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Tilting at Windmills

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April 7, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IRANIAN PRISONER UPDATE....From the Guardian's after-action report of the Iranian prisoner seizure:

In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.

The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it....The British government also asked the US administration from Mr Bush down to be cautious in its use of rhetoric, which was relatively restrained throughout.

Option A: this shows that the British are spineless wimps and their once-great civilization is on the verge of collapse. Option B: Tony Blair asked the children to please be quiet while the adults were working. Choose whichever one best fits your worldview.

More interestingly, the Guardian claims there is a "remarkable degree of consensus" that this operation was not planned centrally. Rather, some local Revolutionary Guard commanders took matters into their own hands, and once the deed was done it took two weeks to untangle "because their release had to be agreed by all the key players in the perpetual poker game that passes for government in Tehran." Unfortunately, those key players were all on holiday:

The crucial decision for release was taken on Tuesday by the supreme national security council. It includes representatives of the presidency, the armed forces and the Revolutionary Guard, and Tuesday was the first day they could all be brought together following the No Rouz holiday.

"I think they realised pretty quickly the game was not worth the candle," a senior British government source said.

I think so too. And while we're on that subject, raise your hand if you agree with the conventional wisdom that this whole affair has been a PR coup for the Iranian government. I think that's a pretty short-sighted view. Even countries friendly to Iran appear to believe that this whole episode was a pointless and foolhardy provocation; it's shown up the Iranian government as weak, disorganized, and unable to keep control of its own military; the propaganda videos released during the crisis were so crude and staged they surely fooled no one; and finally, by comparison with Iran, the British and Americans ended up looking restrained and steady — countries that have no need to perform hollow circus acts in order to get international attention.

Sure, the Iranians didn't torture their prisoners. But let's get real. Despite the transparently scripted huffing and puffing out of Ahmadinejad, that doesn't come close to making this whole thing a win for Iran. This was a plainly stupid miscalculation on their part, and one that they obviously lost control of once it began. Far from being scared off by their bluster, my guess is that this incident will make the world more united in its belief that Iran can't be trusted with a nuclear program, not less.

Kevin Drum 1:42 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (128)

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This is dead-on correct. Iran showed itself to be a bunch of boneheaded idiots; showing videos of hostages is PR tactics of criminals and kidnappers. The behind-the-scenes disarray of the Iranian government moved from behind the curtain.

How in hell some people believe this to be in any way positive for Iran is beyond me.

Posted by: Max Power on April 7, 2007 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Though I think that pretty much covers it, I'll point out that on both UK and US news, although it was noted that the "prisoners" were cuffed, blindfolded, kept in solitary, treated and interrogated beyond the bounds of the Geneva conventions, NEITHER government, US or UK, made comment about mistreatment beyond a few mealy words.

Thanks, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Yu, amd, by inference, Blair.

THAT is a crying shame.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES


ALLIANCE, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third. Ambrose Bierce


As the Western media turns its attention to and prattles about the fate of the 15 Britons detained for allegedly trespassing into Iranian waters, the status of the five Iranian officials captured in a US military raid on a liaison office in Northern Iraq on January 11, remains a mystery.

Even though high-level Iraqi officials called for their release, for all practical purposes, the Iranians have disappeared into the US-sanctioned 'coalition detention' system that has been criticized as arbitrary and even illegal by many experts in international law. The US forces had raided what has been described as a diplomatic liaison office in the northern city of Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and detained six Iranians (one of whom has since been released), infuriating Kurdish officials in the process.

In response to the request by the Iranian authorities to the US-led coalition to investigate the circumstances involving their detention and to release the five men, the US State Department replied that "the investigation is not complete, and we don't comment publicly with respect to ongoing investigations".

What a slap in the face! The Iranians who are being held as 'security detainees' are not being charged with anything and so are being held unlawfully. On the other hand, the US administration has already ruled out any possibility of prisoners exchange with the 15 Britons held by the Iranians as, in the words of Sean McCormick, spokesman for the State Department; "There is no comparison between the two issues".

The UN secretary-general's office has not commented on the detained Iranians or Iran's detention of the 15 British sailors, describing both incidents as "disputes between individual states". "We've left it to the respective countries to work it out among themselves", said Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman. In spite of which, the UN had backed a watered-down version of a resolution calling for Tehran to immediately release the hostages, while there was stronger support from the European Union. The EU statement demanded the unconditional release of all the hostages and threatened 'appropriate action' if Tehran failed to act.

The timing of this incident couldn't have been more provocative if it had been planned that way. And evidently it was! The question is, however, who did the planning?

It happened on the eve of a vote in the UN Security Council to impose stricter sanctions on Iran. On top of that. one must include the kidnapping of the Iranian consular officials in Irbil, covert US support for terrorist attacks inside Iran, the 'disappearance' of a high-ranking official in the elite Revolutionary Guards unit and the strong suspicion that the Mossad had a hand in the killing of a renowned Iranian nuclear scientist. Add it all up, and there is little doubt as to who would have planned such a brazen provocation.

Doesn't all this have the likelihood of a Gulf of Tonkin-style incident in the Persian Gulf? Well, predictions are proving too accurate! Is it Western brinkmanship at its prime or a 'false flag' operation? Anyway, it could well end up as a 'casus belli'!

On the US front, the Israel Lobby is preparing the ground by softening up any possible opposition and is pushing hard the US to go to war with Iran.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is mad as hell. "It is cruel and callous to do this to somebody in this position and playing this kind of game -- it is a disgrace", he said. He even labelled their seizure as "blatant aggression". These are strong words. But maybe that, in his phony outrage, he would contemplate on, at least, two other words -- Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. It seems that even Chancellor Brown's memory is failing as he too denounced Iran's treatment of the sailors as "cruel, callous, inhuman and unacceptable". They (and the sailors) are lucky they weren't detained by US forces! What Iran is doing - allegedly coerced statements and ridiculous TV interviews - to the British sailors is positively humane by comparison.

Most Britons oppose immediate military action to free the navy personnel and believe that the government will resolve the crisis peacefully.

The only good thing that Blair has done so far was to tell the Bush administration to stay out of it. It's just the sort of support Britain doesn't need!

And if this is Blair's idea of "blatant aggression", what the hell was invading Iraq under false pretenses? A picnic?

According to the British medical journal, 'The Lancet', over 650,000 Iraqis and 130 British personnel have been killed in Iraq.

What Blair should have viewed as a "disgrace" was his failure to meet with the military families of his own country, although he accepted to meet the families of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by the Hezbollah.

And lastly; when is the British media going to stop playing on the sentiments of its gullible public?

Their immediate reaction to the televising of the only captive woman sailor set them off searching hysterically family albums to depict her as a distressed sweet young mother. Quite rightly, although seemingly stressed, she did look healthy, without any sign of violence, not handcuffed, wearing civilian clothes, smoking and smiling -- not in a lurid orange boiler suit, like the other human beings paraded for a global television audience. However, none could have missed her other photo showing her in full battle uniform and cuddling a machine gun. Oh, sweet mother, whose kids and toddlers would you be killing in case these may be 'terrorists'? Isn't it a charming contrast?

Maybe these comparisons sound odious, but unfortunately truth sometimes hurts!
The noble art of losing face
Will someday save the human race
Hans Blix
Joseph M. Cachia
jmcachia@maltanet.net
31, St. Lawrence Street
Vittoriosa
ID 698736(M)
Tel: 21807566 - 99866151


Posted by: Joseph M. Cachia on April 7, 2007 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

" .. and finally, by comparison with Iran, the British and Americans ended up looking restrained and steady — countries that have no need to perform hollow circus acts in order to get international attention."

Are you kidding? I just don't get how you can associate America's conduct in this with Britain's. The British were certainly viewed as restrained and stead... but the Americans? The accounts I've read in the foreign press out of Canada, France and the UK suggest that the world outside of the United States generally assumed that this wasn't planned at the highest levels of the Iranian government (i.e., as you say, some local Revolutionary Guard commanders took matters into their own hands), and that the whole game for Iran and the UK was to negotiate a climb-down for everyone involved before the Americans managed to escalate the situation beyond the point of no return.

How is this positive for Iran? How about this: faced with the fact of a terrible initial decision by local yahoos, that country's various factions managed to work out a deal with the British and return the hostages safe and sound within two weeks. Outside of the U.S., a main discussion point was the contrast between the treatment of the British captives by the Iranians (shameful videos and all) and the treatment of Guantanamo detainees by the Americans.

How in hell can some people believe this? Well, they can read foreign newspapers on the Internets, for starters... :)

Posted by: Eric on April 7, 2007 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

While I'm inclined to agree with Kevin's conclusion more than not, one should not discount the fact that others will be interpreting this incident quite differently.

The Iraqi army (perhaps at the behest of the US) captured several Iranian diplomats. The Iranians retaliated by capturing several British soldiers, embarrassed Britain, and forced what appears to be a prisoner swap.

Now consider the context that the US has for some time been hinting that military strikes against Iran were a very real possibility, if Iran didn't cooperate on their nuclear research. Taking the hostages pretty much called the Bush administration's bluff (this Gulf of Tonkin-esque incident is about as good a pretext as we're likely to get) and Bush blinked.

Iran stood up to a super power and a half and did better than push (their diplomats were returned and the threat of attack now looks smaller today than it did last week). Despite the amateurish and slap-dash appearance of the operation, Iran's street credibility just rose substantially in the region.

Posted by: Augustus on April 7, 2007 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

...five Iranian officials...held as 'security detainees' are not being charged with anything and so are being held unlawfully...

And if this is Blair's idea of "blatant aggression", what the hell was invading Iraq?...

Posted by: Joseph M. Cachia on April 7, 2007 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

We've obviously given up on the idea of law for durn fereners. Next abrogation a US citizen.

Oh, wait. We did that already.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

I am relieved the situation was defused before aWol could start bombing. Thank goodness Blair told him to go play in traffic while people who can spell and define the words 'negotiation' and 'diplomacy' dealt with the situation.

And it's a crying damned shame that any mistreatment they were subjected to is 'inadmissible in court' because they threw their lot in with us and are therefore guilty by association of the human rights violations the US seems to think safeguard us from the 'terrist's that wanna saw our heads off.'

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

...The Iraqi army (perhaps at the behest of the US) captured several Iranian diplomats....

Posted by: Augustus on April 7, 2007 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

Wrong!

US forces burst in on them without seeking permission, it seems, from any Iraqi authority; certainly not the Kurds. The Kurds also lost face in this incident as their hospitality and sense of self-government were both abused.

Another US success in winning hearts and minds.

Another reason for the Iranis to act intransigent.

I'm sure that's not the whole story, but that's essentially how the Kurds and Iranis are putting it about.

Posted by: nothtere on April 7, 2007 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

K-Drum,
I have to disagree with you. This wasn't a win for the US and the UK. It was a stalemate if anything. It showed the British navy to be slapdash at best. How did the Iranians sneak up on them? In the Middle East, this is a great victory for Iran. At the least, it showed Iran could mount such a Mickey Mouse operation and one of the most powerful navies in the world was helpless.

Posted by: This Machine Kills Fascists on April 7, 2007 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

Have to agree w/ you TMKF, this actually showed that once the Iranians negotiated their domestic landmines, they could behave like adults, returning the British naval personnel without damage and without incident.

This provides those in the Middle East a contrast with the behavior of the current US government. What are we, 5 years and counting on some of our 'hostages,' to use the word in currency these days?

Posted by: moe99 on April 7, 2007 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

This was a plainly stupid miscalculation on their part, and one that they obviously lost control of once it began.

Well, we sure know how that feels. This may not redound much to Iran's benefit, but it hardly resuscitates the image of Britain or the U.S.

Posted by: dj moonbat on April 7, 2007 at 3:50 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin is wrong, and viewing this from the point of an American with blinders on. Eric and TMKF covered the main pts of how this works out in Iran's favor, even given their screw ups.

The only thing I would add is that this shows the world (and hopefully more than a few USAmericans) that Iran is not the crazy-ass irrational kill-all -devil-white-folks country that the western media (in particular US media) makes them out to be, which is a loss for the US and Israel in their PR offensive against Iran to loosen up the US public (and secondarily Europe) for an illegal war crime attack on Iran in the future.

Posted by: Disputo on April 7, 2007 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Iran looks stupid but here we have "Dick Cheney to the rescue" - NOT.

But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.

NO Thanks, and wise of the UK to say so. Blair finally learn something. That Cheney and Bush are both a couple of big stick morons. Please stay out of this, okay, Bush - stupid idiot.

Maybe the British figured out they don't really need the US after all. That, indeed, the world is a better place if you don't call on the US government Bozo team.

It’s how Bushie and Dickie made the US irrelevant as a world leader even as loyal Bushie's told the UN it was irrelevant.

Now whose irrelevant?

Posted by: Cheryl on April 7, 2007 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

Watchin Countdown, realizing this administration has to be removed NOW. To say that this is the worst admin in history is to understate. It inconcievable GHWB, assuming he isnt senile, doesnt wish his son had never been born. His legacy will be to be remembered as the father of Americas Caligula.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on April 7, 2007 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

Local commanders taking matters into their own hands? Isn't that what some people were saying happened on the Israeli-Lebanese border last summer? I'm not sure what that says about the respective players and situations, only, maybe, G_d save us from local commanders?

Posted by: Marc in Denver on April 7, 2007 at 7:08 AM | PERMALINK

The crisis may not have been a victory for Iran, but it was certainly a defeat for the U.S. Just the fact that Iran was able to thumb its nose at the West without consequences reduces standing of all Western countries, and the U.S. most prominently, as the leader. Ridicule is a VERY powerful weapon, even (especially?) when crudely applied.

Then there's that whole business about the difference between the way prisoners are treated by Iran versus by the U.S. The Brits are telling a different story now that they're free, but it still doesn't sound like they were Gitmoized in Iran. And BTW, how can we trust what they say now that they're home? Blair is desperate to try to regain face, and undoubtedly much pressure was put on the sailors to exaggerate how badly they were treated in Iran.

And the fact that I could write the prior sentence without donning my tinfoilhat, shows how low the West has sunk.

Posted by: eCAHNomics on April 7, 2007 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK


kd: Despite the transparently scripted huffing and puffing out of Ahmadinejad, that doesn't come close to making this whole thing a win for Iran.

under the usual rules, yes...

but compared to the bush doctrine...

hey...no one died...

Posted by: mr. irony on April 7, 2007 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

GWB is trying to revive his presidency as he obsesses about the meaning of failure versus success. He ignored the loud and clear "Wrap it up!" message from the midterm elections. But, no, he is forever the C student who will not learn, the self-styled war president yearns to spread his agenda to Iran as he "stays the course."
It has to be a mental abnormality.
It seems Britain is no longer willing or able to play along, having set timelines to withdraw their troops, and knowing restraint was the better part of valor with Iran.
There's Iran sitting side by side with Iraq while an aggressive war by the US and UK is in its 5th year--why would they expect soldiers near their borders being up to any good? Our pResident, instead of engaging with Iran and Syria to help stabilize Iraq, has repeatedly spoken confrontationally about Iran.

Posted by: consider wisely on April 7, 2007 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Every time I start to consider voting Dem I read a bunch of America-hating crap like this and come back to my senses. A rogue faction of Jew-haters and democracy-haters [i.e., fascists] kidnap a bunch of supine "marines" in Iraqi waters. The "marines" compete with each other on who can grovel and ass-kiss the fastest until they are released a few days later...yet this is somehow Dubya's fault and shows the superiority of the Jimmy Carter approach to dealing with Iran. I will be soooo glad when the party line of the left changes and some common sense can come back into our discussions.

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

I couldn't disagree more. This was a big propaganda win for Iraq on many different levels.

1.) they sent the message that they will protect their country and will not be intimidated by the huge naval presence of the Brits and the USA.

2.) they treated the British servicemen MUCH MUCH better than Muslims have been treated by Coalition forces. Lets remember, the vast majority of those at Abu Gharib were INNOCENT. This is not lost on the Muslim world.

