All this cynical gymnastics is torture

The system for picking an inquiry panel seems to be the one used by schoolboys for football
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The Independent Online

Donald Rumsfeld must be so relieved that the inquiry into the torture of Iraqi prisoners doesn't find him responsible. Especially as, in order to make sure the four members of the inquiry panel would be extra thorough, he got to pick them himself. It's a shame he didn't think of this method earlier, as he could have picked his own group of gymnastics judges, then entered himself into the floor exercise at the Olympics and got 9.5 across the board and a gold medal.

I wonder if Saddam will be allowed to do a similar thing with his trial. Then his mates can hold an inquiry that announces, "While there were abuses under the Baathist regime, it seems probable that these were result of the mother of all breakdowns in communication, and we recommend a thorough overhaul of the filing system. And while those that were tortured may have turned out to be innocent, it seems indisputable that Mr Hussein fully believed they were agents of the Great Satan who could only be dealt with by being attached to electrodes, therefore he acted in good faith."

The system for picking an inquiry panel seems to be similar to the one used by schoolboys for picking football teams. Maybe Bush and Blair are at the front of the room, while all their mates stand facing them in a huddle. Then Blair says "Hutton," and Bush says "Major General Fay," until the only one left is a skinny barrister with glasses that nobody wants.

Even that wouldn't explain how one member of the Abu Ghraib torture inquiry refers in his report to Rumsfeld as a "hero". That's not an inquiry, it's an article in Smash Hits. The full version probably says "Donald is five feet 10 with blue eyes and loves cats. He has been criticised in the press for torture issues, but he swears he'd never do a thing like that, and that's good enough for his devoted fans and good enough for us. And girls, he tells me his favourite bomb is the daisy cutter, and he's already working on his next war, which he hopes will be ready in the new year."

The inquiry does admit there was a disgraceful culture of torture in the jail, but lays all the blame on the individuals involved. Meanwhile the British government is fulfilling another fine wartime tradition. Having screamed about the patriotic duty to support our troops, they change their mind as soon as those troops do anything embarrassing, such as getting killed. Last week the family of a British soldier killed in Iraq visited Downing Street to lodge their protest against the war, which they had opposed even before his death. So the Labour MP Eric Joyce explained that the family was being exploited by the anti-war movement which had ulterior motives. What ulterior motives would they be then? Perhaps he means that the Stop the War movement are not all they seem, for while they may claim to be against the war, behind that facade their real aim is to stop the war.

Or does he mean the anti-war element of the Stop the War campaign is a front, and what they really want to do is stop the widening of the M40 near High Wycombe? Or is he saying that it's underhand to use the fact that people get killed in war as an argument for not having a war? Because you'd never get the Government using people's deaths to further their own causes. They'd never do a thing like referring to the thousands of people killed by Saddam to promote a war, even though the murders took place at a time when they were backing him. Or use the deaths of people in the Twin Towers to justify a war that was in no way connected.

With even finer cynicism, George Bush announced he would attend the Olympic soccer semi-final between Paraguay and Iraq, as the Iraqi team were a symbol of their country's new freedom. Footballers were among the sportsmen tortured under Saddam if they weren't successful, so this should have been perfect. Except that the team's midfielder Ahmad Marajid said, "How will Bush meet his God having slaughtered so many?" And another player, Salim Sadir from Najaf, added "We want the Americans to go away." And their coach said, "We don't have freedom in Iraq, we have an occupying force, an American army that has killed so many."

Clearly they haven't grasped the idea of footballer's interviews. With a bit of coaching they might learn to do them properly and say, "Obviously we're not taking anything for granted, we're going to take on the US military one soldier at a time. And obviously we know we can't expect nothing from the referee out there. But at the end of the day we're a match for any army on our day and obviously we'll be hoping to have cleansed our land of heathen imperialist murdering dogs come quarter to five on Saturday."

And within that story is Bush's and Blair's responsibility for the torture. They announced they were liberating the country, and that everyone would be grateful. But they weren't. So the ungrateful ones were described as a handful of terrorists, against which anything is permissible. But the handful turns out to be most of the country, including their footballers, who must logically be supporters of terrorists. Having listened to the language of Rumsfeld, Bush and Blair, the soldiers of Abu Ghraib must have imagined that a spot of impromptu torture would have earned them an Olympic medal.