Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Perfect Murder Of Baha Musa
It is said that there is no such thing as the perfect murder. Unless you’re a complete fool, you’ll know that is as true as almost any commonplace wisdom. My favourite is Santayana’s famous but over-repeated saying: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. A moment’s thought should prove how hollow this is. With the trite aphorism about the perfect murder in mind, it should be noted that the discarded murder in plain sight can be gotten away with too - provided you’re in the British Army.
In September 2003 Baha Musa, a 26 year-old father of two, was beaten to death by British occupation forces at the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment’s “detention centre” (translation: torture centre) in Basra. The media has recounted the whole terrible affair - from the perspective of the regiment who murdered an innocent man, though demonstrably guilty of being an Iraqi. According to the Telegraph (usually an outlet which bangs on about the victims of crime), the regiment is “haunted” by Musa’s death, though this regiment knowingly conducted torture. A case in point is the “choir”, a well-known regiment past-time: repeated assaults on the victim in order to him scream. (The British Army, I think, is not the best place to get acquainted with the famed British sense of humour.)
After yet more British servicemen were found innocent yesterday, the Guardian reported the depraved mutterings of former Colonel David Black, a member of the QLR’s Regimental Council. The mad Colonel said that “British servicemen needed to be able to operate confidently on our behalf without looking over their shoulders inhibited by the fear of such actions by over-zealous, and remote, officialdom,” who think it’s not quite cricket to torture and murder people.
Meanwhile the MoD put out the following statement: “In very difficult and dangerous circumstances in Iraq our forces do a superb job. However, we need to maintain both operational effectiveness,” by ensuring that cases against sick torturers and murderers do not make it to court.
Colonel Mendonca, the most senior of the cleared defendants, was recently the recipient of gushing praise from the nation’s media outlets. Here was an innocent man who was put through the ordeal of a fair trial after an Iraqi man was tortured and murdered on his watch. The charge was that Mendonca failed to ensure that his men did not torture and murder. One would assume that had Colonel Mendonca not failed in his duty then Baha Musa would still be alive. And though his regiment did torture and murder Baha Musa, Colonel Mendonca was cleared of the charge. But logic and jurisprudence, like the British sense of humour, is not best found in the British Army. The Telegraph reported that “While the officer was no apologist for abuse he said it was necessary to put in context the immense difficulties soldiers faced ‘under quite extraordinary stress’.” The torturers and murderers were “under quite extraordinary stress”, but not quite as stressed as Baha Musa, I would venture.
Should we be surprised that the military won’t find its own guilty? Cast your minds back to the gruesome case of Jabbar Kareem Ali, a 16 year-old boy who was hand-cuffed and thrown into a river. The boy died. The soldiers who threw the boy to his death were found innocent. It was, as they say, a cast-iron case. The only drowning the murderers/soldiers faced, however, was the praise from the media. The British Army is resorting to the policies of their forebears who ran Iraq not so long ago. For those who haven’t figure it out yet, those who remember the past are more than willing than those who don’t to repeat it.