Hearts of Oak…

Web0404iran550_3 This picture speaks for itself.  A "class trip" to the "big city?"  Frightened children now allowed to go home by the "bad people?"

Sad.  So sad.  The "HMS Cornwall Affair" speaks volumes about the present state of the Royal Navy and Marines.  The professional incompetence of the ship’s officers was matched by the craven behavior of the captives.


"Tis to glory we steer?"

I wonder what they are saying about this in the wardrooms of the de Gaulle carrier battle group out in the Arabian Sea?  pl


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87 Responses to Hearts of Oak…

  1. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood says:

    I’m sorry Pat, but this was not craven. It was important to (a) survive and (b) to not escalate to shooting (which is what I understand the RoE to have been). I’m happy as Larry our people are coming home.
    As a Briton I’m not bothered by the captives’ behaviour. Nor, going by some of the interviews with the Admirals I’ve heard this week, are the RN. We are all adults, we know the score. Lives are worth more than a cheap propaganda stunt done at gunpoint. I haven’t spoken to anyone here in the UK who takes the TV pics seriously. Sometimes it is better to lose a little pride and live than save it and die.
    I’ve noticed a lot of Americans who seem disappointed that our lads (and lass) didn’t get themselves killed. Or at least their rhetoric indicates they’d have preferred some kind of heroics. To anyone who makes Chamberlain comparisons I offer them the two-fingered salute. It’s that sort of irresponsible reaction that’s gotten your country into the fix it’s now in.
    Our folks have lived to fight another day. Good enough for me.

  2. walrus says:

    For once I have to disagree with you Col. Lang.
    I’ve been following this matter since it began.
    1 For a start, there is no hard evidence either way about whether the boats were in Iranian waters or not because the border, despite the UK Government protestations, is badly defined in this area. It is quite possible that both sides thought they were right. I can provide links and charts if asked. If anything, the Cornwalls’ Captain needs his head examined for conducting operations so close to a disputed and undefined border.
    2. There is no way a British RIB can fight an iranian patrol boat, period. To do so is just a form of suicide ie: How does a 5.56mm stand up to a pair of 50. Cals? The operations were being conducted in less than twelve feet of water and the Cornwall was ten miles away out on the thirty foor depth contour where she belongs.
    3. And perhaps most importantly, the Iranian captors control the reality of their captives even unto day or night, as we have done ourselves. We have no way of knowing (yet) why they sang like canaries.
    For example, they may have been told that the British Government had agreed that they had made a mistake, apologised to Iran and begged their forgiveness.
    They may have been told that the British Government had disowned them, covered up the whole matter and told the Iranians they didn’t care if they got twenty years in jail.
    We have absolutely no way of knowing what was done and should hold of any criticism until we know the fact (if ever).
    Of course we are angry! The Iranians have pulled off the perfect snatch job, milked it for all it was worth, made the British Navy look like Idiots, and released the prisoners they day before Good Friday.
    Sorry, we lost. They won.

  3. W. Patrick Lang says:

    So why was HMS Cornwall ten miles from her boats in a situation in which they could easily be over-matched? Is that competent?
    You think it is wise for Royal Marine officers to “sign up” to their country’s humiliation?
    Amazing! Yes it is true that we unsophisticated Americans would probably not do that. pl

  4. EJ says:

    I don’t think the point is that anyone should have a problem with the fact that they co-operated with their captors. I think most people would agree in that situation you should do whatever you have to do to survive, unless it’s something grossly immoral.
    But for heaven’s sake, have a little dignity! You don’t need to look so CHEERFUL about it!

  5. fasteddiez says:

    The De Gaulle’s wardroom good sentiment of the day is “Hah, comme d’habitude, la perfide Albion.” AND “Eh bien, ces salauds vont peut être finalement cesser de nous casser les pieds avec ce foutu bordel de Surrender Monkeys.”

  6. lina says:

    What Walrus said.
    The U.S. used to have the moral authority to rail against this kind of incident. But since we’ve recently made it our policy to hold “detainees” indefininitely in our gulag, torture whomever we please, and attack countries that didn’t attack us, I’m afraid that’s all gone with the wind.
    Sorry Colonel, it’s a new world out there. One we helped create.