3.) they look like they can be negotiated with. The UK got their people back after all.

4.) if the West wants to say that the "confessions" were coerced by the "rough" psychological treatment they received while in custody, what does that say about all the "confessions" that will come out of Gitmo? After years and years of incarceration and torture? Kinda undercuts the believability of those confessions when the Brits were ready to give away the farm after a couple days of being in solitary confinement.

5) demonstrated quite clearly the impotence of the West to deal with Iran because of the mess in Iraq.

Ok, now before I am attacked, I do NOT support Iran. They are bad bad people. They acted illegally in capturing the Brits. But the "war on terror" is a war for the hearts and minds of MUSLIMS.... and in this one, I think Iran scored. Big time.

Ok..now you can call me names.

Posted by: Slide on April 7, 2007 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Sure, the Iranians didn't torture their prisoners.

So, mock executions, solitary confinement, making the female soldier wear a hijab, telling her everyone else had been released, threatening them with 7 years in jail...that's not torture?

I guess if it isn't Americans doing it, it doesn't count, eh?

Posted by: sharon on April 7, 2007 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

oh, and then there is this from today's Kathleen Parkers Washington Post op-ed discussing the propaganda value of the Brits having a female with a toddler at home on the front lines:

Not only does the Iranian president get to look magnanimous in releasing the hostages, but he gets to look wise. And we in the West get to look humiliated, foolish and weak.

Just because we may not "feel" humiliated doesn't mean we're not. In the eyes of Iran and other Muslim nations, we're wimps. While the West puts mothers in boats with rough men, Muslim men "rescue" women and drape them in floral hijabs.

We can debate whether they're right until all our boys wear aprons, but it won't change the way we're perceived. The propaganda value Iran gained from its lone female hostage, the mother of a 3-year-old, was incalculable.

Posted by: Slide on April 7, 2007 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Nice analysis Kevin.

Except for this part:

"Far from being scared off by their bluster, my guess is that this incident will make the world more united in its belief that Iran can't be trusted with a nuclear program, not less."

Are there any groups of religious bipeds that can be trusted with nuclear weapons Kevin?

How about "minion" and his ilk a few posts north of me?

You know the type:

Nice Christian folk. Had trouble with algebra in HS. Drives a Hummer. Thinks so long as he can afford it he has the right to pollute. Besides global warming is a commie plot anyhow.

You want him waving H-bombs around?
You think the rest of the world is comforted that his ilk has the bomb?

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on April 7, 2007 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

sharon asks:

So, mock executions, solitary confinement, making the female soldier wear a hijab, telling her everyone else had been released, threatening them with 7 years in jail...that's not torture?

errr... if the Bushies want to say waterboarding is not torture than how can you possibly say putting a woman in a hijab is? You guys just pick and choose don't you depending on who is doing what to whom. I think the rest of the reality based world knows what torture is and is not.

Posted by: Slide on April 7, 2007 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Recall this administration is denial--Rice, back in January at a bipartisan hearing, saying "I don't see it and the president doesn't see it as an escalation.....I would call it an augmentation." She coldly declined pleas to consider talks with Iran and Syria.
We need a safer world. Neocons in power seek to advocate yet more military action. The freeing of the UK soldiers by Iran was sensible and in keeping with the idea that we need a safer world. It is time to pursue a more cooperative approach and try to build better relations!

Posted by: consider wisely on April 7, 2007 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, Kevin, this was a public relations disaster for the Iranians. And it would have been more of one if we hadn't listened to the British, and instead gone in with guns blazing. Since when do the British get to tell us what's rigth and wrong? We fought a revolution over that, as I recall

Posted by: Al on April 7, 2007 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

All's well that ends well. Prisoner affairs are always good things in that they open up neural networks in the midst of randomness.

Posted by: Guy Banister on April 7, 2007 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

disorganized? maybe. Vacation? lame CYA explanation

Posted by: aMerlan buzrd on April 7, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Correction: The colonials fought a war for independence against the British.

My mother and her father hadn't started dating, let alone procreating, when that happened, so I wasn't there.

Posted by: Al on April 7, 2007 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Slide, you sorta lost me by bringing that Right Wing War Hawk, Kathleen Parker, into the mix.

Yeah, WaPo, and the Oregonian picks up her Orlando Sentinel tripe of a column. But, she is a fervent apologist for the Bushies, and waves her War Flag ala her brother, who was in the Corps.

She detests women serving in the military in the first place and goes into a frenzy at the thought of them serving with men in combat. In a recent column concerning the misinformation of a NYTimes "rape" in the military story, she wrote, "but a more rational military structure that keeps women and men apart would help. As a bonus, segregation also would reduce the plague of divorces caused by men and women fraternizing away from their spouses."

Better sources, please.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 7, 2007 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

more of the public relations "disaster" for the Iranians from the UK Telegraph: (would link if I knew how)

Third, the dénouement of this crisis showed Mr Ahmadinejad in the most favourable of lights, whether in "pardoning" the 15, pleading on their behalf with Mr Blair, admonishing this country for separating a mother, Leading Seaman Faye Turney, from her child, or shaking hands and chatting with the newly besuited Servicemen after his press conference.

The Iranian president has rightly been demonised in the West for his call for Israel's destruction and his pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme in defiance of the UN. Yet yesterday he was able to adopt the moral high ground, admonishing the Government while treating graciously those who had been acting on its behalf at the head of the Gulf.

This bodes badly for the West's relations with Teheran over a number of acutely difficult problems during the coming months: its defiance of UN sanctions imposed because of a refusal to halt uranium enrichment; its heightened meddling in Iraq; and its continued support for terrorist movements - Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and elements of Fatah - vowed to Israel's destruction. During the recent crisis, Iran has yielded not a jot on any of these matters. Rather, the approval it has enjoyed on the Islamic "street" for humiliating an old enemy is likely to make it even more intransigent.

Labour has invested much diplomatic capital in trying to engage revolutionary Iran. But the seizure of the sailors and Marines has enabled Teheran to paint it back into a corner of close association with the "Great Satan", America, and to reawaken the Iranian public's historic suspicion of British designs.

damn.. quite a disaster for Iran... Posted by: Slide on April 7, 2007 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

ok.. better sources, try on all these sources and see what the general consensus is of the incident. I mean that IS what public relations is about right? not just Kevin's belief but what the rest of the world sees:

Home is Where the Humiliation Is

Fifteen Brits home, at what cost? UK Telegraph notes that the short-term gratification boosted a vile regime with which we have a lot of serious longstanding issues. “The Royal Navy has a lot to answer for.” I’d suggest that Tony Blair does as well.

The Daily Mail also feels like it needs a shower.

Guardian: Deal or diplomacy?

WSJ grasps around for a silver lining, doesn’t seem to find one.

Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh at NYT: Sometimes its better to lie back and enjoy it!

Pinkerton at Newsday: And for his next act …

Blair: release achieved “without any deal.” Iran didn’t need a deal. Iran probed our line, confirmed our weakness and walked away with a propaganda coup.

New York Sun: US made a deal. If this is true and the US is willing to capitulate to Iranian bullying in order to prop up a wavering, toothless ally, while Iran is involved in the murder of Americans, then may be its time to withdraw from Iraq and join the European Union. This manuever has a figleaf on it, as we officially never held this “diplomat” or “Al Quds commander” or whatever he is. But I would not want to be an American or a British soldier fighting in Iraq, knowing that 15 swabs seized without a fight are more valuable than me. Follow-on, please.

Posted by: Slide on April 7, 2007 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that it was bad PR for Iran, but it was also bad for the US, since the parallel between Iran's mistreatment of the prisoners and the United States' worse mistreatment of prisoners was obvious, and the forced confessions occurred while the US was releasing transcripts of prisoners "voluntarily" confessing to long lists of crimes after years of detention and abuse.

Posted by: KCinDC on April 7, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

For the record, and the education of sophisticates like Rofwhatever...

One of the many reasons I support McCain in the next election is because I believe he would have the gravitas and military cred to resurrect Reagan's offer to go to zero nukes...

