Iraqi torture images 'will damage Britain'
PICTURES of United States troops torturing Iraqi prisoners will damage Britain as well as the US, it was claimed today.
Former foreign secretary Lord Owen said the photographs, which were shown on prime time US TV, had emerged at a "very bad" time.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said today he was "appalled" by the pictures.
No 10 said the actions shown - with Iraqis stripped naked and hooded and being tormented by their captors - were in "direct contravention of all policy under which the coalition operates".
And military experts said the images could bolster support for insurgents who have killed coalition troops and taken civilian prisoners since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Seventeen soldiers have been suspended, including one senior officer, over the abuse. Six soldiers are now facing court martial. The soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad are accused of forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual humiliation and other abuses.
America’s senior general in Baghdad immediately denounced the actions of the troops. But outraged politicians said today that the damage had already been done.
Lord Owen said: "I hope, I believe, nothing like this happens in the British Army. But there is no joy for us.
"What happens with the Americans of course impacts on us. We are in it together. It hurts us as well. We could have done without it, it is very damaging. You never pull back lost ground."
Tony Blair’s human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, said that she had been "shocked" by the photographs.
The Labour MP said she had raised the treatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison with officials at the White House, but they had denied there was a problem.
"I made the point that there must be answers, because I found it very difficult to get answers and I was told by a very senior person there: ‘We don’t do this kind of thing’. Clearly, the people in charge did not know this was going on," she said.
Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram joined the condemnation, saying: "Such behaviour is unacceptable and very damaging to building confidence in Iraq. We welcome the swift and firm steps taken by the American military authorities to deal with the perpetrators."
Labour MP Ronnie Campbell, whose son Barry served as a Royal Marine in the invasion of Iraq, added: "This is disgraceful and outrageous. You might expect this from Saddam Hussein and his troops, but not from the Americans."
The charges, first announced by the military in March, were documented by photographs taken by guards in the prison.
Brigadier-General Mark Kimmet appealed to the American people to keep faith with their troops in Iraq.
Some of the photographs, and descriptions of others, were broadcast in the US on Wednesday by a CBS television news programme and were verified by military officials. One shows a hooded prisoner standing on a box. Wires were attached to him and he was told that if he fell off the box he would be electrocuted.
One of the soldiers accused of the abuse insisted it was the army’s fault for not training its troops properly in how to treat prisoners. In his diary, Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick said he told senior officers about conditions, but one replied: "I don’t care if he has to sleep standing up."
The programme’s producers said the army also had photographs showing a detainee with wires attached to his genitals and another that showed a dog attacking a prisoner.
Sgt Frederick added: "We’re appalled. These are our fellow soldiers, they represent us and let their fellow soldiers down."
Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, said last month that many former detainees in Iraq claimed to have been tortured and ill-treated by coalition troops during interrogation.
Meanwhile, American forces have begun withdrawing from the Iraqi city of Fallujah after a month of bloody clashes with rebels.
A new Iraqi force, led by one of Saddam Hussein’s former generals, is expected to move into the city while the US keeps a presence outside Fallujah. Fresh clashes in Fallujah overnight saw US aircraft hit insurgent targets in the city.
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