11 April, 2007

The Freed British Sailors and the Politics of Story -Telling

The decision of the British Ministry of Defence to grant permission to the 15 naval personnel detained in Iran for 13 days recently to sell stories of their experience in captivity to the media has far reaching implications for international politics.

A couple of the sailors have opined that the decision will allow them to ‘tell the truth’ to the world about what had happened to them during their captivity. Given the situation they were in, it is quite conceivable they felt ‘psychologically pressured’ to make statements that were favourably disposed to their captors. That captives are always under duress and respond to their circumstance in a certain manner is a fact that the Iranian government will have to accept.

Nonetheless, there is ample evidence to suggest that a lot of what some of the naval personnel are now saying borders on gross exaggeration and outright distortion. Television clips showing cheery, healthy-looking sailors admitting that they had intruded into Iranian waters and apologizing for their action cannot be dismissed as ‘fake’. Neither should one argue that the captured personnel were forced to play chess and table tennis for Iranian cameras. On her release, Faye Turney, for instance, who reportedly had sold the story of her ‘ordeal in Tehran’ to a British tabloid for an astronomical sum, told the Iranian people, “ Just thank you for letting us go and apologies for our actions, but many thanks for having it in your hearts to let us go free… It was fantastic, we were treated well, we weren’t harmed in any way”. Another seaman, Lieutenant Felix Carman, who is now in the forefront of the campaign to expose the ‘mistreatment’ that he and his fellow military personnel suffered at the hands of the Iranian authorities, not only expressed gratitude to the Iranian government for his release but also added, “ I can understand why you were insulted by our apparent intrusion into your waters”.

It is obvious that the huge royalties that await those sailors who are prepared to go to the media have induced them to fabricate stories of their ordeal in Tehran. The more outlandish the spin, the greater the reward. This is why a number of British political leaders, social commentators and even retired military personnel have criticized the decision of the Ministry of Defence to commercialize the Tehran episode. They are right in emphasizing that it will undermine the credibility of the British armed forces.

But none of them have highlighted one of the other motives behind this crass move by the British government. Through the tales of the sailors, the government hopes to escalate the massive propaganda war against Iran. For some time now, a section of the British media, like a significant segment of the American media, has been on a rampage, denigrating Iranian state and society as ‘backward', ‘medieval', ‘barbaric' and ‘autocratic'. While it is undeniable that certain policies and practices associated with Iranian clerical power have contributed to the nation's negative image in the Western media, a plethora of outrageous lies is being deliberately pedaled as part of a crafty plan to tarnish and isolate Iran in the eyes of world public opinion before the US and Britain, prodded by Israel, embark upon some form of military action. The recent Hollywood film, ‘300' which distorts and disparages Persian history and culture is integral to this campaign. It is a thinly veiled attempt to vilify contemporary Iran as it struggles to prevent the Washington-London-Tel Aviv Axis, abetted by its client rulers in the region, from establishing total hegemony over the Middle East.

Employing the media and the entertainment industry to target a nation while intensifying political pressure on it through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has become the Axis's defined strategy in pursuit of global hegemony. It will be observed that in the last 9 months, the UNSC has steadily expanded its sanctions against Iran in relation to the latter's nuclear enrichment program. This will continue until Iran abandons its nuclear program for producing nuclear energy --- a right it enjoys under article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)--- or until it submits meekly to the Axis. In this regard, it will be remembered that the Axis manipulated that monstrous lie about Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) through the media and the UNSC before it invaded and occupied Iraq in March 2003.

This is why we maintain that the crude commercialization of the Tehran sailors' episode is part of a larger agenda. It is yet another manoeuvre designed to create the atmosphere for imminent military action against Iran. In facing this challenge, the Iranian leadership has to show that it is capable of holding on to certain principles while remaining strategically intelligent.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST).



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