The Daily Mirror’s decision to publish pictures of British soldiers apparently mistreating Iraqi prisoners was a massive one.
Its executives would have been painfully aware of the repercussions that were sure to follow, both at home and in the Gulf. They knew that there would be military officials, and others, wanting to discredit them. They knew that many of their readers would be horrified by what they saw and that some would disagree with their publication. Most seriously of all, they knew that there was a danger that the pictures would fuel anti-British sentiment in a country already aflame with conflict.
But none of these were reasons for them to shy away from publishing the images.
The only reason not to publish them would have been doubts as to their provenance. Which meant the Mirror had to be utterly convinced that they were the real thing and reflected the truth of some squaddies’ behaviour towards Iraqis. It is standing by its pre-publication investigation into them – and will certainly have to face severe repercussions if that is subsequently shown to have fallen short.
But as long as it was convinced of their veracity, it had no choice but to publish them.
No doubt the Ministry of Defence would prefer that rogue behaviour was not subject to such global scrutiny.
But if there is an anti-British sentiment raging in some parts of Iraq, it is not because of the Daily Mirror. It is because of what it has exposed – the apparent utterly unacceptable behaviour of those wearing the country’s uniform.