My criticism was not that Bush stayed quiet as Blair asked him to [and as common sense dictated] it was that Kevin tried to spin that into Bush being wrong in offerring Blair every concievable option of support the US could muster, after all the sacrifices Blair has made for the US -- only a jackass with a raging case of Bush Derangement Syndrome could paint that as the wrong thing to do...

The biggest propaganda coups the Iranians got out of this stunt were the squat-to-pee marines not giving their name rank and serial number when subjected to two days of discomfort, and the "support" Britain got from the UN [Kevin's favorite moral arbiter] and the EU.

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Slide - good posts.

If that email works, you should check it - I just sent you an HTML cheat-sheet.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

McCain - Damned straight - Why he would have tied a nuke to his fanny pack and taken a "peaceful" stroll through the Bazaar.

Nuke 'em all, the long, short and the tall. Let Bush sort them out.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 7, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Minion, you do realize that while Reagan was saying he was willing to go zero nukes, he was fostering development of two new nuclear weapons systems, right? The GLCM and the MX? That is the very textbook definition of duplicitous.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

thanks blue girl... now I can link the myriad of stories from across the planet the dispute the absurd claim that this was a PR disaster for Iran.

Posted by: Slide on April 7, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you really believe that the two options you present are the available ways in which to view the matter? Is it required to view all events through the most ridiculously childish prisms available? That you ascribe the qualities of adulthood to one of the options just adds to the irony.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Skippy has a pic up of the new McCain campaign vehicle.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Global,

I know you like to project perfidity om anybody to the right of Kucinich, but let me propose a hypothetical -- suppose Gorby had called Reagan's bluff? It's not inconcievable they could have made an agreement that would have been very tough for Rove and Halliburton and the Trilateral Commission and the Area 51 folks to go back on. Remember it was Nixon that unilaterally took us out of chemical and biological weapons... maybe we rightwingers have some redeeming qualities once a generation...

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I am left of Kucinich? Who knew?!?!?!? That will be news to Nancy Kassebaum, for whom I worked tirelessly.

I don't cheat at arguments by appealing to experience, but I was on the front lines for the cold war. I was literally there when we took the wings off the jets in the plane graveyard at DM for the satellites to photograph.

You need to find a SAC troop who served in the 70's and 80's and have an open minded chat. Be prepared to have your hair blown back. Peace broke out in spite of Reagan, not because of him.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin says:

Far from being scared off by their bluster, my guess is that this incident will make the world more united in its belief that Iran can't be trusted with a nuclear program.

but does the world trust the US? Recent polls polls conclusively show that they do not. As a matter of fact, most think US more a threat to world peace than Iran.

Posted by: Slide on April 7, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

There's no reason why it can't be harmful to both Iran AND the U.S. It doesn't have to be all pr coup for one side or the other. The Iranians look bad for the reasons Kevin stated. However, the U.S. also takes a pr hit as a result of the Iranians publicly and successfully taking the moral high ground on the war crimes/Geneva Conventions angle.

You want to know a great way to get a handle on how badly Bushco has harmed our nation? Consider the fact that the fucking Iranian mullahs are able to successfully take the moral high ground over us on anything at all.

Posted by: The Fool on April 7, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Ah Grasshopper! The teacher in me loves to see lessons taken from the classroom and applied in life!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

G.C.,

Sorry if my hyperbole was excessive, but I don't think Nancy Kassebaum thought Reagan was duplicitous when he said he wanted to rid the world of nukes, and I don't think continuing development of the MX made his offer to mutually abolish nukes with the Russians insincere. I know from prior posts you have an amiration for the military, so let me ask you, do you think the British marines acted honorably in this situation? Do you think Buh would have been a better president by not offerring Blair the kinds of support Kevin criticises in this post?

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure how this is a PR disaster for Iran.

Once the UK sailors were captured, I don't see how the higher-ups could simply have released the sailors with no fuss. First, they had to at least look into the local commander's claim that the UK ship was within Iranian waters, and that takes time. Gotta put the sailors somewhere in the meantime - and, since there was certainly at least a possibility that they had, in fact, violated Iranian borders, they had to put the sailors somewhere secure, and question them about what they were doing.

The mistreatment - particularly making the sailors 'confess,' and making them think they were about to be killed - was awful, though hardly as bad as what would have happened to, say, Iranians if they'd been captured by, say, the Americans. And when push came to shove, the Iranians released the sailors: again, a better track record than we've managed with our prisoners. (Thanks again to George and Dick, for making indefinite detention and torture the American Standard.)

What this shows is that Iran can make mistakes while protecting its borders, but also that Iran can figure out what happened, can make rational decisions about what to do about it, and can keep a potentially inflammatory incident from getting out of control.

I don't see how that's a PR disaster.

Posted by: CaseyL on April 7, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Aiyeee! Humiliation and disgrace! Treachery and cowardice! Surrender and defeat!

What's next? Sending Teheran the original Constitution and a gift-wrapped shredder?

We should bomb the entire country into a radioactive desert!

Aiyeee!

Posted by: bleh on April 7, 2007 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think continuing development of the MX made his offer to mutually abolish nukes with the Russians insincere.

It was incincere because it wasn't going to happen, no way, no how, nuh-uh. So that was an easy political-points scoring device that he would never be called on. If that were a possibility, it would have never been said, period.

do you think the British marines acted honorably in this situation?

I am not versed in British military protocols. I know how I was trained all those years ago, (but lets be fair - the most danger I faced was a killer hangover from all that beer we drank on our weekends back then). However, before our family went to Turkey, we got specific training for Iranian interrogations. Still to this day, when the hubby and I are arguing about something, the argument ends when the "safe word" from all those years ago passes one or the other set of lips. I cringed at the display that flickered across my screen. Still, it is for the British people to make judgments about their honor, not me.

Do you think Buh would have been a better president by not offerring Blair the kinds of support Kevin criticises in this post?

I think a better president would have done a little less chest thumping and offered more quiet assurances of support. It was Bush, remember, who first called them "hostages" and they were not. They were captives, but they were taken in uniform and during the execution of military duty. I think he should have kept his yap shut and followed the Brit's lead.

But we also know from past posts that I firmly believe we would be better off with a rutabaga at the helm than we are with this idiot prince in the oval.


Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Contrariwise, a significant win for Iran, but considering who they are playing against, that does not say much.

Posted by: wmmbb on April 7, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree with you on this one Kevin.
CaseyL and others have summed up my feelings well.
This could have been much uglier.

Posted by: Albert on April 7, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

The PR disaster comes when an American city is leveled by a nuclear weapon, assembled by our strong allies, Pakistan.

Posted by: The Grim Reaper on April 7, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Option C: Blair asked Bush to STFU because of the possibility that the situation might rapidly escalate out of control. This was really a personal spat between Britain and Iran, and I'm sure Blair, who's always accused - not without reason - of being America's lapdog, was desperate to ensure that any British response not be seen as yet another action on behalf of the US. This applies both to their negotiating position in Iran and public perception in Britain and worldwide; even if Bush weren't president, Blair would still have had the same problem. (His own damn fault, of course.)

Posted by: Nat on April 7, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Ahmedinejad is a liability for Iran, and there appear to be quite a few other thugs and clowns moving the levers of the Iranian government.

The Iranian leaders look like our neo-cons, but with even less of a veneer of comptetence.

Posted by: McCord on April 7, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

It is doubtful that all information is yet available. From what we do know, In Feburary, an Iranian envoy was abducted
CIA tortured me, says Iran envoy
An Iranian diplomat freed last week after being abducted in Iraq in February has said he was tortured by his captors, including CIA agents.
Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at Iran's embassy in Baghdad, told Iranian media the agents had interrogated him on his country's role in Iraq....

The US has taken other Iranians captive in Iraq and it is well know that the Bush government tortures. Subsequently, Subsequently15 Brits were captured

...If the administration of US President George W Bush is paying attention, the drama over the 15 British sailors and marines, whose release by Iran after 12 days of detention was announced in Tehran on Wednesday, was designed to convey two key messages, according to experts in Washington.
First, the initial capture of the Britons by Revolutionary Guards near the entry to the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway was meant to demonstrate that, despite its conventional military weakness and diplomatic isolation, Iran retains the ability to strike at Western interests when it feels sufficiently provoked....

