Cracker by Damian Christie

You're a Sick Man, Charlie Brown

So the photos of Iraqi prisoners being abused by British soldiers may well be false. I’m yet to be convinced one way or the other, but I’m open to either possibility.

To put it bluntly: Some pretty sick shit goes on during war, or whatever synonym they’re using at the moment to describe the fighting in Iraq since the “end to major hostilities” a year ago. The mistreatment and brutality of Iraqis might be far less widespread than during the reign of Saddam Hussein, but such acts have never been something only limited to “their” side. Of course it's inexcusable, and should never become acceptable, but it simply shouldn’t be all that surprising. These are fighters, not lovers; men made into grunts through a brutal combination of macho posturing and sadomasochistic indoctrination.

Some of the evidence suggesting the photos were staged seems pretty compelling. Wrong gun, wrong truck, wrong hat. But as my father points out (good army man, twenty years service), it’d be hard to say with complete certainty that every soldier stationed in Iraq was issued with the exact same model rifle, and not its very similar predecessor. I wasn’t privy to that particular stocktake, and neither were any of the people who are now arguing on either side.

Some evidence seems a little more, shall we say, circumstantial. One British army commander pointed to the fact the soldier’s webbing (the harness holding the soldier’s accoutrements, canteen, ammunition etc) was undone.

“Normally soldiers are very particular about that,” he remarked.

Which seems to me an odd sort of argument. I don’t know about you, but if I was the sort of soldier who took pleasure in pissing on people, might it just be possible I was also less than the ideal soldier in other regards? “I don’t mind taking a slash on this guy, but walk around with my pockets undone, that's just crazy talk!”

On the other hand, an Arabic television network has released this compelling video evidence of mistreatment. Not simply forced to pose for coalition troops’ sordid photos, thanks to the rebuilt Baghdad internet system and a twenty dollar webcam, this poor Iraqi is robbed of his dignity and tragically forced to perform for the mirth and amusement of all who stumble across him.

While we’re in the Middle East, I really like this cartoon by Wellington illustrator Ross Kettle. He’s a regular contributor to Stuff as well as running his own website.

Chuck from Pettifogspot has confirmed my fear that the country is now awash in bad puns of the “Bic Runga is an angel, let us pray” variety. If I didn’t know it was just the P talking, I’d think someone at the Dominion Post was trying to wind me up:

Religion and pop music don't normally mix ...but kiwi songstress Bic Runga had plenty of faith her latest tour of New Zealand churches would be a hit. Wellington fans swayed to her sermon of acoustic tunes from albums Beautiful Collision and Drive during three concerts at St John's in the City last week. Now based in Paris, Runga had this epiphany about her concert venues after performing in London's 18th century Union Chapel last year. Praise be!
- Kylie Walker

(The caption next to the photo reads: Songstress Bic Runga doubles as the church organist as she preaches to the converted.)

Charlie Brown put it a lot better than I ever could:
Good Grief.