A COURT martial in Wiltshire yesterday heard that Corporal Donald Payne was filmed as he abused and swore at hooded Iraqi detainees, in September 2003, after the British army entered and took control of Basra following what was seen as a quick victory in a four week war.
The Iraqis were being held in temporary detention until it could be decided whether they should be interned as a threat to the occupation.
Along with the six other accused, Payne denied charges of manslaughter and perverting the course of justice and pleaded not guilty to other charges relating to the death of Baha Musa, age 26, who suffered 93 injuries on his body including a broken nose and fractured ribs.
Payne was alone however in pleading guilty to inhumane treatment of Iraqi prisoners.
The detention centre, was windowless and was situated less than 60 yards from the main operational and accommodation quarters.
The prosecution is saying that the cries and screams of the abused must have been heard by a number of soldiers and officers.
One of those charged is Colonel Mendonca, the commanding officer. He pleaded not guilty to ‘negligently performing his duty.’ Another is Warrant Officer Mark Davies of Military Intelligence. He was in charge of the tactical questioning of Iraqi civilians.
Iraqi detainees said that they were repeatedly kicked and punched from the moment that they arrived at the place of detention until the death of Musa, by soldiers who were said to be ‘taking their orders from Payne for the most part’, with Payne ‘leading by example’, using force ‘that was both unnecessary and at times excessive’, according to prosecution lawyer Bevan.
He said that Payne ‘enjoyed conducting what he called “the choir” for those that visited the detention facility’.
During a drunken conversation in a Cyprus bar two years after Mr Musa’s death, one of the accused L/Cpl Crowcroft is alleged to have told a fellow soldier – an off-duty Special Investigations Bureau officer – that he was worried about the investigation into the treatment of Musa, because ‘we all kicked him to death’, the court has been told.
We will not comment on a case that is now under way, after massive attempts by the military and its political supporters to prevent it being heard in either a criminal court or a court martial.
We will say however that British imperialism has a track record as far as war crimes are concerned.
Winston Churchill was one of those who took part in the battle of Omdurman in 1898, when 25,000 Sudanese were slaughtered by the most modern weapons available at that time, at a cost of the lives of about 150 British and Egyptian soldiers.
In the Boer War at the start of the 20th century, the British imperialists invented concentration camps in which the families of Boer fighters were imprisoned and cruelly suffered.
In the 1920s in Ireland, the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries were sent in to burn down towns, murder civilians and carry out all kinds of reprisals against the Irish civilian population in a vain attempt to defeat the struggle for Irish Freedom.
In the Second World war, tens and hundreds of thousands of German civilians were burnt in huge fire storms, in cities like Dresden, begun by a massive onslaught of incendiary bombs. This slaughter had no military value and constituted a vast reprisal attack.
After 1945, in a vain attempt to maintain the Empire, Kenyans were slaughtered in places like the Hola Camp, while in Malaya during the Emergency, headhunters were used against the Malayan Communist Party, and pictures were taken showing soldiers holding up heads in their hands.
The tradition was continued with the ‘death squads’ in the north of Ireland.
This is just a brief and fragmented biography of blood-soaked British imperialism.
Atrocities, war crimes and imperialism are inseparable. To get rid of the former you have to get rid of capitalism and imperialism with socialist revolutions. That is the lesson from the whole of the imperialist epoch.