Ulster troop’s websites a “bloody disgrace”…

Robert Carry writing in today’s Metro Eireann (ie the Dublin edition of the paper) follows the story of some of the Bebo photos dug up on Aughavey’s thread on the satirical march in Basra by members of the Irish Guards. A lot of what was displayed there went well beyond the bounds of satire.By Robert Carry

BRITISH soldiers from Northern Ireland currently serving in Iraq have been using the internet social networking service Bebo to display a host of shocking images in which

they abuse Iraqi civilians and appear to mock the hanging of Saddam Hussein, Metro

Eireann can exclusively reveal. The soldiers are believed to belong to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards – a regiment of the British Army known for its large number of recruits from

Northern Ireland. Some of the soldiers have also posted images showing support for loyalist paramilitary terror groups and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

The first images came to light after a Co Antrim soldier (Soldier A) posted onto his Bebo page a number of pictures showing a 12 July Orange Order-style march involving a group of troops, held in their barracks in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Further examination of the soldier’s Bebo page revealed that Soldier A had also posted images in support of loyalist gangs responsible for sectarian attacks – one depicting what looked to be a loyalist gunman with an Ulster flag behind him.

Among his other pictures was a soldier smiling with his head tilted inside a hangman’s noose, in what resembled a re-enactment of the hanging of Saddam Hussein.

The Bebo pages of some of Soldier A’s colleagues serving in the Irish Guards revealed racist, homophobic, sexist and sectarian symbols and statements, as well as images and comments abusive to Iraqi citizens.

A second soldier (Soldier B) displayed a photo of a group of Iraqi children with the caption “gimps” on his webpage, alongside a logo representing the banned loyalist terror group, the Ulster Volunteer Soldier B had another picture of what appeared to be a British soldier getting an Iraqi civilian to hold a sign saying: “I f**k sheep when I’m not busy mortaring the base”.

A third Northern Ireland-born British soldier serving in Iraq (Soldier C) stated on his page that he is happiest when “drinking with the lads or when I have pulled and killing dirty ragheads”. Soldier C also prominently displayed a statement which read: “It isnt Rape if you shout Suprise. its only suprise sex haha.” In a list of his dislikes he stated: “gays fuckn poofs need a 9mm round to the back of the head.”

One of the photos on Soldier C’s page showed him sitting in full uniform, fully armed, with the caption “don’t run – you’ll only die tired” underneath. He also displayed a photo of a group of KKK members and further loyalist paramilitary related another alarming series of pictures which appeared to show a group of soldiers tying a distressed-looking fellow solider to a post with bright orange tape.

A fourth soldier (Soldier D) decorated his personal webpage by daubing swastikas with the Neo-Nazi slogan “Blood and Honour”. In the introduction to his page he wrote: “alrite im 27 and in iraq on a 7 month tour of this beautiful country the people are lovely and would do anything for ya im just bull shittin they are a shower of c**ts.”

A fifth soldier (Soldier E), who served in Northern Ireland as well as in Iraq, displayed a photo in which he posed in full uniform under a billboard of the 10 republican prisoners who died on hunger strike in 1981, which he labelled “Kill All Taigs” (‘Taigs’ meaning Irish Catholics). He also had various other loyalist imagery displayed.

A sixth soldier (Soldier F) had the phrase “Kill all Taigs and Arabs” displayed prominently on his page and had a photograph of a dead body, believed to be of a murdered South American gang member, among his pictures.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) instructed the 1st Battalion Irish Guards regiment in Basra to conduct an immediate investigation into the scandal after Metro Eireann informed them of the content.

A spokesperson initially requested that Metro Eireann “withhold publication”. Later, Lt Col Nick Richardson told Metro Eireann through the MOD press office that the

British army “has a policy of zero tolerance towards all kinds of prejudice, sectarianism, harassment and bullying and absolutely does not condone any such behaviour of any kind.”

He continued: “We are aware of the comments that have been placed on this website, appropriate measures have already been taken and an investigation is underway – it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Metro Eireann understands that the investigation will be headed by the military police. However, despite the fact that the MOD was informed of the material displayed on the soldiers’ web pages on 18 July, at which time the organisation stated that it was to take “immediate” action, most of the shocking images and statements were still available to view four days later.

During the time it took the MOD to take action, a seventh soldier had copied the image of an armed British soldier attempting to humiliate an Iraqi civilian by getting him to have his photo taken while holding a derogatory sign, and posted it on his Bebo page.

Metro Eireann gained access to the Bebo pages of a total of 11 serving British soldiers from Northern Ireland, most of whom were linked as ‘friends’ on the website – just four had no such content. Sources in the British army have described the actions of the men as “appalling” and a “bloody disgrace”.

This is the version published in the paper. Replaces previous draft version.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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