Outrage Spreads over New Images

BASRA, Feb 16 (IPS) – New footage of British soldiers beating up young Iraqi men in Amarah city in 2003, and the release of more photographs of atrocities by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison has spread outrage across Iraq.

The timing of the new images is potent, in the wake of violence spreading through Iraq and much of the Muslim world over cartoons of Prophet Mohammed carried by a Danish newspaper and then other European publications.

“We in Basra have decided not to cooperate in any way with the British troops,” 43 year-old food merchant Ali Shehab Najim told IPS. “These occupiers of Basra are invaders and we will not sell them any of their requirements.”

Najim added, “None of us will work with them any longer either. My cousin used to work with them inside their base, but not any more. He refuses to go to work, and we have decided to show our contempt for them in every way possible.”

Najim said people are particularly angry over the Danish military presence in Iraq.

He said he had first accepted the presence of occupation forces, but now “I think it’s about time to tell them we do not respect them since they are behaving in a very bad way.”

After footage of British troops beating young Iraqis with fists and batons was aired earlier, the Governorate of Basra announced it has severed ties to the British military. This included cancellation of joint security patrols.

“We condemn any of those actions by British and American troops in torturing our young people,” former head city councillor of Basra governorate Qasim Atta Al-Joubori told IPS.

“Iraqis suffered a lot during the past 35 years, but now they are tortured by foreigners who invaded our country,” said Al-Joubori, who was a city councillor in Basra for 40 years. “We can’t accept having them any more.”

Far from cooperating, people in Basra are now prepared to fight the occupation forces, he said. “What these beatings and torture show is that the occupiers are both assaulting and insulting all of the Iraqi people.”

Similar views are being echoed around Basra, a relatively quieter area in the south under charge of British troops.

“We are looking to the day we see those bastards out of our country,” 55 year-old factory owner Abdullah Ibraheem told IPS. “Now they are torturing the citizens of Basra, Baghdad and Amarah, so they have not only lost the support of the Iraqi Sunnis but the Shias in this country as well.”

He said most Iraqis know someone who has been in a military detention centre, but said the new video footage and photographic evidence of torture have “demolished whatever credibility may have remained for the occupiers.”

The Australian television network Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) aired previously unpublished video footage and photographs Wednesday of abuse of Iraqis by U.S. soldiers inside the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in 2003.

The images are similar to those published in 2004 that led to furore across the Middle East. But many of the new images show a brutality and extent of sexual humiliation that many news outlets found too shocking to carry.

The American Civil Liberties Union had obtained the photographs from the U.S. government under a Freedom of Information request, but its members said they were not aware how the SBS came to air its new footage and the photographs.

There could be yet more photographs to come. “I believe major newspapers in the U.S. like the Washington Post have scores more photos which are evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib, but they won’t publish them due to pressure from the U.S. government,” an attorney at the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York City told IPS.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters, “The abuses at Abu Ghraib have been fully investigated.” He added, “When there have been abuses, this department has acted upon them promptly, investigated them thoroughly and where appropriate prosecuted individuals.”

He said the Pentagon believes that releasing of the new images would trigger greater violence, and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq.