Friday, 26 February 2010
Published in The Staggers this week, from Fat Johnny in Dublin:
On 10 February -- as 15,000 US and Nato troops prepared for Operation Moshtarak -- the Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth announced what he called a "fair and just" revision to the UK's military compensation scheme. Under the new rules, the BBC reports that:
One-off awards will increase by an average of 30 per cent, while the rule limiting payouts to the first three injuries per incident will be scrapped.
What this means in real terms is that a soldier who was seriously injured in a conflict situation would now receive up to £1.5m in financial support over a lifetime.
The reforms are likely to cost the MoD tens of millions of pounds, but their introduction is long overdue. They follow the much criticised attempts by the Labour government to reduce the payouts to two wounded soldiers in 2009 -- a move in sharp contrast with Gordon Brown's professed attitude to honouring our troops (his sentimental descriptions of Wootton Bassett as "a symbol for the whole nation's . . . remembrance", etc). Ainsworth's timing was strategically sound. The first stage of Stanley McChrystal's campaign involved over 1,000 UK troops; the stakes -- and risks -- were high. So far, 552 UK service personnel have been seriously injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Hundreds more have died.
Though progress is being made in the payment of compensation to British soldiers, the same cannot be said for the frankly disrespectful sums being proffered to bereaved families in the war zones.
In early 2004, Amnesty International organised a campaign urging its members to protest directly to Tony Blair about the killing of Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, at the hands of the UK forces in Basra. Mousa -- who, it transpired, was the son of an Iraqi police colonel -- was reportedly restrained, hooded, then kicked repeatedly, even as he begged the soldiers to stop because he could not breathe. The British army later produced a death certificate, stating that he had died of asphyxiation.
The MoD's initial response was to offer Mousa's relatives a paltry £4,500, with the proviso that its troops were not held responsible for his death. After an inquiry, the then defence secretary Des Browne admitted to "substantial breaches" of the European Convention of Human Rights in Mousa's killing, and agreed to raise the payout to over £2.8m.
Today, civilian deaths are worryingly commonplace. On 22 February, 27 Afghan civilians were killed by a US and allied air strike that destroyed a convoy of vehicles heading towards Kandahar. The utilisation of US air power has been curbed, yet the value placed on Afghan and Iraqi lives is clearly nominal.
In cynical efforts to mitigate the backlash surrounding such lethal attacks, the US army has devised a new compensation system that covers deaths, injuries and damage resulting from coalition operations. The Associated Press reports that the death of a child or adult is valued at just $2,500 dollars, and serious injuries (including the loss of limbs) at $1,500. That a damaged or destroyed vehicle would fetch $2,500 -- the same amount as a dead son or daughter -- speaks volumes about the skewed morality of our military campaigns.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
Monday, 15 February 2010
The surging boneheads of Operation Mushtarak won't have to win over this family of twelve anymore. Sir Jock Stirrup for the Brits said it was 'the last thing the British Army wanted'. I expect it was the last thing the victims wanted as well.
Saturday, 13 February 2010
Binyan Mohamed, a UK resident, was subject to a new interrogation regime, approved by the US authorities, including continuous sleep deprivation, threats and inducements. Without going into explicit detail, the report states that the treatment was causing “significant mental stress and suffering”. In fact, it appears that Mr Mohamed was an extreme victim of extraordinary rendition. Sent on a secret flight to Morocco, he was subject to torture, including the use of a scalpel to cut his genitals.
In his statement Miliband attempted to justify the government’s position on the basis of protecting intelligence passed on from the US authorities in confidence. The weakness of his position is laid bare in the material revealed on two counts. First, the material redacted does not contain any intelligence. It relates to the abuse of Mr Mohamed’s human rights. Secondly, the government’s position has been undermined by President Barack Obama’s recent declassification of a mass of material about what the White House was getting up to immediately after the Twin Towers attack. Mr Miliband merely drew attention to the grubby under belly of the “special relationship”.
An irony not lost on human rights campaigners is that the medieval torture of this man yielded no useful intelligence whatsoever. This is not surprising. Yvonne Bradley, the experienced US military lawyer assigned to defend him and initially accepting of George Bush’s assurance that the Guantanamo prisoners were “the worst of the worst”, was quickly convinced that this non-Arabic speaking recent convert to Islam could not possibly be a senior al Qaeda operative.
Attorney General Lady Scotland has already asked Scotland Yard to investigate British complicity in torture in this case. Surely now is the time to widen the scope of this investigation into an independent judicial inquiry? Under what instructions were British intelligence agencies working with regard to suspects they knew were being tortured?
On what moral authority can Britain confront Israel or Iran if it turns a blind eye to complicity in torture by its own intelligence agencies?