Did the British sailors captured by Iran behave correctly?
I recently read an article in the April 27 issue of "The Week" about the British sailors who had been captured by Iran. It is a survey of different opinions about whether or not they behaved correctly. Since I do not have a military background and do not know what a sailor "should" do in that situation I decided to ask people here to give me their opinions.
I can't find the article online so I'm typing it up below:
I'd always had the impression that British military personnel were unbelievably tough, myself, although I suppose it's not really an informed opinion on my part.
The British sailors captured by Iran may be free, said The Times in an editorial. But they are still making propaganda for the enemy - and doing it for money. The Navy allowed the one female captive, sailor Faye Turney, to sell her story to ITV and the Sun; she told all about how she "felt like a traitor" while falsely confessing to being in Iranian waters. And 20 year old Arthur Batchelor, the youngest of the 15 captives, complained to the Daily Mirror that his guards called him "Mr. Bean" and that one of them "kept flicking my neck with his index finger and thumb," causing him to weep with terror. You couldn't make this stuff up. "Having a serving member of the military declare in print that he was 'crying like a baby' after being imprisoned will hardly serve as a disincentive to kidnapping British troops." It's bad enough that treatment no worse than solitary confinement and mockery made the troops fold so quickly. To admit it publically, in "a display of self-pity for profit," is appalling.
These stories "inspire only embarassment and pity," said Allan Mallinson, a retired commander of the Royal Hussars, in the Daily Telegraph. Had the sailors told stories of heroism, rather than "victimhood", they might have managed to squelch our memories of their "fawning, unmilitary behavior" toward Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as they thanked him for their release. As it is, though, the Defense Ministry should have predicted the "tidal wave of revulsion" over the decision to go public - particularly since Turney reportedly reaped $200,000 in the media deal. Suddenly it's become more lucrative for our soldiers to surrender than to fight.
The government is now trying to control the damage, said The Guardian. Defense Secretary Des Browne has forbidden any more soldiers to sell their stories. Yet this assertion of discipline comes too late. The sailors "surrendered to Rupert Murdoch even faster than they gave in to their Iranian interrogators." It's the Murdoch angle that has everyone so incensed, said Dominic Lawson in The Independent. Many in the Media thought that the sailors' "abject flattery of their Iranian hosts" was "a delightful poke in the eye for Tony Blair and George Bush." Yet now those same columnists act betrayed because Turney sold out to the Sun, a right-wing tabloid. "For some people, an accommodation with Rupert Murdoch is more sinister than one with President Ahmadinejad."
How dare they criticize the troops for talking? said Andy McNab in the Sun. If the sailors had kept quiet, then the world would have believed Iran's lies about their treatment. Instead, we know that "Faye and the lads" were kept isolated and threatened with years of imprisonment, and that those films of them laughing and playing chess were misleading. Enough with the armchair experts who "whine and bitch about the hostages' every decision." The troops cooperated with their captors as they were trained to do. "I think we should totally be proud of them."
Really? What if past British heroes had sold their stories? asked Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. How about "Churchill: My Battle With the Bottle"? Or maybe "The Light Brigade: We Apologize to the Russians and Thank Them for Their Kindness." In another era, the freed captives would have been debriefed at some remote base, given a few weeks' leave, and then sent back to duty. In today's Britain, though, "the highest form of duty is to emote on prime-time TV."