  7. walrus says:

    Col. Lang, I have the worlds nautical charts at my fingertips. According to the GPS positions and the charts, the merchant ship was anchored in less than twelve feet of water which is consistent with a small coaster unloading cars onto lighters.
    The Cornwall on the other hand, draws 24 feet of water. By my charts, she was patrolling in at least thirty feet of water, she could get no closer than about ten miles from her RIBS because the water is simply too shallow. No destroyer jockey is going to take his vessel into less than thirty feet because if he hits something its goodby career. Furthermore, when a destroyer speeds up, the stern drops, increasing her draft.
    In addition, the Iranians struck just as the Brits were leaving the merchant vessel. Their Helo had already left the area and by the time it returned it was impossible to fire without friendly casualties.

  8. Comment says:

    No matter how you interpret that picture or the events – That picture will really disappoint those sailing on the HMS Weekly Standard. Their Churchill Cigars will be all wet – and they will want to go home, open a Kipling novel and cry God for an England no more. Bye Bye John Bull.

  9. matt says:

    Helo Col.:
    I would only note that not ALL of them look totally craven… look at the fello over on the far right..He almost looks disgusted with his colleagues ….but who can tell? not me …

  10. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Have the actual (authentic) GPS coordinates of the ship and boats been clarified yet or presented accurately in the US or UK press? What sort of charts, let alone instructions, were the UK sailors operating from? One would think that the contested zone would be so marked.
    UK Ambassador Craig Murray’s blog is of interest as he held responsibility for maritime boundary issues in the Foreign Office for a time:
    Scroll through the blog as appropriate.
    Tha ambassador points out that there is no agreed upon maritime boundary between Iraq and Iran or, for that matter, between Iraq and Kuwait in this general area.
    Also, a British technical expert raises issues. “It’s certainly not an irresolvable dispute,” said Martin Pratt, the director of the International Boundaries Research Unit at Britain’s Durham University.
    “The fact that the coastline is constantly shifting means more issues would need to be taken into consideration than if the coastlines were more stable and there was agreement on exactly where the baselines along the coast were.” The institutes website is at:
    These matters are indeed technical and require diplomatic attention and action. For example, the US and Mexico have had an “International Boundary and Water Commission” since 1889.
    For the US-Mexico Treaty “to Resolve Pending Boundary Differences” signed 1971 and ratified 1972 read full text at:
    The US Ambassador now deceased who negotiated this treaty, Robert McBride, was a friend and mentor some three decades ago. Reading the text of this treaty illustrates how complex and technical such issues are.

  11. Nelson says:

    “These particular people would not be trained in counter-interrogation techniques because they are not expected to be captured. But I think our guidance to anyone in that position would be to say what they want you to say, let’s not be silly about it. Don’t tell them secrets, clearly, but if they tell you: ‘Say this’, well if that’s going to get you out, then do it. It means absolutely nothing, what they say, to be honest. ” – Admiral Sir Alan West, former First Sea Lord
    Indeed, but most of the world does not abide by such subtle distinctions, however true. Irony is an excellent defensive mechanism, but for its speaker to be respected it must be tempered by earnestness.
    I try not to judge. I’ve not been there, under the gun, in captivity. The things that I have feared and faced were swiftly past. Regardless, for this Brit-Yank hybrid, this episode was sad and hard to watch.

  12. Leo Strauss says:

    Yes, sadly true — HMS Cornwall incompetence can’t be denied. Re photo, perhaps Channel 4 will license the video from the Iranians. “Big Brother — Fajr Base” could be huge. Perhaps they are already contemplating the residuals — one can imagine the riveting drama and dialogue.
    “Sha up poof”
    “Am not, wankah.”
    “Going home? I am well chuffed !”

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lamg:
    I must confess that I am puzzled by your reaction – I fail to see what could possibly have been gained by attacking.

  14. Will says:

    The Specal ops have their own rules of engagement. they have been kidnapping Iranians left and right. And the Persicos have been retaliating. The real targets of the Irbil raid were the equivalent of the Iranian head of the CIA and MI6 who were in town for an official visit. They were not bagged but the Americans nabbed five other lower officials.
    In retaliation the Iranians, dressed as Americans made a raid in Karbala kidnapped Americans, & when it went wrong executed them. Then a former Iranian deputy defense minister is disappeared in Turkey.
    But for ordinary G.I.’s it’s the rules of engagement with Iranians- don’t shoot unless it is to return fire. Rules that facilitate capture.
    To reprise an earlier post
    A Deadly U.S.-Iran Firefight
    The Iranians are our natural allies to stabilize Shia Irak and a democratic Afghanistan. But Dumbass W and his NeoKons/ZionKons have them in their gunsights as Enemy No.1.
    It is said that at Appomattox when Gen Robert Edward Lee saw native American Col Ely (Hasanoanda) Parker, he remarked that it was fitting that a REAL American be present for those ceremonies. Col. Parker had drawn up the surrender documents.
    In the high policy councils regarding Iran, there are no REAL Americans, native or patriots, only ZionKons.
    the last two Israeli Chief of Staffs have been Iranian Origin. Mofaz having been born there. Halutz born to immigrants.