One Iranian was released, then the Brits were. There is more to the story and it's premature to make decisions based on US media reports.

…I will be soooo glad when the party line of the left changes … minion at 8:37 AM

In the meantime stick with the rightist party line, the violations of the Geneva Conventions, the war mongering, the smears&lies, and the fascism.
So, mock executions, solitary confinement…… sharon at 9:05 AM

If true, that would be pretty mild compared to the physical abuse the Bush administration metes out to its victims. Since there exists photos of Condi Rice and Laura Bush in headscarves, that doesn't seem to be a big deal if you're a Republican.
We saw the Brits on TV and they looked fine. We don't get to see anyone from Bush's gulags until their show trial.
that Bush stayed quiet as Blair asked him … minion at 10:09 AM

C-o-n-c-e-i-v-a-b-l-e The rule is I before E except after C.

Bush didn't stay quiet: CAMP DAVID, Md. (AP) — President Bush on Saturday called for the release of 15 British sailors and marines being held by Iran, calling their capture by Tehran "inexcusable behavior."
Bush Derangement Syndrome is characterized by overwhelming sycophancy to an incompetent, inarticulate leader who institutes policies inimical to his country's interest and welfare. Those suffering BDS, as it is commonly called, are able to make a statement defending their leader on moment, and argue the exact opposite the next. Indeed, most of those afflicted with this bizarre disease are incapable of cognitive functions when involves their Dear Leader.

Posted by: Mike on April 7, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK
One of the many reasons I support McCain…he would have the gravitas and military cred to resurrect Reagan's offer to go to zero nukes... minion at 10:09 AM
Like that stroll through the Baghdad market and lying presser? Or was it the subsequent deaths of 21 market workers that gives him the "gravitas"? The Raygun offer was phony then and is still nonsense. Even you wouldn't back it if you stopped to think it through because there are more nations with nuclear arms than Russia.
…it was Nixon that unilaterally took us out of chemical and biological weapons... .. minion at 10:36 AM
You can spout have more loony conspiracy theories than anyone, and the US still has chemical and biological weapons. What chemicals are you huffing? Posted by: Mike on April 7, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

[While it is tempting to leave the idiocy in place for you all to ridicule, common sense take the lead and the blatant dishonesty and hypocrisy has been deleted.]

Posted by: egbert (in a meat market) on April 7, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"the game was not worth the candle"

is a great phrase I've not heard before.

Posted by: cld on April 7, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

[The only reason I live is to read blatant dishonest hypocrisy ridiculed.]

Posted by: cld on April 7, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Irony alert: Will Allen's entire post.

Will Allen, of all people, complaining about simplisting dualism -- it's only too rich!

As for not-at-all-ex-minion, if I want dishonest bullshit GOP talking points, I'll turn on ABC news, thanks.

Posted by: Gregory on April 7, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

cld - will you settle for egbert's senior portrait?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Ha! I knew I remembered him from something.

But I think he's grown up and turned to drink.

Posted by: cld on April 7, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

And here is Hawk's

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

And finally, Al

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

re: egbert, this isn't bad, either.

Posted by: cld on April 7, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

A Hawk, yes that is absolutely it!

Now we definitely need to have avatars on this site.

Posted by: cld on April 7, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

No, it isn't. An entire portfolio! Good show!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

maybe we rightwingers have some redeeming qualities once a generation...

Then they appear to have skipped a generation.

Posted by: E Henry Thripshaw on April 7, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran.

Although the range of options the Pentagon offered to the UK is classified, I am at liberty to divulge that most of the proposals involved USS MADDOX, and USS TURNER Joy.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 7, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Say, I missed the massive Good Friday invasion of Iran so many people were predicting. How did it go?

Posted by: billy on April 7, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I sort of agree with Kevin, but with one caveat: I think it very unlikely that the British weren't made aware by the more coherent actors in Iran that there were some governance issues that needed to be sorted out to resolve this issue, and that they didn't in turn make it clear to the Iranians that they needed to sort out those governance problems within a reasonable period of time. I can't imagine that, if they'd gotten the same kind of propaganda-style pushback in private that they were getting in public, that they would have followed the same path. I expect, among other things, that our offer was conveyed to the Iranians as well.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on April 7, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK
I guess if it isn't Americans doing it, it doesn't count sharon at 9:05 AM
The United States is the world's oldest constitutional democracy and a self-professed Christian nation. I don't know about you, but yes, I hold my country to a higher standard of ethical and moral behavior than anyone else and even to third world theocracies. I expect the US to follow international laws and treaties. I expect the US to act with restraint, dignity and legality.

I also expect a democratically elected government to pay attention to people running around with their hair on fire warning of an imminent terrorist attack. I expect a democratically elected government to act promptly and judiciously to prevent such an occurrence and future occurrences. I expect a democratically elected government to act for the best interest of all Americans and not to pervert government agencies, rules and standards for the gain of the few and opposing the needs of the many. I expect a democratically government to uphold the rule of law and justice, not to pervert justice for partisan politics. I expect a democratically elected government to work efficiently and without giving vast sums of taxpayer funds to favored corporations and individuals. I expect a democratically elected government to be honest with its citizens, not conceal its actions, policies and deeds behind walls of lies, obfuscations and disinformation.

I do not expect a democratically elected, self-professed Christian government to torture, to hold people without charging them with crimes in hidden gulags around the world, or to kidnap innocent civilians or diplomatic officials. I do not expect a democratically elected, self-professed Christian government to attack innocent countries for phony reasons and kill hundreds of thousands of their citizens because some president has a jones for their leader. I do not expect a democratically elected, self-professed Christian government to act to increase the occurrence and reasons for terrorism, instead of reducing them. I do not expect a democratically elected, self-professed Christian government to increase the misery of people around the world instead of reducing it.

You may be comfortable in the belief of my country right or wrong; that is your prerogative. However, do not expect me to share it because I do expect more: I expect my country to be right and to do right. I expect the US to be an example of moral rectitude for others, not one of moral turpitude for the worst to emulate.

...the massive Good Friday invasion of Iran so many people were predicting... billy at 1:01 PM
Russian intelligence is looking at an 4-2007 time frame, but there are also reports that the US military cannot guarantee success and that is causing second thoughts. Who knows? Posted by: Mike on April 7, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

So, mock executions, solitary confinement, making the female soldier wear a hijab, telling her everyone else had been released, threatening them with 7 years in jail...that's not torture?

Didn't you get the memo? According to the Bush admin, anything less than organ failure isn't torture.

I guess if it isn't Americans doing it, it doesn't count

Ah, yes, that does seem to be your position.

Posted by: Disputo on April 7, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

We can debate motives forever - maybe he made the offer because Nancy's astrologer told him to - but the fact is Reagan did offer to dismantle ALL US nuclear weapons on certain readily achievable conditions. Clinton solved the child car seat crisis and made valiant proposals about school uniforms. When it came time to do something tough like end prejudice against gays in the military, he called Monica for a pizza delivery. I don't know why your party line is so anti-McCain. He has been more vociferous than any Dem in his condemnation of Rumsfeld or our asinine tactics; but because he still believes winning is better than losing you guys think he deserves the hottest spot in hell. Petreaus is making palpable progress and that makes you guys see red.

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

But Minion, when has a third party ever prevailed in another countries civil war?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Options A and B are both possible!

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on April 7, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory, given your common approach to "thought", such as it is with you, is that anyone who has views which differ from yours is nothing more than a target of your boring invective, you upped the irony level significantly with your comment regarding irony. Nobody is more vigilant than you in this forum to ruthlessly attack anyone who deigns to display incorrect thought, as defined by you.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

We prevail when the democratic government 12 million Iraqis voted for is strong enough to ask us to leave, or when there is no evidence of progress towards that goal.

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

We prevail... when there is no evidence of progress...

Ah, the wingnut manifesto.

