CORPORAL Donald Payne has just got a minor one year sentence for a war crime after pleading guilty to inhumane treatment of civilian detainees in Basra. You can’t get lighter treatment than that.
In the course of the brutalising of a group of Iraqi civilians over 36 hours, one of them died, Baha Mousa. He was murdered, with 93 wounds on his body, inflicted by British troops who used him as a human football.
No other British soldier or officer has been found guilty of any crime against these Iraqis, despite the murder of Mousa. The army closed ranks. Someone had to go down, and it was Payne, with a sentence that is an absolute mockery of the crimes that were committed.
The message is clear. Torture is OK as long as it is being carried out by British forces.
Not even the American ruling class have gone as far as this. There are a number of US soldiers serving long sentences for war crimes in Iraq.
An officer who was present at the time has even been rewarded, promoted and put in charge of training other soldiers in Germany who are due to see service in Iraq.
Yet, a group of five British men of Asian extraction have just received life sentences, and have been told that they will die in jail, after being found guilty of a conspiracy to cause explosions.
This was when there was not, in fact, any bomb made by them in existence capable of exploding.
It proved impossible to convict a group of soldiers who took part in the torture of Iraqi civilians, one of whom was murdered.
But five men can be put in prison for the rest of their days on a conspiracy charge, purely to inculcate fear of the state into the Asian community.
The message to the British Army is to carry on torturing, since you will never face conviction for torture or murder.
‘Panorama’ on March 13 this year put on a reconstruction of the tortures that these Iraqi civilians were put through.
The programme set the torture scene in which the murder of Mousa took place.
It was described by Paul Kenyon as: ‘A scene of crime, there’s a dead body. There are men with internal bleeding, ruptured organs, broken bones. They have sandbags over their heads, their hands are bound. They’re lying in their own excrement, semi-naked, semi-conscious, shaking, terrified. They’ve been tortured for 36 hours. If they were British we’d want the people who did this to go to jail, but this is a war crime committed by British soldiers and the Iraqi victims have been let down by British justice.’
Phil Shiner, the Iraqi detainees’ lawyer, said: ‘You’ve got soldiers investigating other soldiers, and then the papers are sent up to soldiers who decide who should or shouldn’t be prosecuted. It’s a cover up, it’s a travesty. The military system hasn’t got close to establishing what went wrong.’
Kenyon interviewed Kifah Mutairi, an Iraqi who was beaten along with Baha Mousa. He said: ‘Baha was with me from the moment we were arrested. We were also put in the same cell. He suffered a lot at their hands. They were very cruel. I do not believe they had any feelings. I would say they were not human.’
A reconstruction was put on based on witness testimony of what happened when the night shift took over.
A soldier who was a witness said: ‘As I watched, I saw Lieutenant Rogers approach the first or second prisoner, pick him up and punch him through the sandbag to the head as a result of which the man fell to the floor. I then saw Lieutenant Rogers again lift the man so that he was in a standing position when he kicked him to the body. As Lieutenant Rogers was doing this, members of the unit were doing the same. I could not believe what I was seeing was actually taking place.’
Ten members of Rogers’ unit gave evidence in court. Their most frequently used phrase was: ‘I can’t remember.’ They said it six hundred and sixty-seven times!
Imperialist war breeds torture, and torturers. You cannot have imperialist war without both. The only way to deal with the British army and with the capitalist state as a whole is to smash both with a socialist revolution. There is no other way.