  15. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    All’s well that ends well. If one of those sailors were my child I would say thank you god.

  16. Cold War Zoomie says:

    I can’t really say anything about the competence since I’m pretty ignorant of the details. But I don’t think the behavior of the captive Brits is that big of a deal. They don’t have an empire to defend any more. Before WWII, I’m sure their attitude would have been completely different – God, Queen and Empire! Seems like most of the former European imperialists have gone soft now that their empires are lost.
    We still have an empire to defend, so we need to keep our Military Code of Conduct strong. Maybe when the Chinese ascend to the top in the next 15-20 years we will soften up, too. We’ve had our craven moments in the past. Considering my current state of residence, the Baldensburg Races (1814) comes to mind.

  17. D.Witt says:

    Where is the humiliation of the Israeli government and the IDF for ‘allowing’ their soldiers to be captured by Hizbullah last summer? IIRC, those soldiers have still not been released, despite being the original causus belli nee cover for last summer’s invasion of Lebanon. Food for thought…

  18. Trickster says:

    Lord Nelson was a great admiral and hail brittania and all that, but things have changed a bit since his day.
    The main thing was to get them out alive in good health without starting a war. Cha-ching!

  19. 4 billion says:

    Pat…maybe when those WMD’s turn up, Americans can start qustioning the competence of other’s..until then humility may be wise..

  20. Rev Zafod says:

    “Of course we are angry! The Iranians have pulled off the perfect snatch job, milked it for all it was worth, made the British Navy look like Idiots, and released the prisoners they day before Good Friday.”
    Sorry, BR, I have to agree that Iran outsmarted the Bushies on this one. Good PR work on their part.

  21. rebecca says:

    “Craven behavior”? These captives were nothing but pawns in the “Great Game” being played by the world’s elite.
    I don’t see that they have any obligation whatsoever to save face for the elites.

  22. jb says:

    “Amazing! Yes it is true that we unsophisticated Americans would probably not do that!”
    *cough*Desert One*cough*.
    And yes, I’m an American.
    Do you *know* what the RoE and standing orders were? Can you *show us* that there were standing orders to engage a superior force (which was not the target of the mission in any way)?
    If not, please, a tad less jingoism.
    As for ‘competence’ as to where the boats were – there isn’t enough information. It’s possible that the interception was made poorly. It’s possible the boats didn’t make intercept at the original planned spot. It’s possible, in fact, as someone above stated, that a third party to the original mission, with objectives *completely orthogonal* to the mission itself (smuggling/inspection) managed a successful operation, and that ‘no-one getting killed over a diplomatic spat’ is the best outcome.

  23. Andy says:

    Col. Lang,
    A couple of things.
    First, before I pass judgment on those captured, I’d like to know what SERE training they received, if any. It is easy to manipulate people the way the Iranians did if one is not taught to recognize and defeat such manipulation. It looks to me like they received no training, or only minimal training.
    Sadly, the same thing is largely true of our forces, who, in most cases, only get their yearly death-by-powerpoint code of conduct training.
    Secondly, the Cornwall was not near the inspected ship for two reasons. The principle reason is that the Cornwall’s primary mission is to protect the two oil terminals, ABOT and KAAOT, so it doesn’t venture far from them. Secondly, from some news reports I’ve read the merchant ship was in shallow water – too shallow for the Cornwall.
    Even if the Cornwall was right there, by the time Iranian intent became clear they had closed with the VBSS party and probably could not be engaged without hitting the Marines. ROE does come into play as well.
    I think after this incident tactics will change. Specifically, I would expect armed RHIBS will serve as overwatch while the VBSS teams are on the ships. The Iranians “assaulted” the Marines as they were descending ladders back into their boats – in other words, at their most vulnerable and exposed point.
    I’m not trying to make too many excuses here, just provide some clarification. There is certainly a lot to criticize, particularly with regard to resistance training, lack of security for the VBSS parties, and possibly ROE.

  24. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Why have a navy at all? Someone might be hurt playing with guns. pl

  25. Mike Moscoe says:

    Colonel, I grew up in the old Navy where Don’t give up the Ship was a given. However, it seems clear that management had already made the decision not to fight.
    The Cornwall draws 18 feet or so. If the inspection was taking place in 10 feet, there was no way the frigate could close the target.
    The Marines were sent out in small boats with only small arms. When the IRG showed up with 50-cals, they trumped the Marines.
    I doubt the British Lieutenant liked giving up his command any more than you would, but faced with those odds, honors of war do not require suicide.
    I don’t know about the average watcher, but I assumed that the sailors and Marines were saying what their captors wanted. Not the truth. I doubt if many members of the western public mistook it for anything else.
    We got our EP3C and crew back from the Chinese. The Brits got their crew back from the Iranians. All will live to have grandkids and tell sea stories.
    It sure looks like a good and honorable ending to me.
    Mike Moscoe

  26. Leila says:

    Dear Colonel Lang – Guess this shows me that I really don’t get the military. I have no idea why you are offended by the photo. What I think – this whole stand-off with the Iranians is ridiculous, and the soldiers know it.
    But I guess that to you it’s a bit like that Lebanese Army officer serving the Israelis tea last summer? (a Lebanese commander of a base in South Lebanon, when facd with Israeli ground troops and tanks etc., invited them in and served them tea and allowed himself to be videotaped smiling as he did so.)
    The Lebanese opposition has been chanting slogans about it ever since: Oh So-and-so (name of minister here) Give me one coffee and two teas!
    Well it’s insulting in Arabic, I think.
    War is hell, ain’t it? I’m just glad everybody is backing the hell away from the precipice.

  27. johnf says:

    Just like Mogadishu – out-thought, outfought.
    If you want a customs service, don’t use a hi-tech deepsea fighting navy, get and train and equip your customs service.
    What a suitable end to the reign of Tony Blair – Britain’s most unpopular head of state since Charles Ist. Roll on Oliver Cromwell.

  28. canuck says:

    I really don’t know if I would have been brave enough to refuse to appear in public wearing a headscarf. The headscarf IMHO is emblematic of the female captive’s and the other 14 members that failed to see the significance of wearing it. I have no military training, but as a western woman, I would immediately grasp what an extreme indignity was being fostered on me. The UK naval group are very young and that’s the only excuse I can find for them. Perfidious Albain indeed!
    When the enormity of the extreme gullibility sinks in to the members of this UK naval group, they probably will rationalize that they did it to stay alive.

  29. Dan says:

    I’m with pat on this one.
    1. If the water was too shallow for the parent vessel to stay close and help avoid a humiliating incident, then why board and search in shallow water? It’s not as if this hadn’t happened before. So, yes, incompotent.
    2. The behavior of the sailors. They were in a group together, not isolated, and not likely to be killed. Then they’re given sharkskin suits and sent to shake ahemedinijad’s hand. We’re supposed to believe that all that mugging for the camera was survival skills kicking in at that moment? They thought they’d be killed if they didn’t smile. What i really want to know which ones are the royal marines.

  30. Leigh says:

    I am sorry, Colonel Lang, but as a mother, I find I can’t agree with you. For the sailors to have fought would have been–in a word–stupid. They had nothing to gain from dying for God and country. As for the female wearing a head scarf, does the word babushka mean anything to you?

  31. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Your motherly feelings are laudable but hardly the stuff that foreign policy should be made of. pl

  32. D Bulow says:

    I admire the Col to be sure but this time I think he’s on the wrong side of the Boringly right v. Gloriously dead divide.

  33. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Spoken like a Wondrously Clever civilian. pl

  34. Canuck says:

    She was not wearing a babushka–it was clearly a Hijab and the propaganda value of her consenting to wear it would not be lost on UK or Iranian politicians.
    The more I read about this group, the sadder they make me. They behaved like girl and boy scouts more than they did British Royal Marines–smiling for the camera, shaking hands with their captors and taking tea with Ahmadinejad, being grateful to be released and apologizing for the inconvenience of Iran having to go to the trouble of capturing them. My God…my step father, who was a Brit Royal Marine in WWII must be rolling over in his grave. To the best of my knowledge, all this group had to provide was name, rank and serial #. They sure as hell didn’t have to fraternize with them.
    I’m glad they’re home and I trust they will have some really, really good explanations for being so accommodating to their Iranian ‘hosts’? which is what they seem to believe they were, but in actuality were the enemy. Their enemy smiled at them and they lapped it up instead of remembering they were British marines! None of them were wearing UK uniforms and didn’t seem bothered they had been taken away from them? Perhaps those old uniforms weren’t as comforable as the ones the Iranians gave them to put on? I just can’t believe this naval group were so gullible and I don’t have ANY military experience at all! But there is no way I would have worn that Hijab that much I have convinced myself about. If it was placed on my head, I would have ripped it off!!!!

