2000-2009 | Backing terror operations | Iraq

UK forces turning a blind eye to murder reports journo who is then murdered

Map of UK bases in Basra during the occupation.
MrPenguin20 -CC BY-SA 3.0 – via Wikimedia
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31 July 2005

On 31 July 2005, Stephen Vincent, a journalist embedded with UK forces, wrote a damning article in the New York Times, entitled ‘Switched Off in Basra,’ alleging that the police in southern Iraq’s main city were comprised mostly of bloodthirsty fundamentalist armed militias in uniform, who were being equipped and supported by the British.  When he asked a group of British troops whether there was any training to encourage loyalty to the national government, rather than a local mosque, there were only shrugs. ‘Not our job mate.’

Vincent also suspected that the recent admission by the head of Basra’s police force that half of his men were affiliated to Shiite political parties was an underestimate and he quoted a Young Iraqi officer who told him that ’75 per cent of the policemen I know are with Moktada al-Sadr. He is a great man.’  Some of these men appeared to have been assigned to hunting down former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party, an assignment they pursued with a predictable excess of zeal.

‘An Iraqi police lieutenant,’ explained Vincent, ‘confirmed to me the widespread rumours that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations – mostly of former Baath Party members – that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of “Death Car”; a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.’

He also reported how an administrator at the city’s university had explained that it was no use calling the police to prevent self-appointed religious monitors patrolling the campus to enforce a strict religious dress code, since the police were affiliated to the same fundamentalist groups. The British appeared to be overseeing a rapid islamisation of the city. It wasn’t even as if it were inadvertent since it was a predictable consequence of their known reliance on extremist Shiite militias to police the city.1  Three days after the article was published, Vincent was kidnapped by men in police uniforms and murdered.2

FOOTNOTES

  1. Steven Vincent, “Switched Off in Basra,”  The New York Times, 31 July 2005 accessed online at https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/31/opinion/switched-off-in-basra.html
  2. Frank Ledwidge, Loosing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, Yale University Press, London, 2011, p. 33 and ‘The Dawn of New Basra,’  The Independent, 20 December 2008 accessed online at  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-dawn-of-a-new-basra-1204990.html

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