In Same Week, Both U.S. and U.K. Invoke ‘National Security’ to Hide War Crimes


On May 15th, the U.S. Justice Department filed an emergency request that would block a ruling that orders the release of thousands of photos showing detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq, including Abu Ghraib. Just two days later, it was reported that campaigners in the U.K. lost their battle to have historical documents released, outlining the atrocities committed by Her Majesty’s Government, in Bahrain.

Both the U.S. and the U.K. have committed numerous war crimes in the name of its citizens, and their core mindset is now prevalent:

Disclosure of what we did will embarrass and shame us, cause anger toward us, and thus harm our “national security”.

As both the U.S. and U.K. highlight the bad acts of those they oppose, they actively hide their own acts from the public, leaving the people to believe our hands are clean.

Colonel Ian Henderson, a British official dubbed “the Butcher of Bahrain”, is guilty of committing countless atrocities during the 30 years he served there as a chief of security official. According to reports, his reign of terror began in 1966, when Bahrain was a British “protectorate”.




In an article by The Independent, he was described as:

The most feared of all secret policemen” in Bahrain, and it was cited “consistent and compelling evidence that severe beatings and even sexual assaults have been carried out against prisoners under Henderson’s responsibility for well over a decade.”

In a 2002 Guardian article, it was reported:

During this time his men allegedly detained and tortured thousands of anti-government activists.” Included in his acts were “the ransacking of villages, sadistic sexual abuse and using power drills to maim prisoners. On many occasion they are said to have detained children without informing their parents, only to return them months later in body bags.”

Col. Henderson was, of course, never punished in any way:

Although Scotland Yard launched an inquiry into the allegations in 2000, the investigation was dropped the following year.”

To add insult to injury, this man, has in fact, been showered with honors. Before the massacres and rapes he presided over in Bahrain, he played a leading role in brutally suppressing the Mau Mau insurgency in the British colony, Kenya, and he actually won the George Medal in the wake of these atrocities.

Human rights activists have, for years, fought to obtain these old documents, in particular a 37-year-old diplomatic cable that shows Britain’s responsibility for Henderson’s actions in Bahrain. In most cases these documents are available after 30 years, however the British government refuses to release them.

The U.K. government, like the U.S., is known for demonizing others while supporting tyrants in the region. The U.K. has a particularly close relationship with Bahrain, where it’s constructing a new naval base, and the Kingdom is already home to the United States’ Fifth Fleet.


2005114710Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa (right) with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon in London. Prince Salman hailed the significance of the new British naval base in Bahrain. Image credit: Courtesy: BNA.


The U.K. government will not release any documents showing their guilt, as it could hurt relations with the Bahrain people. By disclosing this information, it would make both governments look bad, which would cause them embarrassment, as well as possibly add stress to their close relationship. The populations must be denied access to what their governments have done.

The Obama administration is no different, as is evident in their efforts to suppress photographs showing the torture of detainees by the U.S. government. In 2009, Obama said he would comply with a court order ruling that these photos be released, but weeks later he reversed himself, claiming that releasing the photos “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.”

Obama’s argument was created by a group run by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney, both of which have been accused of McCarthyism, or the act of discrediting or tarnishing a person’s reputation with widely publicized and indiscriminate allegations that have no factual base. This tactic began during the communist scare, and is often used in elections.

The judge who had long sided with the Obama DOJ on this issue, has reversed himself as well. In a lawsuit brought in 2004, by the ACLU, the judge ordered the release of thousands of photos that show the abuses our government has committed on detainees. It was his ruling, that the Obama administration could no longer claim there would be harm to national security. The government provided this argument:




As those at the Intercept point out, no healthy democracy can operate in this warped fashion, the mindset being:

We [the government] are entitled to hide anything we do that makes us look bad because making us look bad harms “national security,” and we are the ones who make that decision without challenge.

In a statement from ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer:

To allow the government to suppress any image that might provoke someone, somewhere, to violence would be to give the government sweeping power to suppress evidence of its own agents’ misconduct. Giving the government that kind of censorial power would have implications far beyond this specific context.”

As long as the government continues to hide its war crimes, the people will always be oblivious to the acts that are being committed in their names. The government has free reign to continue to commit these atrocities, knowing they can simply hide the truth under the guise of “national security”.


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Greenwald, Glenn. The Intercept. May 21, 2015. (

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