  35. FB Ali says:

    Canuck :
    Isn’t it an outrage making that poor girl put on a headscarf? As Terry Jones put it in The Guardian :
    “And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world – have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God’s sake, what’s wrong with putting a bag over her head?….Then it’s perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can’t be recognised and humiliated”.
    And as for those terrible sharkskin suits (eh, Dan?), it would have been much more esthetically pleasing had their naked bodies been tastefully piled in a human pyramid.
    Ever since the Geneva conventions have been effectively replaced by the Pentagon conventions, it is understandable that ordinary Joes and Janes are reluctant to get too heroic in captivity.

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    the United Kingdom and Iran are not at war – best that you can say is that UK is a hostile power as far as Iran is concerned.
    UK sailors were apprehended in waters that may or may not belong to Iran or Iraq.
    For UK soldiers to shoot at Iranians would have been an act of folly – what exactly would have been the point? Getting killed defending Iraq’s fish?
    For US and her citizens to be worked-up about a problem between Iran and UK is plain silly to me.
    I would like to add an observation from WWII – UK has never been so rich as to be able to afford the folly of day time air raids against Germany. That was left to US who felt herself so rich as to be able to afford the waste of both men and materiale in daytime air raids against Germany with rather questionable results.
    Col. Lang:
    You are correct – UK (and also France, Germany, Italy) has no reason to maintain the Navy that she does nor does she have a reason to be in the Persian Gulf.

  37. Ghostman says:

    Hello. Been awhile. On this article, I too give the Royal Navy a “F”.
    1. “target ship was in too shallow water”-then why even attempt a boarding task?
    2. “Helo pulled away early”-huh? The air cover guys just got bored? Late for a dinner date? The helo left those guys hanging out there.
    3. “the sailors never saw the gunboats”- did/does anyone own binoculars out there? Did the gunboats just appear from the mist? Of course not.
    Change the facts: the gunboats appear, and kill all sailors immediately. Wouldn’t there be outrage at how the Royal Navy just left those sailors out there, hanging alone without cover/back-up?
    Well, enough of my playing G.I. Joe. The next article, “Propaganda” is the worrisome one. If this fiasco emboldens the bad guys…then more Americans will die. That’s never good. Time will tell.

  38. Gerson says:

    Col Lang,
    Your soldierly feelings are laudable, but hardly the stuff that foreign policy should be made of.

  39. Tom S says:

    Are Britain and Iran at war? Were the detained Brits POWs with the rights and obligations that such status grants?
    How many times had such inspections taken place with distant support and no Iranian interference?
    Had circumstances changed recently? Could/should the Brits have expected aggressive Iranian actions?

  40. semper fubar says:

    So I’m curious after reading all this – what would the correct response have been, pl?
    As I see it, the episode ended as well as it could have. No deaths. No mistreatment. No one started a bombing campaign. No one declared war. In other words, peace broke out.

  41. John says:

    Dulce est dulcorum est pro patria mori. Ha. Didn’t that BS dissolve in the blood soaked trenches WW1. All the lies the recruited serfs have been told since the beginning about honor and duty turn to dust when the wires are attached to the testicles.
    Of course it looks like a school trip…they are that young.
    Remember D-Day, the planners only used new draftees to go ashore into the wall of fire because they new those with experience wouldn’t get off the landing boats.
    The Russians used commissars at the rear to enforce their troop’s bravery with bullets.
    It is much too crowded a planet for this type of thinking unless we all want to head to extinction.
    BTW, didn’t the Persians invent chess.

  42. brenda says:

    This is pretty funny. I’m an old leftie, non-military type, but I’m getting Col. Lang’s point perfectly, and I’m feeling grateful that this is his reaction. His is the military reaction, me and others here have the political reaction.
    Frankly, I think the Iranians played a perfect hand on this one. Especially the end-game, releasing the marines after a few days of civilized treatment. They showed us up good, and I’m also grateful for that. It doesn’t hurt for the US/Israelis to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran will not just roll over if/when they are attacked. And as Col. Lang has laid out so well for us in previous posts the vulnerability to an Iranian counter-attack for US troops deployed in Iraq, this may bring the US gov’t to its senses regarding ME/Israel policy. Overall, I believe Iran did us a favor.