Posted by: Disputo on April 7, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

So...as soon as we prove a negative, we are outta there!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

As one of our highest quality commenters has been saying of late, We aren't the band-aid, we are the splinter.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

When the Hezbollah took two Israeli soldiers, Israel's response was to bomb the hell out of Lebanon and seek to destroy Hezbollah. The option of negptiation and dip;omacy was not considered. Bush and Blair tacitly supported the Israeli assault on the hapless Lebanese by refusing to allow any demand for an immediate ceasefire.

The two Israeli soldiers are strill prisoners. The flatten Beirut gambit failed.

When Blair was confronted by the fact of 15 marines and sailors captured, he opted for the diplomacy and negotiation gambit. In part this was perhaps dictated by the simple reality of Britain's military impotence: the Royal Navy is a toy fleet utterly unable on its own to do any significant damage to Iran. Military action would have achieved nothing - other than possibly the execution of the 15. Blair's government is reluctant to support any American assault on Iran , so to have allowed Uncle George to start attacking Iranian military targets would have been to start the war Blair and co. do not want.

The British used diplomacy. The 15 were released. And the Israeli 2 still languish in some foetid hovel somewhere in Lebanon. Diplomacy works. Military action fails.

The fifteen themselves, it has to be said, did not behave with much heroism. Leonidas and the 300 at Thermopylae defying the Persians they were not. Name rank and number was all they needed to have given. Standing in front of an Iranian map declaring that their own navy had encouraged them to enter Iranian waters was shameful. Grovelling before the manically smiling Ahmenidejad was a humiliation for them, for the Royal Navy, and for Britain. Their arrival home to rapturous welcomes coincided with the news of the slaying of four British troops in Iraq - two of them women soldiers - maybe with infant children. Four men and women who were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The Royal Navy also should have a deep sense of shame. On the 25th anniversary of the brillantly executed seaborn assault on the Argentinian occupied Falkland Islands 8000 miles from the home country, HMS Cornwall showed a remarkable level of incompetence to have allowed 15 of its sailors and marines to be apprehended.

For the record, I am on the political left, have opposed the stupidity and immorality of the assault on Iraq, and am a Brit.

Posted by: Mike G on April 7, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Mike G., miitary action fails, and diplomacy works. Now, we just need somebody to chime in that diplomacy fails, and military action works.. Sheesh.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

I really do not understand all the bedwetters complaining about how the 15 sailors and marines handled themselves while imprisoned in Iran. The first duty of a prisoner is to survive. The second duty is the get free. It does not fall within their job description to sacrifice their lives just so a bunch of shrinking violets at home don't have to watch obviously staged confessions.

Too many people have been learning how the world works from TV dramas.

Posted by: Disputo on April 7, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, do you think Jack Jacobs, who earned the Medal of Honor, three Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, and two Purple Heart Medals, learned how the world works from t.v. dramas? I don't have a definitive opinion on the matter, because I don't know enough, but when somebody with Jacobs' background describes the behavior in question in very harsh terms, I'm not willing to dismiss the criticism out of hand.

Posted by: Will Alen on April 7, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, do you think Jack Jacobs, who earned the Medal of Honor, three Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, and two Purple Heart Medals, learned how the world works from t.v. dramas?

No. Some people who should know better are just assholes.

Posted by: Disputo on April 7, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

I was not as concerned about the weights-and-measures issue--let's not forget that the British Royal Navy still uses non-metric measures and some parts of the country still persist on using both (and we have no idea where the sailors came from). What I found more interesting is the finesse of language during the press conference.

The man speaking for the group stated quite clearly that they were not in Iranian territorial waters when captured. Why such specificity? Why could he not just say that they were not in Iranian territorial waters, period? Did they cross the line earlier in the day, prompting the Iranians to respond? And what of the alleged spying that came out in an interview before they were seized?

Questions, questions...

Posted by: buck turgidson on April 7, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, on what basis is it to be concluded that you are qualified to determine that somebody with Jacobs' history, "should know better"?

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Global

When did I say your side had to prove a negative - your guys won the last election. I said we stay as long as a democratic government asks us to, and as long as the stay-the-course folks can show we are making discernable progress. The burden of proof is now on my side.

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it is worthwhile for anyone who was not there to make value comments about the behavior of the ratings, NCOs and officers captured by Iraq. They receive different levels of training and are of variable levels of intelligence and character.

I did not watch any of this stuff on TV, and I have no idea how edited the statements were, but it was very obvious the officers' statements were more hedged, nuanced.

Politics is for the politicians.

Jack Jacobs obviously accomplished incredibly heroic acts, far above the normal or natural. Perhaps he is not the best person to pass judgement on more humble, average people who, probably, did not see the benefit in isolated self-heroics. After all as Jacobs' and all heroics are, they're executed for others.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

...we stay...as long as the stay-the-course folks can show we are making discernable progress....

Posted by: minion on April 7, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I thought we passed that point a long time ago.

Just an opinion, mind.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well, not there, like I said, I don't have a definitive opinion of the matter, because I'm too ignorant of the topic. There are people, however, who are not ignorant of the matter, even though they weren't in the room with the captives, and thus aren't fully informed. A military cannot function with the attitude of, "Well, I wasn't there, so I can't pass judgement."

I also think it unwise to dismiss those with vast experience as being "assholes", or having learned everything they know from t.v. dramas.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

The whole world is watching, and we still look like a war-mongering evil regime, irreversibly engaged as a military/corporate/imperialist nation. Iran looks like the good guys.

Posted by: consider wisely on April 7, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone with Jacob's military experience should know better than to say blatantly ridiculous hyperbolic crap like this regarding the Brit sailors/marines:

"That was the most disgusting, disreputable, dishonorable performance I can remember in more than 40 years of my relationship with the military service."

The man is obviously an asshole; that, or he is suffering from dementia.

Posted by: Disputo on April 7, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen, there are those who ask why they didn't fight. The officer in charge has answered. Paraphrasing, we are not at war with Iraq, they had overwhelming firepower, it would have created a political incident of greater proportions.

Equally, the aftermath has been of negligible damage to the US, little to the UK, no destablization of the Gulf anymore than it is already, and has strengthened the international political hand against Iran in terms of nuclear negotiations and all else.

I just don't see the Jack Jacobs is anymore qualified than any other militarily trained Colonel, or anyone else who knows anything about coercion and non-physical interrogation.

In short, Jacobs is not a "functioning military". Except for feeling the necessity of mouthing off, comment about the prisoners' behavior reflects more on the commentator than anyone else.

And this is a man who still thinks we need Gitmo, probably secret prisons, too. Qualified?

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

None of this changes the fact that Bush and Blair are war criminals.
The soldiers' story is a red herring. We knew these war-mongering leaders would try to manipulate the current situation/put Iran in the spotlight to try to make the "surge" seem necessary. Beware of such manipulation.
Don't forget the Downing Street Memo. Both men knew the US intelligence had no evidence of wmd in Iraq, no imminent danger to the US from that country--and intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Expect yet more deception. They are both complicit in lies, fear and propaganda.

Posted by: consider wisely on April 7, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Again, Disputo, on what basis is it to be determined that you are qualified to evaluate Jacobs' professional opinion? Mind you, I'm not saying I agree with him. I don't know. I'm asking you what qualifications you have which allow you to dismiss his remarks as ridiculous. If I were to state that neurosurgeon's performance was substandard, it would be eminently reasonable for someone to ask how I was qualified to make that statement. Absent supporting opinions of other people in the field, if I were honest, I'd have to answer that I wasn't qualified at all.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

In addition, after reading Jacob's bio I see no indication that he was ever captured, either by a country with which he was at war, or a country with which he was at peace (as in the case of the Brits and Iran), so he really does have no idea what he is talking about.

Posted by: Disputo on April 7, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

This is an international incident that's best quickly put behind all the parties involved, just like that chest-thumping episode in early 2001 between the U.S. and China, which had been prompted by the collision of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet just off China's Hainan island.

