In his April 11 article, “U.S. media feasted on Iranian baloney,” writer James Pinkerton was far too hard on the British Navy over the 15 sailors and marines taken as hostages by the Iranians in late March. He was right that most of the Western media, particularly CNN and most of the press, were quite shrewdly played by the Iranian government’s propaganda. Like Pinkerton, I was also surprised that the crew of a British naval ship were so easily surrounded and captured by several small Iranian boats.
On the most important points, however, Pinkerton was flat wrong: The sailors’ cooperation with their Iranian captors was perfectly appropriate and could easily be the reason that they were released unharmed.
Saving the sailors’ and marines’ lives was far more important than winning the propaganda game. Military officials knew that all of their actions and statements were made under duress and coercion by the Iranians. In fact, top military strategists fully expect and even train their military personnel to cooperate in any ways that won’t seriously compromise military secrets. Implying that they were traitors for cooperating with their captors, then, was extremely unfair.
I believe the 15 sailors and marines should be commended for their composure and bravery during their experience, and the British government deserves credit as well. Its calm diplomacy was surely very wise, but its firmness was probably even more important: I distinctly recall Prime Minister Tony Blair stating only a couple of days before the release that the crisis was entering a “critical phase,” and the Iranians probably correctly understood that they were about to experience some very well targeted military strikes.
Don’t expect the Western media to give any credit to hard lines or military threats, though, no matter how vital they surely were in saving the captives’ lives.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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