April 08, 2007

Is it me, or were the 15 British sailors and marines held by the Iranians just a little too gabby? Now that they’re home, the former hostages are repudiating their statements saying that they had intruded into Iranian waters, and they’re telling us that their profuse apologies – eagerly televised by the Iranians – were “coerced.” Yet they hardly seemed all that uncomfortable in their videotaped messages to the West: quite the opposite, they seemed relaxed, they were smiling (a lot), and the written missives of the lone female had the ring of polemics authored by a British version of Cindy Sheehan. Ah, but no, this was just the apparent reality: according to the new touchy-feely version of British military virtue, the idea is to capitulate entirely to the demands of your captors, and be accommodating in every way. Besides which those dastardly Iranians were not nice to them, as the New York Times reports:


“The captives defended their decision to play along with their captors, saying they were subjected to a determined campaign of psychological intimidation. They were separated, stripped, put in pajamas and laced in small stone cells in complete isolation.”


Put in pajamas – imagine that! Oh, the torture! The inhumanity! One can only hope these offending garments weren’t polyester, or some other equally unfashionable fabric. The Times continues with this narrative of unbearable torture:


“’There was a lot of trickery and mind games being played, ‘ Lt. Felix Carman, 26, of the Royal Navy said. … ‘We were interrogated most nights, and presented with two options. If we admitted we had strayed, we would be on a plane back to the U.K. soon. If we didn’t we faced up to seven years in prison.”


Oh no – not trickery! Why, those sneaky Aye-ranians, don’t they have any manners? It isn’t nice to trick people! And as for threatening these totally innocent boys (and one girl)—who were, after all, only doing their duty enforcing trade restrictions against importing cars in the Gulf – why, it’s unforgiveable. After all, it’s not like we are holding any of their guys – or is it ….?


Whatever happened to the old practice of refraining from giving the enemy any information except for name, rank, and serial number – or is that gone completely out of fashion?


Tony Blair keeps whinging on about how the Iranians, by putting the captives on television, violated the Geneva Conventions, but the sailors weren’t covered by the conventions; there is, after all, no state of war between the U.K. and Iran quite yet. Their status was similar to the millions of illegal aliens in the United States who slip into the country without papers or any other kind of authorization. When the American Immigration and Naturalization Service picks these people up, and detains them, does Mexico threaten the U.S. with war, or accuse them of violating international covenants? Of course not. Iran, however, is apparently a different matter.


Blair claims that the captured sailors were going about their business “under a UN mandate.” But since the waters they wandered into – or were sent into – are disputed, as Craig Murray has pointed out, there is no internationally-recognized treaty demarcating the border in the Shatt al Arab waterway), the claim of a legal mandate is not at all convincing.


The Iranians did violate international norms by denying access to a British consular official while the fifteen were imprisoned in Iran, but as for all this folderol about “torture” – it would be funny if the Anglo-American media didn’t take it so seriously.


It’s all part of a sinister Iranian plan to lure the Brits out of Iraq – after all, the “captives” were given a free trip back to London, new suits, and a souvenir bag filled with Persian sweets, pistachio nuts, CDs, books, and vases. Will we soon see boat-loads of British soldiers and sailors rushing to surrender to the Iranians, just to get out of the Iraqi hellhole – with the Americans not far behind? Don’t laugh – because the fifteen British ex-captives are now rushing to cash-in on their “torture.”


The Ministry of Defense has authorized them to sell their stories to the British tabloids, and the cash is flowing in: Faye Turney, the 26-year-old blabbermouth who wrote no fewer than three letters during her 13 days of captivity (two of them criticizing British foreign policy), could garner as much as 150,000 pounds from a sweet deal involving a newspaper and ITV. All together, the faint-hearted fifteen could scarf up as much as 250,000 pounds between them.


Gee, where do I go to get “tortured” by the Iranians?


The MoD authorization to sell the captives’ stories has sparked a storm of outrage. “This is wrong,” said Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon Gentle was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in Iraq, “and I don’t think it should be allowed by the MoD. None of the parents who have lost loved ones in Iraq have sold their stories.” Yes, but those stories are tragedies, and they are real: the public’s taste for this genre is quite limited. However, the nonsense the “captives” will pen is government-approved propaganda, mixed with reality-show hype. Indeed, the fifteen have been accused of acting like reality stars, and that, it seems to me, explains why they acted as they did in Tehran. Suddenly they were the objects of international attention, and that is where the “intimidation” came in: the media spotlight proved to be too much for them, and they surrendered to it, not to the Iranians. Now they are being rewarded for it – and they’re getting away with it because their personal agendas dovetail nicely with the political agenda of the British government, which is eager to get its own version of the story out there.


This would all be a big joke, but for the sinister reality of yet another war looming in the Gulf – and the dark shadow of Uncle Sam lurking in the background, threatening, provoking, and champing at the bit, as the Guardian reports, to get in on the action:


“The Guardian learned that the US had offered to buzz Iran with fighter jets during the impasse. Diplomatic sources said that, Pentagon officials offered a series of military options, including for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases. Britain told the Pentagon to calm the situation by staying out of it and tone down military exercises in the Gulf.”


Maybe next time – and, believe you me, there will be a next time – the Pentagon will finally get what it wants. And if not next time, then the time after that. We are all of us held hostage by those madmen in Washington, and it won’t be long now before they gin up a pretext for war.


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