  43. John Hammer says:

    Were these folks trained to deal with this kind of situation, ie. sere?
    How come nobody in that group looks old enough to drink?

  44. Peter Principle says:

    “Sorry, we lost. They won.”
    The best proof of that is the way the usual neocon agents of influence are trying to spin it the other way. From Robin Wright at the Post:
    “Tehran Likely to Pay Long-Term Price”
    Which is a pretty funny headline, since the spends the FIRST ten paragraphs describing all the immediate benefits that the Iranians derive from the affair.
    I’m still amazed/skeptical by the official story that the RMs were out chasing car smugglers. To quote Captain Willard from Apocalypse Now, that’s like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500 — worse, really.
    It sure sounds like the cover story for a covert op, but if so why did the Marines go into captivity so meekly? Seems an odd approach to operational security.
    And why didn’t the Iranians coerce or invent a suitably nasty confession for the Brits to make for the cameras — i.e. that they were part of a secret
    death squad mission or on a mission to assassinate Iranian government leaders or poison Iranian wells or some such? Isn’t that a standard propaganda technique in such situations? Or did the Iranians decide no one in the world would believe their passive puppy dog prisoners were capable of such things?
    A mysterious affair from beginning to end. I doubt we know even 10% of what was actually going on.

  45. ikonoklast says:

    Regardless of what it says about the RN, that photo is an indictment of Iranian tailoring. Forget their nuclear program – those suits need contained.

  46. JT Davis says:

    “Why have a navy at all? Someone might be hurt playing with guns. pl”
    Isn’t that just a tad below the waterline, Col.?

  47. zenpundit says:

    Hmmm. Alternative point of view. The Iranians put the best face on backing down for fear of escalating the crisis.
    Compare the behavior of Teheran – where the Brits looked well fed and spotless – in this incident with:
    *Treatment of the American hostages in 1979
    * Treatment of the American hostages in Lebanon during the 1980’s, held by Hezbollah/Pasdaran agents
    * The torture murder of CIA agent William Buckley, in Lebanon.
    * The car bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut
    * The bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut
    * The assassination of prominent Iranian exiles in France
    * Terror bombing of a Jewish center in Buenas Aires
    The Iranians did not let the Brits go simply to score points, though doing so allowed the hardliners to save some face but because a show trial or obvious maltreatment could be seized as a convenient casus belli by the U.S. and Britain. Or at least cause a ratcheting up of diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran.
    Letting the Brits go enabled the hardliners to get out of a corner. Hardly the “win” they originally set out to acheive.

  48. Matthew says:

    I think Tony Blair’s angry that they weren’t water-boarded. In the un-reality that is the propaganda war, Iran looks a lot more civilized than the West in this enterprise. That’s why Blair looks so unhappy.

  49. W. Patrick Lang says:

    fast ediezz
    Il faut dire que c’est un bon mot. pl

  50. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t see this as a matter of “moral authority.”
    It is a matter of statecraft, and failed statecraft at that. pl

  51. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Nancy Kimberlin
    You are a good mother. pl

  52. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Amusing, but, as you know, that was a fraud. This is is incompetence. pl

  53. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Come now. they were not drafted. pl

  54. W. Patrick Lang says:

    jt davis
    Yup. Start the pumps. Damage control party! pl

  55. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “jingoism” Amusing.
    “We’ve got the men. We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the money too. And if they want to fight by jingo..!”
    That was the British over the US/Canadian frontier in the 1850s. I guess they have lost the thread.
    Is there anything you would fight for? pl

  56. W. Patrick Lang says:

    fb ali
    “Ever since the Geneva conventions have been effectively replaced by the Pentagon conventions, it is understandable that ordinary Joes and Janes are reluctant to get too heroic in captivity.”
    What does that mean? pl

  57. BillD says:

    Sorry to be critical but I can’t let John’s comment about D-Day go. My father-in-law was 29 when he hit the beach with G Co., 26th Infantry. And by then he had 14 years in. I don’t now about other countries but U.S. Infantry NCOs and Officers lead from the front. Always have. Always will.

