Videos show British troops beating Iraqi youths

Video footage of British troops beating up young Iraqi civilians is "a propaganda gift for our enemies", the press here said on Monday.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 19:11 IST

Video footage of British troops beating up young Iraqi civilians is "a propaganda gift for our enemies", the press here said on Monday.

The most disturbing aspect of the video, taken in 2004 but released over the weekend by a British Sunday newspaper, is that "we have become worryingly anaesthetised in recent years to reports of British soldiers engaging in acts of disgraceful brutality," the centre-left Independent daily asserted.

"What we are presented with are not common thugs running amok on Britain's streets," the paper added in an editorial, "it is increasingly clear that a culture of ill-disciplined thuggery exists in some pockets of the British armed forces".

The left-leaning Guardian echoed the views: "Another sad conclusion is that it is time to junk the flattering self-image of British troops as a caring combination of the peace corps, boy scouts and community policemen."

"Punishment of all those responsible must be swift, severe and exemplary," the paper added.

"It does not take a public relation genius to appreciate the devastating harm the pictures will do as they are beamed across the Arab world," wrote The Times, stressing the apparent lack of discipline in the British armed forces.

"The most disturbing aspect of the video, aside from the sadistic commentary, is the intent," the daily continued, adding that "the head butts, kicks and blows were not delivered in battle".

British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday said the reports that British troops had savagely abused young Iraqis were serious and needed to be investigated.

"We take seriously any allegation of mistreatment and these will be investigated," he told reporters at the end of a two-day Progressive Governance Summit on poverty and development at Hammanskraal outside Pretoria, South Africa.

The tabloid News of the World weekly newspaper published video footage of British troops in Iraq dragging four young protesters off a street and into an army compound where they were punched, kicked and hit with batons. A callous running commentary by the unnamed cameraman added to the disquiet over the footage.

Blair however also praised the soldiers for the "great job" they were doing in Iraq.

The right-wing Daily Telegraph sought to understand the incident: "We start by looking for explanations and, after a while, the explanations begin to sound like excuses."

"One of the things that distinguishes British soldiers from some of our allies is that we can deploy them everywhere, confident that they will not engage in drug-running, run prostitution rings or tyrannise the populace," it added.

"So let us hear no nonsense about extenuating circumstances. Our soldiers are bigger than that," said the Telegraph, Britain's best-selling quality daily.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 19:11 IST