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Rightly arrested
At least detained British soldiers in Iran weren't wearing orange suits and chains

June 25, 2004

"Our Boys shown blindfolded on Iranian TV" / "Forced to make confessions and say sorry." This was how UK daily The Sun Wednesday reported the capture of eight British military personnel by Iranian forces on page two, with headshots of the men under the strapline: "SICKENING".

"The Iranians breached the Geneva Convention by showing six Royal Marine Commandos and two Royal Navy sailors wearing blindfolds," said its report. This was all the more objectionable given that "Britain helped hundreds and thousands made homeless in the Bam earthquake that killed 35,000 Iranians" last December.

The Murdoch-owned tabloid ran the story as the second item in its leader column under the banner: "Pray Iran listens". But its short rant admitted: "There are signs the men's ordeal may soon be over". It went on to commend foreign secretary Jack Straw for his efforts at building bridges with the mullahs: "Iranian society is a complex mixture of conservatives and reformers. Straw is one of the few Western leaders to make an effort to understand the country."

Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh condemned what he called "a genuine outrage" but went on to say "we have a surprisingly good relationship with Iran." He added: "With Iraq still unstable and neighbouring Saudi Arabia fighting for survival, the last thing we need is a row with Iran."

"HUMILIATED" the Daily Mail splashed (a right-wing tabloid which serves the "Little Englander" middle class in contrast to the Sun's uncouth workers). Columnist Ann Leslie flexed her intellectual muscles: "It's easy to mock Bush's simplistic 'good and evil' world view -- just as it was easy to mock the late President Reagan's equally 'simplistic' good-and-evil denunciation of the Soviet Union as 'the evil empire'. But both men were and -- are right." Well, that's settled then.

The subheadings "Corrupt", "Threatened", and "Paranoid", broke up her piece, hinting of course at the mullahs and not herself. After berating the Islamic Republic for its nuclear ambitions, she said: "We even sent the hapless Prince Charles on a humanitarian mission to visit the the victims of the massive Ban earthquake... We should have earned 'brownie points' from the regime for all this." Brownies, of course, being a reference to the girl scout movement, not the natives in Iran -- you never no with these right-wingers.

She added: "Why did they parade the eight Britons blindfolded on state television?" Hey, at least they weren't wearing orange suits and chains. "Captive marines paraded on TV" was the Daily Telegraph's headline with three picture on men in blindfolds dominating the front page of Britain's best-selling -- and right-wing -- broadsheet. "Why are our men being held hostage Mr Blair?" its leader demanded. "These men have been held without charge under military interrogation at an undisclosed location ever since without access to British diplomats." You'd think they were suspected "enemy combatants".

It advised Tony Blair to "swallow his pride and ask George W Bush for diplomatic and military support. When British servicemen are captured by a hostile power while doing their duty, they deserve to have the full weight of the Western alliance aligned with them." That's right -- run to daddy. The paper's diplomatic editor Anton La Guardia wrote: "Hawks in America, who have long been hostile to Britain's rapprochement with Iran, are likely to seize on the Shatt al-Arab incident as proof that Teheran simply cannot be trusted, and that it is best to confront the mullahs rather than appease them." Cock that trigger baby.

This theme was picked up on by the paper's defence editor John Keegan: "Iran is, historically, a great power. It is, in actual terms, one of the most advanced societies outside the Western world. National pride will encourage the Iranians to become a nuclear power... [the West] will have to take braver steps than hitherto, as it will also have to against North Korea." This was a clear indication that the ruling class in Britain would be prepared to support another imperialist war -- against Iran. La Guardia wrote: "Diplomatic veterans of Teheran argue that the mullahs may be tactically cunning but often lack and overall strategy. They play draughts rather than chess." Chess? Ah, like bombing Iraq.

What the above in fact serves to show is that the mullahs have scored a PR coup which has put the currently flag-waving English on the defensive. While only the Telegraph referred to the prisoners as hostages echoes of the hostage crisis abound. Unless the soldiers complain of mistreatment once the mullahs have had their fun with them, which is unlikely, the Islamic Republic will have successfully humbled the British, America's key ally.

The references to the Geneva Convention won't stick -- how can the gangster mullahs take their cue from the West when its disregard for human life has led to the outrages we have witnessed from Abu Ghraib prison to Rafah.

The men in a boat affair has also introduced UK Iranians, perhaps for the first time, to the prospect of having to take sides between adopted country and motherland -- something the US's misnamed "Persian" community has long grappled with. (The solution by the way is easy -- we are British and as Brits we do not believe that Our Boys should be in Iraqi territorial waters in the first place let alone Iranian ones, where they were rightly arrested. As Brits we are glad that these men will receive better treatment than many Iranian asylum seekers get when they enter UK waters but do not believe they should be kept until they sew their mouths up in protest so release them forthwith.)

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By Peyvand Khorsandi



Book of the day

Inventing the Axis of Evil
The Truth About North Korea, Iran, and Syria
By Ervand Abrahamian, Bruce Cumings, and Moshe Ma'oz

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