Friday, April 6, 2007

British Sailors and Marines Finally Speak

Fifteen British sailors and marines released from Iranian captivity, and safely on British soil, have said what we all thought they would say—that Iran, not Britain, acted illegally: by intentionally violating Iraqi territorial waters for the express purpose of kidnapping 15 British sailors and marines and using them in a grotesque propaganda excercise.

The sailors and marines admitted they were coerced into making false confessions, or risk receiving harsh punishments:

British sailors and marines held for nearly two weeks in Iran were blindfolded, bound and threatened with prison if they did not say they had strayed into Iranian waters, a Royal Navy lieutenant who was among the capitives said Friday.

Lt. Felix Carman, safely home with his 14 colleagues, said the crew faced harsh interrogation by their Iranian captors and slept in stone cells on piles of blankets. Unable to see and kept isolated, they heard weapons cocking.

"We were blindfolded, our hands were bound and we were forced up against a wall. Throughout our ordeal we faced constant psychological pressure," Carman said. "All of us were kept in isolation. We were interrogated most nights and presented with two options. If we admitted that we'd strayed, we'd be on a plane to (Britain) pretty soon. If we didn't, we faced up to seven years in prison."
Doesn't sound like they were treated humanely as some pro-Iranian critics contend, but it does sound like the Iran most people—including countless pro-democracy activists and other dissidents rotting in Iranian gulags—know all too well.

As for what really happened off the coast of Iraq, the British sailors and marines saw it much differently then what they were forced to confess on Iranian television. Lt. Carman, says:
"Let me make this clear — irrespective of what was said in the past — when we were detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard we were inside internationally recognized Iraqi territorial waters," he said. "At no time did we actually say were sorry for straying into Iranian waters."
A non-apology apology? This will drive the wingnuts crazy, of course. They treat every military confrontation like some Greek tragedy: better the sailors and marines fought the Iranians to the death, no matter how dim the prospects of success, than be humiliated in front of television cameras. But the sailors and marines are safe, and at what cost? Some pride? And releasing an Iranian diplomat who is no longer useful? Let’s move on.