British Prime Minister Tony Blair is mad as hell that Iran grabbed 15 sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf. When Iran released a letter from Faye Turney, the only female sailor, Blair said "It is cruel and callous to do this to somebody in this position and playing this kind of game - it is a disgrace." He even labelled their seizure "blatant aggression." Iran has begun showing TV footage of some of the prisoners asking embarassing questions like shouldn't the British be getting out of Iraq?
Cruel, callous, and disgrace are strong words. But I have two words for Mr. Blair and his phony outrage: Guantanamo Bay. He (and the prisoners) are lucky they weren't detained by U.S. forces where:
1.) They would disappear into a legal black hole after being labelled "enemy combatants." Up until the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which legalized torture, ended the guarantee to habeas corpus, kangaroo courts, and secret detetention, everyone detained in the so-called "War on Terror" has been subjected to this treatment by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies which is reminiscient of Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia.
2.) They would be sadistically tortured. Perhaps they would be subjected to beatings, water torture, forced to stay up for more than 24 hours at a time, force-fed when they went on hunger strike, and subjected to sexual and religious humiliation.
3.) They would "disappear" and not be allowed to communicate with their families, friends, or most of all, lawyers. After five, six, or seven years they would miraculously reappear and "confess" to committing acts of terrorism in a military tribunal instead of a court of law.
What Iran is doing - coerced statements and ridiculous TV "interviews" - to the British prisoners is positively humane by comparison.
Of course Iran is using these marines and sailors as pawns for political leverage! With a British-American naval armada consisting of minesweepers and two carrier battle groups (a third carrier is on its way) stationed off Iran's coast and war talk coming from both sides of the aisle in Washington, this move shouldn't have come as a surprise. When superpowers and their poodle allies try to bully other countries, this is the price they pay. Too bad it's a bunch of working class sailors and marines who are paying it, not those responsible, i.e. Bush and Blair.
And if this is Blair's idea of "blatant aggression," what the hell was invading Iraq under false pretenses? A picnic?
Over 650,000 Iraqis have died according to the British medical journal, The Lancet. Blair's government publicly dismissed the findings, but internally their Ministry of Defence's chief scientific advisor thought the study's methods were "robust" and "balanced" while other scientists working for their Department for International Development thought that the study was an "underestimation of mortality." Over 130 British personnel have died in Iraq, and yet Blair has refused to meet with anyone from Military Families Against the War, forcing them to launch a petition to set up a meeting. Somehow, he managed to find the time to meet with the families of Israel soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah but he couldn't find the time to meet with the military families of his own country! And now we are supposed to believe he cares about the welfare of British troops?
If Blair is outraged, he's outraged at Iran making him look like the fool he is. He doesn't give a damn about the prisoners or any other British military personnel, otherwise he wouldn't have put them in harm's way by invading and occupying Iraq. His condmenations ring hollow as his closest ally tortures and convicts its way to defeat in the "war on terror."
Pham Binh is an activist and recent graduate of Hunter College in NYC. His articles have been published at Asia Times Online and Monthly Review Online. His blog is http://prisonerofstarvation.blogspot.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org