It ruffled a few American diplomatic feathers and cost the China the life of a pilot, but in the end cooler heads prevailed.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 7, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

nothere, I never stated that Jacobs was more qualified than other former or current military people. I will note that he also taught at West Point and the National War College, thus he seems to have more experience than the typical retired military officer. I am not saying I agree with him. I am disputing disputo's remarks that any who denounce the behavior of the military personnel in this matter have either learned everything they know from television dramas, or are obviously wrong. In other words, there is good reason that people may have differing opinions on the behavior in question. Of course, the notion that people may have good reason to hold differing opinions in often considered subversive in this forum.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen, how about this for defining his qualification as an administration troll with little independent judgement or ability to form any imaginative prediction in something he has infinitely more experience than capture and interrogation:

I don't think Disputo's judgement of Jack Jacobs is any less qualified than Jacobs' of the prisoners.

He seems to have forgotten all the "confessions" we got dished up with from Vietnam. And before that Korea. And before that Tokyo Rose and Lord Hawhaw. And before that?...

So it's hard to see how he would justify his statement in the tone delivered.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

So, disputo, it is now your contention that only those soldiers who have been captured can render a professional opinion about the behavior of military personnel who have? You have thus concluded that it is Jacobs who doesn't know what he is talking about? On what basis is it to be concluded that you have experience consistent with making that statement?

Remarkable.

Posted by: Will Alen on April 7, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Whoops. Apologies.

Will Allen, how about this for defining his qualification as an administration troll with little independent judgement or ability to form any imaginative prediction in something he has infinitely more experience than capture and interrogation:

The war to be

I don't think Disputo's judgement of Jack Jacobs is any less qualified than Jacobs' of the prisoners.

He seems to have forgotten all the "confessions" we got dished up with from Vietnam. And before that Korea. And before that Tokyo Rose and Lord Hawhaw. And before that?...

So it's hard to see how he would justify his statement in the tone delivered.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Notthere, on what basis have you concluded that Jacobs is an "Administration troll"? I've heard him denounce this Administration in pretty harsh terms. What is it with so many people in this forum? Does everybody who expresses an opinion with which you differ have to be an "Administration troll"?

I doubt rather much that Jacobs has forgotten what happened in Vietnam in reference to P.O.W.s, given that I heard him contrast the behavior of those people with the people in the current situation.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 7, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Bush and Blair are only concerned with face-saving. Back in 2005, Cheney, Bush, Rice, Rumsfield and Wolfowitz sought to blame Iran and Syria for the morass they themselves created.
I suspect there will be more "unintended consequences."

I miss Billmon:

Speaking as Bush, "there's no policy blunder so catastrophic that our gigantic military machine can't bail me out, somehow...

Posted by: consider wisely on April 7, 2007 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

notthere, from the piece you linked to, two weeks into the war...

"The one incisive charge is that there are insufficient American forces in Iraq. Quite frankly, it is ludicrous in the extreme to have any confidence in a plan that calls for prosecuting a land war in Iraq with only two divisions abreast and one in reserve."

Now, do "Adminsitration trolls" normally describe it "ludicrous in the extreme to have any confidence" in the Administration's plans, two weeks into the war?

Posted by: Will Alen on April 7, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

minion: "I said we stay as long as a democratic government asks us to, and as long as the stay-the-course folks can show we are making discernable progress. The burden of proof is now on my side."

That's an eminently reasonable argument.

Two days after Sen. McCain took his ill-advised stroll through that Baghdad marketplace outside the "Green Zone" -- to prove to American voters just how safe the neighborhood could be when one was escorted by 100 soldiers, three Black Hawk helicopter and two Apache gunships -- insurgents siezed at least 21 merchants from that same marketplace, marched them to an adjoining neighborhood, and executed every single one of them, leaving their bodies in a vacant lot as a warning to those who would collaborate with Americans.

I would therefore ask you, how does any reasonable person reconcile that tawdry photo-op and its devastating consequence to those merchants, with your implied definition of "discernable progress"?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 7, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Far from being scared off by their bluster, my guess is that this incident will make the world more united in its belief that Iran can't be trusted with a nuclear program, not less.

I grant you that it is an educated guess, and a good guess. It slightly opposes your previous guess that the Iranians would get some high-level prisoners in exchange from Iraq.

Also, there is not "one world". Another guess is that the affair raised the esteem of Iran in the minds of those in the world who really dislike GB, EU, or the whole Western World. This would include radical Islamists wherever they may be. It is always good to remember the number and diversity of the polities out there to whom these gestures may or may not appeal.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 7, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo: Eric and TMKF covered the main pts of how this works out in Iran's favor, even given their screw ups.

I think we'll know the truth of that as the near future is played out. If I had to bet now, I'd bet that you are correct.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 7, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen, no he is not an administration troll. I was thinking about his visit to Gitmo and the totally done-the-line administration justification for the camp he came back with.

He just seems to have a total blindspot to what is actually US values and out of touch with political and popular sentiment. And if you don't think his description of the Brits is a little over the top, we'll just differ.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

CHINESE HOSTAGES, 2001:

Er, uh, as you addle-minded R-Ds might recall we had a similar incident in 2001 (or 2002) where the Chinese fender-bendered our spy plane in international airspace and cause us to land on their territory.

Bush handled that excellently.

You guys sound EXACTLY like the fools who wanted us to speak nicely to Hitler in 33-39. Which is fine; but you also want us to placate such tyrants. When Bush (and his father) want to avoid war - yes, avoid war - they talk tough in hopes of giving fair warning. But it is part of process of doing the right thing; standing up to pathological uber-thugs like Hussein and Amadinejad (and Hitler). We had to invade Iraq as the Clinton/Bush intelligence (yes, Clinton/Bush, esp. since it was the same CIA Director) and Hussein's impudence required.

Now, FDR, did the opposite. When Hitler tore up the Treaty of Berlin of 1922 (the US-German Treaty in lieu of US agreement with the Treaty of Versaille's League of Nations provisions, whereby Germany promised the USA specifically it would not re-arm), FDR ignored it; perhaps in a gin and nicotine haze. The result? 400-500,000 US soldiers dead; 60 million people worldwide dead from war, 13 million people rounded up, gassed, and cremated like unwanted livestock and . . . and . . . and . . . here is the kicker . . . we, i.e., the free world, LOST 1/2 of Europe to fascism (Stalin) and spent $B on Japan and Europe only to have them run from our side when we could use their assistance keeping the peace they enjoy. As as side note, all of the criticisms regarding war corruption, civil liberty abuse, etc. leveled at Bush II; FDR was ten times worse. Bush locked up 1 USA citizen, Padillo, who is guilty - let's face it. FDR locked up 100,000s USA citizens for having last names like Ono and Meier. FDR was the WORST foreign policy president the USA ever had bar none; he let Germany AND Japan sneak up on us.

What bothers me is that you R-Ds are so intelligent and creative; it's just so sad your pathological delusions of righteous indignation causes you to work to the destruction of the poor specifically and the USA generally you misguidingly believe you are helping. If you want to see the results of your inanities, look into the conditions people lived in in 1970s South Bronx, Northern Manhattan, and South Central L.A. That is when the R-Ds controlled all branches of the Federal government (Nixon was a very Regressive-Democratic domestic president - EPA, price controls, etc.) and certainly all urban local governments. It is when the taxpayer gave people money to smack up, strap up, and shack up. Don't be part of that again. Please.

TOH

Posted by: The Objective Historian on April 7, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

At tomdispatch.org
Noam Chomsky puts the Iran situation in context:

"...Doubtless Iran's government merits harsh condemnation, including for its recent actions that have inflamed the crisis. It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called "liberation," of course). Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites -- nuclear and otherwise -- in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons). Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans). Would we watch quietly? ..."

Posted by: consider wisely on April 7, 2007 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

this might be interpreted by Iranians as an admission of GB defeat:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200704/s1891790.htm

You'd think GB would conduct the review while carrying out the UN mandated boardings.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 7, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

The Objective(ly Obtuse) Historian: "Now, FDR, did the opposite. When Hitler tore up the Treaty of Berlin of 1922 (the US-German Treaty in lieu of US agreement with the Treaty of Versaille's League of Nations provisions, whereby Germany promised the USA specifically it would not re-arm), FDR ignored it; perhaps in a gin and nicotine haze."

