Raymond Soltysek's Blog

Who is ever held to account?

Posted in Politics, Social justice by raymondsoltysek on August 28, 2011

Baha Mousa, died in Army custody, 2003

For Jean Charles de Menezes, Harry Stanley and a whole host of other ordinary people whose lives have been ended by apparently unaccountable British authorities, add Baha Mousa, killed not by the police but by the British Army.

The case is now well known, but an independent inquiry is about to exonerate the Army of systematic torture and mistreatment.  Ninety-three injuries were noted on Mousa’s body: one wonders if he had to top 100 to qualify for “systematic”.

The need, of course, is to preserve the system.   Chains of command cannot be brought into question, senior officers and bureaucrats and politicians must never be blamed.  If anything goes wrong, it must either be swept under the carpet as far as possible or blamed on a few “bad apples”.

But the system also depends on defending those “bad apples” in order to buy their silence and to ensure that the dirty work can keep going on.  We see that in a different context, with Glen Mulcaire’s legal expenses paid by the NotW, despite their apparent “horror and disgust” at his activities, or in the constant promotion through the ranks of police officers involved in the de Menezes shooting despite their incompetence being responsible for a conviction of the Met under the Health and Safety Act.  In this case, the “bad apples” were seven soldiers hauled up before a court martial in what was the army’s version of justice.  One of the seven – Corporal Donald Payne – was captured abusing prisoners on video; faced with such undeniable evidence, he pled guilty to mistreating prisoners and served one year in prison, three times more than a housewife who accepted a pair of shorts from a rioter.

I actually have a little sympathy for people like Payne: just like Simon Harwood – the PC who struck Ian Thomslinson – and the Abu Ghraib GIs, photographic evidence meant he had to be hung out to dry for a system which may well be rotten to the core.  The courts, unencumbered by such public evidence on the other six and faced by what the judge described as “a more or less obvious closing of ranks”, cleared them.

Baha Mousa, died in army custody, 2003

So, yet again, and ordinary man dies and no-one is to blame and no-one explains to Baha Mousa’s family how he came to sustain 93 injuries and end up looking like this.

And if I wonder about these things, how do they look to those who would use genuine anger at these kinds of incidents to fuel fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism?

Ken Loach, “Route Irish”, GFT, 23/2/11

Posted in film review by raymondsoltysek on February 28, 2011
Route Irish
Route Irish

Nice to be in the presence of greatness: Ken Loach introduces his new film, “Route Irish”.

It’s a political thriller of the type Britain is particularly good at – though Loach doesn’t see it as a thriller and didn’t make it as one, he claims – and trawls the fertile sea of the Iraq war for its tale of private contractor conspiracy.  Perhaps unusually for a film made in the West, it presents all the human tragedy of the conflict that has been inflicted on the Iraqis, showing them as humans rather than, as producer Rebecca O’Brien  says, “props”.   It’s typically Loach (and writer Paul Laverty): scorchingly political, brilliantly humane – and occasionally rather clunky.

The discussion afterwards is hugely interesting but perhaps not exactly unexpected: the anger he feels at the injustice of the war; the problems he had getting it made; the difficulties he has finding distributors so that people can actually see it; the horrors he discovered while doing the research; the conflict he feels trading with the devil of Sky Movies.  One thing strikes me:  while Loach is almost unique, the subjects he tackles aren’t.  There have been many recent enormously successful films about political conspiracies that are similarly anti-war or anti-establishment or anti-corporation: think of “The Constant Gardener”, or “Syriana”, or “The International”.  Why are they so commercially successful, attracting funding and distribution?  Perhaps it’s because they don’t quite bang on about the message, but dress it up in a medium that the audience recognises and responds to.  For Loach, the medium is entirely subservient to the message, which is why he doesn’t want to admit he’s made a thriller.  Market it as just that – a tight, exciting, action-packed thinking man’s thriller (all of which it is) – and perhaps the cash will come flooding in, and the message will do it’s own work.

However, Loach, for all his loveliness and humanity, isn’t naive, and I’m sure he’s thought about that and already rejected it: so I’ll just bow to his genius.

Wikileaks: we are all the parents of this bastard war.

Posted in Politics by raymondsoltysek on October 23, 2010

The incendiary details of the Wikileaks Iraq documents release are truly sickening but not at all surprising.

American helicopter gunships mowing down surrendering insurgents; Al Qaeda targeting children with IED’s; Iraqi security forces drilling into the legs of torture victims.

What is absolutely clear is that this is like no other war, since all sides are actually waging war on the Iraqi civilian population.

Our leaders started this.  Until Bush, Blair and all the other profit-hunting warmongers stand in front of a war crimes tribunal, we will share their guilt.

War as a video game…

Posted in Politics by raymondsoltysek on April 5, 2010

A day for horrific revelations about army behaviour.  Hot on the heels of this morning’s post about the murder and cover-up of Afghan civilians comes this frankly unbelievable video of action taken from an Apache helicopter in Baghdad.  In the shooting, two Reuters journalists along with several seemingly perfectly peaceful Iraqis are gunned down from the air as pilots utter such noble sentiments as “Look at all them dead bastards” and  “nice”.  Two segments chill me: one is the copter circling a wounded journalist as he tries to crawl for safety, the pilot praying, “just pick up a weapon” to justify him opening fire on the obviously crippled man; the other is when they discover that they have shot children in a van that has come to rescue the wounded and they say, “it’s their own fault for bringing children to a battle” and, as they line up their weapons on the van and can see the kids, “just let us shoot.”

What is also shocking is the way that they lay the groundwork for their cover up even before the “engagement”, claiming to see up to eight people armed with AK47s and RPGs when what they really see is one rifle and a telephoto lens.  I would feel a lot safer if I knew that these killers at least had the decency to have a sleepless night over what they’d done, but I very much doubt they have the requisite humanity.

Watching it made my blood boil.