts. They also showed British soldiers pretending to punch and kick bound men and a prisoner tied to the raised tines of a forklift truck.

The most infamous photo shows a Brit standing on an Iraqi. Bound, blindfolded and tied in a net, an Iraqi prisoner lies helpless on bare concrete at a British base near Basra. Crouching with a pool of water at his feet, he is powerless as a British soldier stands on him.

Lance Corporal Darren Larkin appears to be pretending to surf on his victim, seemingly unaware that he is in a country where even the slightest contact with the soles of the feet is regarded as a grave insult.
Maybe insulting him was the point.

What I find interesting about this British torture scandal is that you can't blame Bush, Rumsfeld and Gonzales for this. These are British soldiers. They were not under U.S. command. I'm sure the blamers will point at Tony Blair, but blaming is what the blamers do. Could it be that abusing those under your command is, maybe, a universal human temptation that everyone in such a position faces? Could it be that a certain number of people will be unable to resist this temptation and will give in to the impulse? Even the blamers, if ever in such a position, would have to stare into this temptation, repeatedly, and make choices about punishment versus abuse, about the thin line separating insult from torture, wondering what the folks back home would think when they saw the photos from the warm comfort of their houses.


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