I hesitate to criticize the Brits -- they've been good allies for decades now and America owes them a lot of thanks -- but their government has been treating the Iran hostage crisis and its aftermath in a bizarrely unserious manner. First they hamstrung their troops with "de-escalatory" rules of engagement, then they essentially abandoned the hostages to Iranian torture rather than recognizing the escalation that had already occurred, and now the UK government is allowing the former hostages to cash-in on their ordeal due to the "exceptional circumstances". I suppose this deal is some sort of penance on the part of the government for letting the troops get screwed earlier, but it's still a continuation of fundamentally unserious behavior.
The 15 sailors and Marines have been told they can sell their stories to the media by the Ministry of Defence, which bracketed the "exceptional circumstances" surrounding their 13-day ordeal with winners of the Victoria Cross.
The most senior member of the crew Royal Navy Lieutenant Felix Carman defended the right of comrades to sell their stories, but admitted he found the subject of being paid "a bit unsavoury" and has said he will hand over any money he makes to charity.
He told GMTV: "In the case of Faye Turney, she has a young daughter and the money could set her up for life."
I'm not sure what I'd do, given the chance to get rich off such a horrible situation, but I think the government would have been wise to keep the choice out of my hands by enforcing the existing policy. Thousands of lives have been lost, and these folks get special treatment?
News that Mrs Turney alone is likely to make at least Â£100,000 was condemned by former Defence Ministers, ex-soldiers - and families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At Westminster, even some Labour MPs suspected a Government spin operation designed to distract attention away from embarrassing questions over the capture itself.
Well whatever. I hate being hard on the hostages, because they suffered enormous trauma, but is it too much to ask that we and our allies take the Global War on Terror seriously?
The WSJ editorial page also questions the UK's handling of the hostage fiasco.
The British military has performed magnificently in Iraq, where 136 servicemen and women have been killed. Even so, with the release of the sailors, we would like to learn the full story of why the hostages seemingly cooperated so readily with their captors. Videotaped confessions, in which the accused apologize for misdeeds they didn't commit, are staples of Iran's authoritarian regime, and the British apologies to their captors may well have been coerced. Yet it's hard to know what to make of yesterday's pictures of the sailors--in suits, not uniforms--smiling and shaking hands with a beaming Mr. Ahmadinejad. These weren't civilians but sailors presumably trained to resist propaganda displays.
While the release of the Brits is cause for celebration, we hope the world won't forget those who aren't getting out--the myriad political prisoners, often democrats, in Iran's dungeons. These are the truly courageous people the West has paid too little attention to as it focuses on diplomacy and business with Iran. Given his regime's persecution of Iran's tiny Christian community, Mr. Ahmadinejad's invocation of Easter as a reason for freeing the sailors is particularly offensive.
Hopefully the embarrassment the UK government is suffering will harden all our nerves for the future inevitable confrontations with the Iranian terrorist state.