Watching Brief: I Have No Experience of Being Weed on, but the Stream of Urine in the Mirror Pictures of Alleged Torture in Iraq Did Not Look Very Convincing to Me
Platell, Amanda, New Statesman (1996)
Piers Morgan is like one of those magnificent, strutting turkeys that miraculously escape slaughter every Christmas despite the knives being out for them. Admirers of the Daily Mirror editor--and there are many, this writer included--are hoping that he will continue to display these survival skills in the row over the Iraqi torture pictures, in spite of what looks increasingly like a hoax.
Morgan was not alone in falling for the pictures. On Saturday the Mirror splashed its "world exclusive": "Vile. But this time, it's British soldiers" ran the headline over the picture of a soldier purportedly peeing on an Iraqi prisoner. The Sun ran the same picture inside on pages 8 and 9 under the headline: "Shame on OUR boys". But it was more circumspect.
By the following Tuesday, the Sun--in typical style--was showing readers how to mock up and make their own peeing pictures at home. The Mirror, however, ploughed on, claiming that unnamed defence sources had said "there was no evidence to doubt our photos". It was rather disingenuous to use the claim from the Ministry of Defence that it was "taking the photos at face value ... it is very serious". The MoD had absolutely no other option.
The editor of a national newspaper does, however, have an option: whether to run such pictures in the first place and then whether to keep running with them, when so much doubt is being cast over their authenticity.
Morgan must be very sure of his sources to have stuck his neck out this far. And the latest defence--that even if the pictures were not real they were illustrative of beatings being carried out by our troops in Iraq--will not save him if they prove to be fake. If they had been presented as such, that would be a different matter, but they were not.
The Guardian was offering the Mirror no crumb of comfort as the story turned sour. Its front-page treatment was balanced: "Army claims there is more evidence photos were fake", which was an accurate summary of the story so far.
Morgan's claim that he would never do anything to endanger troops as his brother is a serving officer in Basra adds pathos but no mitigation to his case.
And as far as those pictures are concerned, I've always thought they looked a bit dodgy, especially the urinating one. I hasten to add that I have no experience in being weed on, but that stream of urine was not convincing, even to an ingenue like me. …