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Apr 10, 2007

War Is Tell


Let me see if I've got this straight...

Not that they didn't have enough trouble (with the pretense of) securing Iraq, England provoked a confrontation with the Iranians in the Persian Gulf causing a group of sailors to be captured and held as headliners in a Tehran propaganda show. 

Humiliated (because, face it, the only war left to fight in the Gulf is the PR war), the Brits hatched a counter-propaganda scheme to pay off the detainees via "tell all" marketing deals enabling the government to flood the media space with their own, not-so-sweet version of the story. 

As part of the roll-out, the government starts prancing these soldiers about (as Royal Marine Capt. Chris Air, Navy Lt. Felix Carman and Marine Adam Sperry evidence in this piece of NYT-hosted visual cheesecake).  The only problem, however, is that the "cure" caused more ill than the disease.  Far from relieving shame, the soldiers came off like a cross between this and this.

As a result, the Brits pulled the plug, saving these young folk from a life-long fate of cheap media debasement.  (Well, not all.) 

In the end, however, the whole stinkin' lot -- the Government, the military and the soldiers -- soiled the Union Jack because, in this case, just striking up the band was as good as having the parade.

(By the way, you were great while I was gone.  I've been reading through the threads and they are truly inspired!)

(image: Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press. London. April 8. 2007.


This is what happens when spin takes the place of truth. We still do not know the truth about exactly where the Brits were in territorial waters. We still do not know if it was a deliberate provacative incident by the Brits, or, maybe, by the Revolutionary Guards who just might be operating independent of the President of Iran, or, maybe, he only wants to make it seem that way? We still don't know if it was just a feint, to see how far the Iranians would go, or the US, or, even what the British people would tolerate as a reason for extending the war to Iran. Too many questions, and the answers given so far do not inspire one to believe anything, anymore.

It’s not easy to identify what made people so uncomfortable about seeing members of the British Royal Navy in grimly fitting suits provided courtesy of the Iranian government. But fashion, whenever it pops up like Waldo in the middle of a political or diplomatic event, has a funny way of becoming a primary source of our anxiety. What’s wrong with this picture?

NYT Cathy Horyn => ON FASHION: What They Wore To the Post-Revolution

...Yet, even as we allow that the British servicemen were innocent of fashion, and put on the clothes as a matter of course to replace the pajamas they had most recently been kept in, there is something disturbing about their appearance. It is doubtful that the Iranian government went to the trouble of outfitting 14 men in suits and shirts, however unflattering, if they didn’t mean to make some kind of a political statement... seems to me that the plain if not poor cut of the suits was meant as a rebuke to flashy Western tastes. An English banker, in his bespoke suit, might react in horror, but couldn’t that be the point?

Perhaps the root of the criticism of the British seamen is generational rather than sartorial.

Couldn’t they have just said no to the clothes and the ‘goody bags’? Or, are they so used to wearing "fashion" = sports logos, and other symbols that subtly co-opt their identity ~ that they saw no distinction, much less harm ~ in putting on suits offered by their captors?

While we can only surmise that these young people had other concerns on their minds — genuine danger, for example — it has been suggested that older generations, born before the age of the goody bag, would have at least thought twice about what was being offered to them and might have displayed some contempt or resistance.

And there is absolutely no trace of that in most of the faces in the photos. They seem, in fact, almost too pleased with their new clothes.

That picture is strange because their hands are cut off by the frame. It looks like they're doing something with them, but what? So we're left to interpret their postures without seeing their hands. They might be twiddling their thumbs... it looks like they might be standing behind a table or something. I do get the impression the soldiers are being casual about the whole thing, which I would expect. Soldiers do have to keep their cool in the face of captors.

It feels a lot like the story about the American female soldier who was captured in Iraq several years ago, and the media scramble to buy the story rights. I sometimes think all the dramatic reenactments they make of these real peoples' stories only serves to twist the truth, like margaret said: we see all these interpretations of a story but in the end, what we're seeing is something designed to be dramatic and to make money.

England should admit defeat in this particular PR battle and try to win the diplomatic war that is still going on. I guess maybe that's what they're doing now that they've seen how ugly the media can get.

Monty Python... or The Full Monty... or something Monty...

I don't doubt that it was frightening to be taken by the Revolutionary Guards, but all in all, this is probably the best thing that's ever happened to this group. No harm came to them; now they're home with their families, they're celebrities, and they raked in some bucks before the Ministry of Defense had to change its mind about letting them be paid.

In the news conferences with the MOD handlers, as opposed to the news conferences with the Iranian handlers, they described being in isolation, under psychological pressure... one guy said that the worst thing that happened to him was that a guard flicked him on the neck with his thumb and finger. (Meanwhile, the bullying and violence against recruits in UK military training camps has resulted in suicides at its worst.) And Tony Blair was outraged by their "ordeal". (No problem with prisoners being tortured in Gitmo, though.)

They didn't mention sitting around watching TV together, or playing pingpong, or anything else that came out later on Iranian video.

Margaret, from what I understand, there is no agreed-upon international boundary there, so there's no definitive answer to which side of the border were they on. (See Craig Murray's blog for some good information about this. He's known for being the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was told to shut up about the horrible human rights situation there - but he also has a lot of experience negotiating international maritime borders, including in this region, I think.)

MonsieurGonzo, the NYT addressed the men's fashions, but not Faye Turney's. She talks about a woman coming in to measure her and says that she thought they were measuring her for her coffin; presumably, they were measuring her for clothes. (Maybe it's just because I'm used to headscarves, but I saw her on her ITV interview, and I thought she looked much better in Tehran!) She said that they separated her from the men, as if that were something sinister, but that's just normal - they're not going to have a woman sleeping with the men.

When I was in boot camp, we learned that if you were captured, you only gave your name, rank and serial number. Under torture, I can understand why people might give up more, but what excuse do these sailors and marines have for all the things they said? They're real tough guys...

U, i think you missed the irony...

...regarding not the image of their ill-fitting suits; rather, the BAGman's image above: “They seem, in fact, almost too pleased with their new clothes;” ie., that costume of being a soldier = someone who performs violent service in exchange for payment.

These British youths seem blissfully un-aware of what either costume... really means :-/

The guy on the left looks like George Michael.

Sailors are the hottest guys in the military.

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