Magazine article The Spectator

If Those Mirror Pictures Are Fakes, Piers Morgan Will Have to Resign

Magazine article The Spectator

If Those Mirror Pictures Are Fakes, Piers Morgan Will Have to Resign

Article excerpt

Are the Daily Mirror's torture pictures fakes? Most of my friends, whether anti-war or pro-war, think that they probably are. Such is my own inclination. But let us for a moment try to see things from the point of view of Piers Morgan, the Minor's editor. Whatever fine words Nicholas Soames may declaim in the House of Commons, the British army has, in fact, used torture in other civil emergencies. Look at what the Black and Tans did in Ireland before partition. Or the torture and murder of Mau Mau detainees, more strictly by the British prison authorities, at Hola Camp in Kenya. These things have happened. Nor is the depiction of the British squaddie as a public-spirited, gentle-hearted chap necessarily always correct. I have come across quite a few members of Her Majesty's forces in my travels and, although I yield to no one in my admiration of our army, it cannot be denied that some of them are hard nuts, often recruited in the bleak streets of our northern cities. You would not want to get on the wrong side of these men, though it does not follow, of course, that they would resort to torture.

There is also - while we continue along, trying to see things from Mr Morgan's standpoint - plenty of evidence that the Americans have used torture quite regularly in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't want to drive my colleague Mark Steyn to apoplexy by suggesting that this torture has been systematic, but it would be difficult to deny that it has been widespread. Two more murders of Iraqis by the American authorities have just come to light. No one has suggested that the horrifying pictures of Iraqis being tortured and sexually abused at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad are fakes. If the Americans are capable of behaving in such a way, is it not possible that our own boys might employ similar techniques? Such must have been the question that flashed through Mr Morgan's brain. It was made more pertinent by his already having in his possession photographs which appear to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.

Why had he not previously published these pictures? Perhaps because he was not absolutely sure that they were genuine. And also because he realised that making them public could provoke angry Iraqis into attacking British soldiers. Do not assume that Mr Morgan is a wicked man. Then, last Friday, several British newspapers carried the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison. (Interestingly, the fanatically pro-war Sun did not use any of them, while the pro-war Times and Daily Telegraph tucked them away inside. American newspapers, including even the Washington Post, were initially similarly restrained). When Mr Morgan saw the Abu Ghraib pictures, he evidently persuaded himself that he should run the British ones, for which he had paid an as yet undisclosed sum of money. In the heat of the moment, any lingering doubts about their authenticity were removed. So too were concerns about a possible backlash against British soldiers in Iraq. The Daily Mirror, after all, has been consistently anti-war. And Mr Morgan is in the business of selling newspapers.

Some people may say that even if these photographs are genuine they should not have been published. That is a very difficult argument to sustain. If British soldiers are employing torture, most us would want to be told about it, even if as a consequence other British soldiers were put at risk from retaliation. But are they genuine? As has been pointed out, they have a stagy, contrived feel. …

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