Does it matter now if the pictures were fakes?


YES: Col Bob Stewart

YES: Col Bob Stewart

The impact of such images has had a devastating effect. Those pictures were worth not a thousand, but millions of words to those who oppose British military involvement in Iraq.

To me this is personal. Soldiers of my Regiment, the Cheshires, many of whom were with me in Bosnia just over 10 years ago, are now patrolling the centre of Basra. And they face greatly increased danger. Last weekend five soldiers were wounded as unusual violence erupted there.

Two days ago the British Military Cemetery in Gaza was desecrated - something that has never happened before. Tombs of previous generations of soldiers who went abroad for their country were upturned and strewn with pictures copied from the Mirror newspaper.

Such images have been a tremendous recruiting coup for anti-British terrorists or insurgents, not just in Iraq. Fuelled by righteous anger, attacks against our soldiers in Iraq have already risen. Whatwill happen to any British subject who happens to be captured or taken hostage by opponents?

Until now our soldiers are considered to be excellent in peace-making situations precisely because of their reputation for acting with fairness, decency, honesty and care for those with whom they interact. If our good name is now shattered that assumption is blown to bits. Operations on the ground will be far harder and more dangerous too.

Proving the truth about those images matters to everyone in the Armed Forces. Soldiers are disgusted by the implication that any colleagues could have carried out war crimes. If the reality is that the photos were fakes then at least we can be reassured. If they are real they want the culprits identified, tried and appropriately punished. Only by cutting out a cancer can a body get better.

Disgusting treatment of prisoners is against Article III of the Geneva Convention and a war crime. In my view, deliberate publication of fake photographs showing misconduct by British soldiers may not be far off a war crime either - especially if anyone dies as a result.

Col Bob Stewart, former commander of UN forces in Bosnia

NO: Alice Mahon MP

Those who concentrate on the claims that the Daily Mirror photographs are fake miss the main point of the revelations of the past week - that is, the extent of the disclosures and the variety of sources from which they come, including the evidence of western aid agencies with reputations for caution and balance.

To concentrate on one detail is to avoid the impact that abuse by US and UK forces is having across the world. Britain and America are supposed to be civilised countries. These acts of torture and humiliation that are coming to light have undermined the last vestiges of support for President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.

The Mirror has four soldiers' testimonies to back up their photos. As an MP, I have also been contacted by soldiers who told me about abuse known to them and they are utterly ashamed.

I am not an expert and in no position myself to say whether or not these pictures are real. I merely note that those who are making these claims have offered little more than speculation and assertions of their own, while the government has not attempted to deny them.

With the army investigating itself, perhaps we will never know about these pictures. That is not a healthy situation and it will not set sceptics minds at rest.

People were persuaded to go to war by claims about weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Next we were told that the Iraqis welcomed British troops as liberators, when we were seen as occupiers all along.

Britain is in a coalition with the US in Iraq. We know our partner has been torturing, humiliating and perhaps even murdering prisoners. That corrupts us as much as it corrupts them in the eyes of the world.

Last week we saw pictures of Fallujah flattened to the ground in an act of reprisal by American forces. Now one revolting image after another flits across our TV screens of prisoner abuse. People are asking: is there any end to the moral depth we have sunk?

The British electorate has every right to know what is going on. And only an independent inquiry will lay our minds at rest.

Alice Mahon is Labour MP for Halifax

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing