Monday, April 2, 2007

Looking Through The Bars

There’s a couple things that bother me about the British sailors captured by the Iranians.

First, who really thinks that your average sailor knows where he is at any given point? Are they looking at road signs out there? No. The only people who really know where the ship is are the navigators and whoever they might tell at any given moment – the commander or duty officer, maybe a few others on the bridge. The vast majority of sailors on any ship just know that “we’re two days out from point A, on a 10-day cruise to point B.” They could no more point out their location accurately on a map than they could swim the rest of the way. Two of the displayed hostages, Capt. Air and Lt. Carman, may indeed have known their position. However, I note that THEIR televised statements include some weasel-words – Capt. Air said that they were “apparently” in Iranian waters, according to GPS coordinates supplied by the Iranians. Since the British government disputes the Iranian-claimed position in the first place, using a captive to parrot those same coordinates doesn’t lend much authority to them. In addition, it appears that at least three of the four hostages that have been televised (including Capt. Air) are Royal Marines, not sailors – and therefore MUCH less likely to have accurate knowledge of their position. (I’m not sure whether Ms. Turney is a sailor or marine – shockingly, I can’t find any reports that include her or Mr. Summers’ rank. I guess the journalists involved aren’t that concerned with the earned titles of mere enlisted folks.) In any event, these 15 sailors and marines were a boarding and inspection party sent over in a small boat launched from a larger ship - so they probably didn't know much about their position beyond "the target ship is THAT way, and our home ship is back the other way." And yet we are expected to take their claims of invasion and their apologies at face value?

The second issue concerns me even more, though. We in the U.S. military have a Code of Conduct that outlines the correct behavior for us if captured. (See especially Article 5.) I feel sure that the British forces have something similar. That code does NOT allow for us to make statements in support of our captors’ claims, or indeed to cooperate with them in any way. And yet 25% of the captives have been convinced to make public statements – including two officers, expected to set the example for more junior folks. Bluntly, if they were motoring their boat up river several miles inland and were captured while tying up to the Ayatollah’s personal dock, I’d still expect them to stay silent. What I’ve seen so far doesn’t look much like the results of coercion…but I really can’t imagine any other way to get that many military professionals from a single small group to simultaneously betray their country. (If you can think of one, no matter how outlandish, please post it in the comments!) If the current Iranian claim is confirmed, that all 15 have “confessed,” then that merely makes my point even more strongly. Any diplomatic actions the British or the U.S. consider should bear this in mind – the hostages are NOT being well-treated, no matter what they or their captors may say.

In any event, I strongly feel that the British government should hold out against this ridiculous state-sponsored kidnapping. Hopefully, Iran will back down under diplomatic pressure – that would be best for all concerned. But if they don’t, I believe that this act does justify a military response – and if they go into Iran, whether for a rescue or a full-blown attack, I believe that the U.S. should support them to the hilt. As they have for us, time and time again.

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