You (purposely?) omitted to mention that at the time that particular treaty was abrogated, FDR was in no real position to contest it, since the the United States by this time had:

* Retreated diplomatically from involvement in European affairs (a far cry from its heady days at Versailles);
* Reduced the size of its standing army to barely 100,000 men;
* An air force that was the smallest of all western powers; and
* Stagnated under three successive Republican administrations to a nearsighted foreign policy of isolationism.

You've also failed miserably to consider that FDR had to simultaneously deal with, amongst other things:

* 25%+ unemployment and a near-completely disfunctional economy courtesy of the Great Depression;
* An internal migration of upwards of one million starving people from the midwest's "Dust Bowl" to California;
* A banking system near collapse; and
* A political culture with little tolerance or appetite for American dalliances in international affairs beyond the perfunctory.

FDR did well enough to prepare our country for the coming fury of World War II, given those circumstances. Further, there was no unanimity of political thought and action in this country regarding a confrontation with the Axis Powers until the Japanese attack on Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

Any historian worthy of his or her credentials would know that any honest historical analysis must always consider the times in which events took place. You, on the other hand, conduct your critique solely through the warped prism of your own current petina, or modern viewpoint.

Don't try re-writing history, thinking you can bamboozle people here. You're not as smart as you seem to think you are, and therefore you ain't worth a damn at it.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 7, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Any historian who deserved to call themselves such would not choose the descriptive objective, as history is not objective. It is written from perspectives, with the version penned by the victors being predominant.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

And besides that, the selective citation of the circumstances of FDR's presidency that was just exhibited puts the lie to any claim to objectivity on your part.

Do come on back after some of this sinks into that extra-reinforced cranium of yours - or are you ineducable?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Donald, you have the con. I'm off for a while...

Let no mendacity go unchallenged.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 7, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

This was in tonykaron.com:

"...And it’s not surprising that Tehran is claiming victory: It has used the incident to sound a warning to the U.S. and its allies that Tehran will retaliate if the U.S. persists in its provocative program of seizing Iranian officials in Iraq, then let it cool before it could escalate into something more dangerous. And despite the insistence that there was no quid-pro-quo, it’s hard to avoid the impression that some form of prisoner swap is the basis for resolving the stand-off. Not only was one Iranian captive held by U.S.-linked forces in Iraq released on Monday; it now appears that Iran is finally to be given consular access to five officials held incommunicado by the U.S. since they were snatched in January. To be sure, the government of Iraq said this week it was lobbying intensively for the U.S. to free five Iranians because their release, in the words of Iraq’s foreign ministry, “will be a factor that will help in the release of the British sailors and marines.” Indeed."

Patrick Coburn

Posted by: consider wisely on April 7, 2007 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing that matters, as far as PR, is that this was a huge win for Iran in the Islamic world.

Posted by: Jimm on April 7, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

Been away for a while.

What Donald from Hawaii said to the Propaganda-soaked Hysterical. He is so far out there and so far from objective I got a feeling he got too much home-schooling history in the deep south or among some crack-pot bunch. Maybe a victim of a hit-and-run? Off his meds? There has to be reason.

TOH you are one self-misinformed dude. Seriously.

Donald, thanks for saving me the typing. Safe for kayaking.

Posted by: notthere on April 7, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

Also, the Guardian is reporting this, which seems to discredit the thesis Kevin is suggesting:

Iranian intelligence officers told the 15 British captives they first became suspicious about their activities after watching an interview with one of them on British television.

Families of the hostages said that their loved ones had told them the Iranians had made the claim soon after capturing them.

Posted by: Jimm on April 7, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm, I read this today too but think it unlikely that the Iranians would miss a warship operating the estuary and sending boarding parties to ships, operating under UN mandate.

I'm sure they enjoy monitoring UK and US TV compared to the domestic fare but do not believe this item for a minute.

Interested?:

observer article

Posted by: notthere on April 8, 2007 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

Drum opines on the basis of an article in the Guardian that "This was plainly a stupid miscalculation on [the Iranians'] part, and one they obviously lost control of once it began." He has no basis on which to judge the credibility or reliability of the report in the Guardian and he clearly knows nothing whatsoever about the internal politics at work in Iran. So his opinion on this is worth . . . what?

Posted by: gordon on April 8, 2007 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

gordon, you bother to read the article? Know anything about the four journalists on the by-line to it?

And you deride Drum on the basis of your independent expertise? Reading TIME? What?

You run him down and at the same time present absolutely no evidence for your own credibility.

Put up or shut up.

Posted by: notthere on April 8, 2007 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

I completely disagree. The key to the whole episode for Iran is not how the sailors were captured. The capture in itself does not show any "disorganization" on the Iranian government's part. Countless episodes of this kind have occured on borders all over the world. Generally, the nation that takes the captives behaves just as Iran did. They ask for an apology, claim they were in their territorial waters, take some time to stall and figure out what to do on the spur of the moment, etc. Such a capture is ALWAYS a surprise to the leaders of the captor nation. If we lived in part of the world with volatile borders, we'd be much more familiar with these types of dramas. All nations have competing bureaucracies that would suggest different courses of actions. All governments would take some time to figure out the proper course to take. While Tehran did not perhaps take the absolute best course in this case, they certainly didn't take the worst, either.

What's more, the Iranian military looks good simply for its ability to capture Britons, while the UK military looks ridiculous for so easily caving into their false apologies. It is not that anyone will believe the literal statements coming out of their mouths. But they will be seen as weaklings, willing to lie to get out of a not-especially-tough situation. This just reinforces the negative stereotypes already floating around.

Perhaps in ordinary times, no one would be fooled by the Iranian staged interviews. But in fact most observers in the middle east will buy the Iranian line about the border violation. No one doubts that British and US patrols do often drift into Iranian waters, so Iran's claims will be seen as far more plausible than the ridiculous statements on our part that this "never happens" (regardless of what happened in this case).
What's more they will indeed compare the treatment given to the sailors with the treatment meted out to those captured by US forces. By any measure, the Iranians will look better and more humane. Kevin blithely dismisses this aspect, but this is the constrast that will be remembered when the bungling details of the standoff (which are mostly hearsay anyway, since no one really knows what happened between the players in Tehran) are long forgotten. Explain to me again what Tehran has "lost" in this whole incident.

By the way, did anyone else notice that the Washington Post headline a couple of days ago screamed out that the sailors had been "tortured"? It's funny that the US press so quickly judged the extremely mild psychological methods used by Iranians to be "torture" or "coercion", yet for some reason they have hemmed and hawed over the precise definition of far worse procedures like water-boarding. Yeah, because "Americans don't torture".

Posted by: kokblok on April 8, 2007 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to see how Iran loses anything by this? It showed the EU to be a paper tiger, unable to do anything at all to protect EU citizens. It further demonstrated, if any demonstration were necessary, that the UN is a joke when it comes to preventing aggression. It confirmed for itself that the UK will do nothing to protect itself. In short, Iran probed enemy lines, found no defenses, captured a few soldiers, suffered no military counterattack, suffered no political or economic sanctions, and released the hostages to the plaudits of fools like so many of you.

How many times has Iran seized Western hostages in the past? What consequences has it suffered for doing so? Does anyone want to bet that this won't be the last time?

Iran is a sad case, because in geopolitical sense, it would be the US's natural ally against the Arabs (I do not believe the Saudis are our friends). However, for that to happen, the mullahs must go. US policy ought to be to encourage that by whatever means possible. Maybe we should set up satellites to beam MTV and porno to Iranian TV sets.

Posted by: DBL on April 8, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Drum - "my guess is that this incident will make the world more united in its belief that Iran can't be trusted with a nuclear program, not less."

So true. They cannot be trusted. Ever.

Posted by: solus on April 9, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

It is their right, under international laws and treaties, to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. As long as they act within the law, we have no moral authority to compel them to halt their nuke program.

I fear the Iranians a lot less than I do the Bushies, who after all have done a lot more damage to our military, economy and Constitution than Iran ever has, or will.

Posted by: john manyjars on April 9, 2007 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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