Monday, April 09, 2007

The Sun Sheads Light on Sailor's Saga Shambles

As if the UK could not look any worse in the whole affair with the British sailors captured by Iran, the ongoing story of the release of the captives has done nothing but show the ugly side of Britain. The most striking thing about the story given by leading Seaman Faye Turney in today's Sun is not her treatment by the Iranians, which was mild in comparison to our treatment of Iraqi prisoners, but rather her fears that seemed to be more based in ignorance than evidence, and the thinly veiled racism of the Sun newspaper.

One of the more sensationalist claims that Faye made in the Sun today was that she feared that she would be raped. When you actually read the article, however, we quickly see that the only foundation that she had for this fear was the fact that she was a woman, there was no threats implicit or explicit from from the Iranian soldiers. Her fear was generated solely from the image that she had of Iranian behaviour, a sad sign of the pervasive beliefs that many Brits hold about the Middle East. Another sailor has been quoted as saying that he though they would be killed saying, "we have all seen the videos". I wonder what video he is referring to, perhaps the videos of beheadings released by terror groups in Iraq. Apart from the fact that these are groups of undisciplined militias and not a professional military force, if he can't tell the difference between Iraq and Iran can we really trust their claims that they were in Iraqi waters?

Which brings me to my second point, it is no surprise, given this attitude that she described the Sun as the services' paper. It described the headscarf that she was given to wear as a "black Islamic cape", clearly a suggestion of the sinister, and described her ordeal at the hands of the "evil" Iranians. This disgusting and see-through propaganda is not only distasteful but also is exactly the kind of writing that conjured in the minds of the sailors the images that made them fear their captors so much. It seems that in creating this fear of the foreigner we might be doing more damage to our own troops rather than that of the enemy.

Furthermore all of this sensationalism around the treatment of the sailors makes us look ridiculous and hypocritical in the light of all of the practices we condone. The British have been complicit in a war where we systematically transport people to be tortured, and by that I mean really tortured with real physical, mental and sexual abuse and not imagined physical and sexual abuse. The press foams at the mouth about how Faye was left alone and reduced to counting the bricks on the wall, separated from her friends even, as we speak the coalition is separating people for years without any reason and subjecting them to water boarding, stress positions, barking dogs and so on.

What makes this look so much worse is not only that few of the sailors captured were willing to turn up to the press conference whilst they then continued to sell their stories to the press. It is that some of the reports are such blatant lies that it does nothing more than to make the case of Iran even stronger. For example in the Sun article it is stated that day six was the first time Faye knew that her fellow sailors were still there, and that they were only allowed one hour of filmed socialising on day ten. However the Iranians were releasing footage of the crew together by day five. Although I am sure that they were not spending the whole time together playing ping pong and chess, this inflation of their ordeal to the tune of £100,000 does nothing to make the Brits look any better.

In fact this whole saga has made us look idiotic


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