Torture pictures 'the end' for USA in Iraq

Chilling TV pictures of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and abused by US soldiers will damage Britain and signal the “end of the story” for America in Iraq, it was claimed today.

The pictures taken by US soldiers guarding Iraqis were broadcast on TV news bulletins in the US last night.

The graphic photos show hooded and naked prisoners being abused, some sexually, with US soldiers smiling and looking on.

They have caused a storm in the US and a number of soldiers and officers have been suspended.

But experts fear the damage has already been done to the coalition cause in Iraq.

Tony Blair’s human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, said that she had been “shocked” by the photographs.

“I think they are absolutely terrible. I am shocked,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The UK Labour MP said that 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.

However she rejected comparisons with the treatment of prisoners by the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

“A small number of cases, horrible though they are – you cannot compare that with the tens of thousands of people Saddam Hussein was responsible for executing and torturing,” she said.

“You can’t make that comparison.”

But former UK Foreign Secretary Lord Owen said Britain would be “damaged” by the revelation while Arab commentators said the US had now lost the battle to win over hearts and minds in Iraq.

Military experts also claimed it could bolster support for insurgents who have killed coalition troops and taken civilian prisoners since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Lord Owen said the pictures were “damaging” for Britain as well as the US.

“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.

“Things go wrong in every conflict. But this is very bad to happen at this time.

“We could have done without it, it is very damaging. You never pull back lost ground. At least it is being handled as far as we can tell, robustly by the American military and these people will be brought to justice and show that nobody is above the law.”

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a respected London-based Arabic newspaper with worldwide circulation, said: “It is absolutely shocking. I think this is the end of the story, the straw that broke the camel’s back, for America.

“I think the British job will be extremely difficult because we are associated with this torture and abuse, the closest ally of a country which tortures prisoners.

“People will be extremely angry…sexual abuse is the worst thing in that part of the world. It is shocking to all Muslims.

“America has lost the battle completely.

“I believe there will be more attacks.

“Iraqis expected the Americans and British to bring democracy and human rights and not the same thing as under Saddam.

“We have replaced a brutal dictator with a brutal super-power.”

Levels of violence in the British-controlled south of Iraq have been much lower than in the US held north.

It is suggested this reflects the more low-key approach by the British military to governing compared with the more aggressive American approach.

British military figures have been privately critical of US actions according to sources, claiming the approach is making matters worse rather than better.

Major Charles Heyman, a senior UK defence analyst with Jane’s Consultancy Group said: “It is a disgrace. A slur on the uniform of the US Army. It will not play well inside the Arab world. In Iraq they will say they have just exchanged one brutal regime for another one.

“I don’t think there will be an explosion of rage on the streets, but the opposition will say, ‘We told you so, we knew this was happening’.

“A significant percentage of support for the US will transfer to the insurgents.”

Maj Heyman said the US decision not to invade Fallujah reflects a more considered approach and the US were now “listening” to their British military colleagues.

  • Click to stay connected with more stories like this
  • Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.

Most Read in Ireland