  58. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The ability to back diplomacy with a credible threat of the use of force is necessary to diplomacy. the British no longer have that. pl

  59. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Cute, but trite. Wars go on. Life goes on and the First World War changed nothing. pl

  60. Neil Richardson says:

    Dear COL Lang,
    Is there a code of conduct in the Royal Marines or RN (comparable to our CoC which obviously applies at all times)? Like you I found the conduct of the group somewhat surprising and disturbing. The question of ROE under wartime conditions aside, I would’ve expected a USS Pueblo-like defiance out of this group. I strongly doubt these men received any sort of SERE training, but I’d expected them to behave a little differently remembering how Douglas Bader and Roger Bushnell had acted. Different times and different standards I guess.

  61. Tom S says:

    I don’t know if anyone here has noticed, but Britain ceased being a major naval power about 40 years ago, and ceased being a mid-level naval power about 20 years ago.
    If the Brits had the means to respond forcefully (or even to move a sizeable task force into the area to sail around a bit), I am sure they would have (and would not have tolerated Iranian interference in the first place). Different circumstances breed different responses irrespective of naval traditions.

  62. FB Ali says:

    In a large part of the world, what the US does is the gold standard for measuring conduct. For obvious reasons. In the realm of prisoner treatment, that standard is now Abu Ghraib-Guantanomo-Bagram. If the country that is the most advanced in the world, the most civilized, can treat prisoners in this manner, others feel they may as well, too. Subtle concepts such as “enemy combatants” don’t resonate much out there.
    As many of your posters have remarked, by this gold standard the Iranians treated the Brit captives very well (though I agree that the tailoring left something to be desired).

  63. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    The UK and Iran are fortunately not at war at present. There has been an incident and the natural accompanying tensions on both sides. The incident was resolved through serious diplomacy.
    Some details in:
    One of the British diplomats involved seems headed to the US as their next ambassador here.
    Unlike the United States, the UK has direct diplomatic relations with Iran at the ambassadorial level. The UK has an embassy in Tehran and Iran has an embassy in London. Rather than our present track to war with Iran we should reengage, as suggested by the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group, and exchange ambassadors.
    Rosemary Hollis, Director of Research at Chatham House and astute observer, says: “There is a lot to be learned from this episode about the dangers that we could face in the future. It is a highly-charged atmosphere in the Middle East and although there is a purely British-Iranian dimension to the tensions, the British are also caught up in the ongoing US-Iranian animosity and sabre-rattling. An issue like this could be hijacked by Americans or Iranians wishing to grandstand and we know there are people at both ends of the US-Iran spectrum, as well as some Arabs and Israelis, who would like a casus belli. The US have been calling us wimps, for God’s sake, just for giving the softly-softly approach a chance. And, with a few detours, it delivered. So we should use this episode as an opportunity to engage the Iranians on strategies for avoiding bilateral misunderstandings and crises that could turn nasty in the future.”
    The Brits have been out “in the region” since the 16th century. The United States opened relations out there in the late 18th century, and we were trading in Persia (and Oman-Zanzibar) in the early 19th century. Of course, in colonial times (or for some families before colonial times) British North Americans associated with the London trading companies such as the Turkey/Levant Company had business in the region. There are no excuses for naivete.

  64. confusedponderer says:

    It suggests to me that the Brits have a Navy unsuited for the task at hand. Put a Type 23 batch 3 frigate in the Gulf is overkill. It’s basically a blue water subchaser for god’s sake. They would need corvettes or patrolers that can go into shallower waters. They don’t have any.
    Conceptually the Royal Navy is equipment-wise still a blue water navy optimised for ASW in the north atlantic, with a pretty good sealift capability. Well, the cold war is over.
    I cannot make a judgement about the personnel. I guess as a combat experienced Green Beret you expect a different standard.
    I agree that the Royal Navy fucked up the operation. Poor preparation, no reconaissance beyond the task at hand, boarding. The botched op was a result of planning myopia.

  65. JT Davis says:

    The ability to back diplomacy with a credible threat of the use of force is necessary to diplomacy. the British no longer have that. pl”
    I’m not sure we do either, Col.
    That’s because we have a weak link in the chain of command. I’d say it’s up at the top and it walks loudly and it swung the big stick and let go of it.

