Wednesday, April 11, 2007

British Sailor Media Circus

The Daily Telegraph has reported on the media frenzy accompanying the return of the 15 British sailors:

Soon after news broke that the 15 hostages were coming home, a media bidding war began.Reporters who had been camped outside Leading Seaman Faye Turney's terraced home in Plymouth scribbled out offers and dropped them through the letter box.

Every media organisation wanted the scoop about life at the hands of the Iranians from the only woman hostage - or any of the other 14 Navy personnel - and if it took a six-figure sum to get it, then so be it. At the Ministry of Defence, calls poured in from desperate tabloid and television editors ready to open their cheque books and press their cases with officialdom. Major sums were bandied around. All yearned for their own "exclusive".

It's hard to imagine Faye Turney was only concerned that "she wanted everyone to know her side of the story and what she went through, when she defended herself on Tonight with Trevor McDonald" with all those offers for thousands and thousands of pounds pouring in.

However, the misjudgement to allow the publication of the sailors' stories only furthered the media disaster:

At Fleet HQ it was agreed that some of the hostages would appear at a press conference to tell their stories. But this was not all. Navy chiefs were to recommend to Sir Jock, to Mr Browne and to No 10 that this was an "exceptional" case in which one or two of the hostages could cash in on their ordeal.

Tony Blair was informed while Mr Browne formally "signed off" on the deal. Ldg Seaman Turney would receive a sum estimated at £100,000 for talking to The Sun - 10 per cent of which would go to the Cornwall, the ship on which she and the others were serving. The youngest hostage, 20-year-old Arthur Batchelor, would receive an unknown sum from the Daily Mirror.

When the MoD's decision became public, criticism rained down on the Government from the Opposition, Labour MPs, and the families of soldiers who have died in Iraq. Even one of the 15 hostages described the deals as "unsavoury".

Furthermore, the Telegraph also makes some great objections to the publication of the sailors' stories:

The Armed Forces are meant to promote heroism and sacrifice, not greed and celebrity.

Hundreds of military personnel have been killed doing their duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why should their families receive nothing when the Iran 15, who have arguably suffered considerably less, get rich?

The payments appear to reward failure. The 15 endured a horrible ordeal, but did not distinguish themselves with any acts of heroism.

The MoD, like the Iranians, is using the captives as propaganda tools.

Jack Kelly made a number of damning critiques regarding the defense of Iran by many liberals, notably their reluctance to confront the regime:

Some liken liberal appeasers to those Britons who wanted to make a deal with Hitler after the fall of France in 1940. That's unfair to those appeasers. Their attitude was not honorable, but it was reasonable. The Nazis then possessed a substantial advantage in military power. Today's liberal appeasers embrace dhimmitude even though it's the West that has a huge military and economic advantage.

And finally, for some perspective, let us recall what Strategy Page has written about detainees of a different stripe; Islamic terrorists captured on the battlefield and sent to Guantanamo Bay:

Some techniques have been used to get information out of terrorists. Among them have been using variations in temperature (the room will be very hot or very cold), or playing a lot of music that they do not care for (the Barney theme has been very useful in this respect). It seems that human rights groups get the notion that listening to Britney Spears and Metallica is torture, but doesn't seem to object to terrorists beheading people.

The other issue the media ignores is what the detainees have been doing, and what has happened when some have been released. At least a dozen people, who have been released from Guantanamo Bay, are known to have returned to fighting against Coalition forces. Another person, Rasul Kudayev, was released in Russia, then planned a terrorist attack in the Kabardino-Balkariya region in the Northern Caucasus that killed 45 people. Another detainee (from Iraq) was part of a planned chemical mortar attack on the American and British embassies in Pakistan, and traveled to Pakistan with an Iraqi intelligence agent for purposes of carrying out that attack. Another detainee killed an U.S. Army medic.

Let's remember that none of the British sailors were subjected to any of the above "torture," which has been alleged by the Guantanamo detainees. The infliction of loud music and temperature changes in fact do not seem terribly harsh. After all, they are supplied with Harry Potter books to read, which they simply adore.

It's telling that the Guantanamo detainees complain of "torture" (which in fact should be classified as mild psychological warfare), while the British sailors have complained about their stolen iPods.

Western soldiers are concerned with saving their lives and recovering their possessions at any cost, even if that means disrespecting their country, waving like fools at Iranian TV cameras, and shaking the hand of a madman. The enemy is surely laughing. This undoubtedly gives them some form of encouragement. If they can toy with the British in such a way, while barely laying a finger on them, why should they compromise on their nuclear program?

A scene from Braveheart comes to mind. King Longshanks sits in thought, musing over his next move against William Wallace:

Whom do I send? Not my gentle son. The mere sight of him would only encourage an enemy to take over the whole country.

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