Sunday, April 08, 2007


"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." -- Winston Churchill, 1940

"I am the very model of a modern major general! Quick! Ring my agent!" -- Royal Navy and Royal Marines, 2007

Fifteen armed British sailors and marines get illegally captured in Iraqi waters by Iranian terrorists while a British destroyer and helicopter gunships in the area do nothing. Nor do the British warriors put up a fight. They cave in faster than a two-dollar suitcase. Meekly, they surrender. Then, in captivity, they fall all over one another confessing to crimes that were never committed, denouncing their country, praising the grinning tinpot terrorists.

The bad guys played "mind games" on them, they whimper after the terrorists release them, their propaganda value well spent. The British hostages are shown waving happily to their captors. Later, after they are back in British hands, mind you, when they were perfectly free to flip Iran the collective bird, instead they merrily display the goody bags the generous Iranians sent them off with. What fun was had by all!

Are these characters headed for courts martial, or at least a good dressing down after their ludicrous dressing up in cheap Iranian suits? Well, not exactly. It seems the British military is encouraging them to sell their heroic stories to the movies and television, and the deals are being cut even now.

From today's New York Times:

"...In a highly unusual decision, Britain’s Ministry of Defense – normally tight-lipped to say the least – acknowledged on Saturday that it had agreed for some of the sailors and marines to offer their experiences for sale to newspapers and television stations.

"Such transactions are common enough among civilians trading rights to their stories for considerable sums of money. But the notion of serving military personnel making a profit from their exploits -- particularly at a time when thousands of others serving in Iraq and Afghanistan face daily peril and sometimes death -- has reinforced previous criticism of the 15 sailors and marines for their seemingly pliant behavior towards their Iranian captors. ...

" 'The released hostages are behaving like reality TV stars,' Col. Bob Stewart, a former commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia, told the Sunday Times of London. 'I am appalled that the Ministry of Defense is encouraging them to profit in this way.'”

Papers in the UK generally were more critical of the military for putting the sailors and marines in a tough spot than of the troops for their giddy behavior. But there were some stinging remarks, and the BBC News online, for one, was among the sharpest.
Captives' media fees spark fury
Leading Seaman Faye Turney
Faye Turney is said to have a deal worth more than £100,000

The Ministry of Defence's decision to allow Royal Navy personnel held captive by Iran to sell their stories has sparked anger and unease.

Opposition MPs said the move was undignified while relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq have voiced opposition.

Leading Seaman Faye Turney is said to have been paid a six-figure sum for her story in Monday's Sun newspaper.

It came as Iran released more video of the sailors, showing them socialising and relaxing during their captivity.

Iran's state-run Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Alam showed several of the sailors and marines eating at a long dining table, watching football on television and playing table tennis and chess.

Iranian television video
Iranian television released video showing the sailors relaxing

The images contrasted sharply with the crew's description of their ordeal, which they say included intimidation and isolation.

Comments from the Sunday UK papers:

“…I do not blame the hostages for their apparent willingness to confess and apologise. But we had better be honest with ourselves. In no previous era - not during World War II or Korea or Suez or the Falklands - would British servicemen have behaved in such a manner. Something has changed, and it would be better to register and assimilate that change before we go charging off again in the misguided belief we are a fully-fledged world power.” -- Steven Glover, Daily Mail

“Shiny new suits, goody bags, handshakes from a head of state and smiles (almost) all round. … Horseplay between young Brits completed what might have been the end of a package tour as the 15 sailors and marines from HMS Cornwall were returned by the grace and favour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was the perfect media coup for the Iranians until the almost simultaneous slaughter of four of our soldiers (two of them women) and a local interpreter burst onto our screens. The blood-spattered helmets and effects of our troops made a horrid contrast with the homecoming of our sailors. … But the overriding impression is one of intense embarrassment for this country.” -- Patrick Mercer, Independent

“Some of the sums being offered to the captives are higher than the money paid to service personnel maimed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The standard tariff for the loss of an arm is £57,500. … One of the hostages, Dean Harris, 30, an acting sergeant in the Royal Marines, told a Sunday Times reporter yesterday: “I want £70,000. That is based on what the others have told me they have been offered. I know Faye has been offered a heck more than that. I am worth it because I was one of only two who didn’t crack.” -- Sunday Times of London

“Despite the occasionally farcical nature of the crisis, this was no Navy Lark. The image of British servicemen thanking Ahmadinejad for his gracious treatment and asking for forgiveness for “apparently” trespassing will not be easy to erase, particularly in the Middle East. As one Iranian commentator said mockingly: “`Britannia really doesn’t rule the waves any more.’

“…The British showed themselves to be “Marmite-eating surrender monkeys”, said Michael Rubin, the American neoconservative and an Iran analyst. Others observed that the flowery “goody bags of dishonour” containing Persian sweets, pistachio nuts, CDs and vases, with which the servicemen returned, seemed designed to emphasise their wimpishness.” -- Sunday Times



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