- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2004

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Daily Telegraph

British soldiers in Iraq

LONDON — Now it is British soldiers who are in the dock. Sunday’s newspapers read like a lengthy charge sheet against the Army.

Along with the accusation that troops from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment tortured Iraqi prisoners, it is alleged that soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers were involved in sexual assault, that British observers were present at Abu Ghraib prison while American guards were mistreating inmates, that our forces were implicated in the shooting of Iraqi detainees and civilians, and that details of at least some cases of abuse were presented by the Red Cross in February.

It is important to emphasize that nothing has been proved against our servicemen. …

That said, it is vital that we get to the bottom of what happened. …

The Army is, of course, a human institution, and prone to human failings. … If soldiers have abused their positions, they should be given exemplary and expeditious punishment; and let us hear no nonsense about young boys far from home facing difficult circumstances.

Our reputation as a country depends on our comportment abroad. If our servicemen have been unfairly blackguarded, they will be entitled to a handsome apology from several newspapers. But if they are guilty, they are a disgrace to Britain.

El Pais

They should have left earlier

MADRID — Spanish troops should have never gone to Iraq. And they should have left even earlier, when the United States tried to force them to follow the erroneous shift in U.S. policy from a defensive to an offensive mission.

Gen. Jose Enrique de Ayala, adjunct to the commander of the Polish-Spanish brigade, warned in a report at the beginning of April that the United States tried to pressure Spanish forces into taking offensive actions for which they had no legal authorization, and the hunt for the Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was a mistaken strategy.

If there were any doubts, the horrors of the torture of Iraqi prisoners confirms that leaving Iraq was the best moral option and the most sensible from Spain’s military point of view.

The acting Aznar government fulfilled its role by passing Gen. de Ayala’s report to the Socialists, but there has not been a single word of criticism [from the former government] about the absurd U.S. war.

Fiji Sun

Civilian personnel in Iraq

SUVA, Fiji — The death of Ratu Sakiusa Lalabalavu, a Global Risks Strategies officer working in Iraq, brings into sharp focus the difficulties posed by the outsourcing of military functions by coalition forces there.

Increasingly, civilian personnel are doing armed tasks previously undertaken by the military.

The cost of maintaining a fully armed, equipped and protected soldier in the field is far higher than the cost of an outsourced, lightly armed civilian who can do the same job, particularly when that civilian comes from a Third World nation and lacks the financial and benefit expectations of, say, a British or American citizen.

Still, the terms and conditions are a godsend to many families in Fiji, but those signing up for service with private defense companies in Iraq or elsewhere should be aware of the loopholes and pitfalls before donning the uniform.

… But by signing up with those private security firms some call mercenaries, the employees enter a legal, and probably moral, twilight zone.

… It seems that, in the case of the Fiji operatives at least, if they die at the hands of an aggressor, their lives are worth more than if they die of natural causes while on duty in Iraq.

Now Ratu Sakiusa’s widow is left without a decent compensation payout because her husband didn’t die in combat, but of a heart attack.

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