  66. fasteddiez says:

    My reading of this situation, tactically speaking, is that the ranking officer in the RHIB’s made a command decision vis-a-vis resist or surrender. Based on what directives we do not know, or perhaps/probably based on his immediate reading of the situation.
    What is more interesting is finding out whether any of the captured personnel were trained by the JSIW (Joint Service Interrogation Wing), of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. I have had the pleasure to train with, and go through a course of instruction with their Lads and Lassies, and found them quite intelligent and professional.
    Perhaps some of the posting Brits here can comment on this (if they have any military experience…doubtful as most are probably Market analysts and the like, (a more respectable metier for a chap, doncha know, post the Somme and Paschendale).
    If the Poodle has not seen fit to emasculate or cashier the JSIW as he has other military programmes, that unit would/could have provided good training in resistance to interrogation, manipulation, psychological techniques, the Stockholm Syndrome, etc..
    I and my confrères have given hundreds of these types of classes to USMC personnel prior to the land phase of the Gulf War. It is not all resistance to torture, one can be made to look foolish, by being smothered in love. the shark skin suits told the world that they were not a military unit, but a lost errant school class rescued by a benevolent Iran. Makes the poodle look worse, I fear. If some of the posters here would spend one tenth of their critical thinking energies on what Vanna White is hiding behind door number one as they do on making money for the MAN, we would have less blatherings along the lines of “because of the Somme, never again,” OR “well in the end the kiddies got ome’ didn’nay.”
    There are minimal professional requirements to be adhered to if one joins one’s nation’s armed forces, I would think. As to the Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo/torture rendition and all having an effect on US service personnel in wanting to cooperate with captors; this is a bridge too far, most will not want to go there. The above debauchery is not taught to intelligence professionals and was hatched by suit wearing civilians (much like most of the posters here), and facilitated by the likes of Generals Miller and Sanchez, who went along to get along. America, as well as Britain, have many scared people, living within their borders, and when these sorts of people seize power, their (draft dodging induced) fear easily lends itself to taking liberties with the Constitution/Geneva Accords/etc., in order to lash out and hurt the nasty enemy people (read Muslims), despite the protestations of the lowly Proles, whose job it is to gather human intelligence in accordance to what they have been taught, the scholarship of which is a distillation of centuries worth of human interaction.

  67. Charlottesville, Virginia
    5 April 2007
    Perhaps this may be slightly off topic, but I just can’t help myself;
    “Is there anything you would fight for? pl”
    Yes. My family, my friends, my home. And to see George W. Bush, Dick Cheney et al put on trial and made to serve lengthy prison sentences at hard labor, breaking rocks with 12 pound sledghammers along with a bunch of other hard core criminals chain gang in the deep South.
    Your most humble servant,
    SubKommander Dred
    PS: Hope you enjoyed the CIAG conference. I thought the first day of the seminar (open to the public) was well done.

  68. Jeffly-Alili says:

    From the 2003 State of the Union Speech:
    “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
    How nice of the Brits. Had their soldiers fought we could have found ourself amidst another war right now “helping our allies”.

  69. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    Thank you Col Lang. I am a good mother. My husband and I have 5 children. I have also been a nurse for over 30 years and have seen many bad things. My father was a POW in Germany and suffered from PTSD. My brother was in Vietnam, my uncles in Korea, my husband a paratrooper in the IDF during the 6 day war, was badly injured. I understand the need for war and for warriors. I also believe we should never send anyone to fight in a war that we would not willingly sacrifice our children to die in. WWII was such a war, Korea, Vietnam and this war are not. I do not believe we should be fighting in the middle east. I willingly accept that I may be missing the big picture, that this is truly a war against Islam and whoever. But it is their part of the world not ours. Having said that, you are the only person I truly listen regarding what is happening in the middle east and I admire you completely.

  70. FDR_Democrat says:

    I think what colors the reaction to this for many Americans of a certain generation is the feeling that the 1979 hostage taking remains “unfinished business” with the Iranians.
    We may need to come to terms with Iranian power in that region in the same way the US tacitly acknowledged the power of the People’s Republic of China by ending the Korean War with an armistice. Nixon later went to China and Mao’s heirs still reign in Beijing.
    If the last four years should have taught us anything, it is to make a sober calculation of means to ends. Given the upsides and downsides of conflict with Iran, it makes sense. Nothing is riskier than to imply a threat of action that you know you cannot back up. The Iranians are not dummies and are well prepared for asymetric warfare.

  71. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You have your delusions and I have mine. Let us both treasure them and hope to find common ground like the Guides at Kabul behind Cavagnari. pl

  72. rudolf says:

    re: the picture
    body language:
    only the guy at the right [matt’s] has the slightest resemblance with a warrior, all of them seem just “young good fellows”…
    what a healthy and cheerful smiles!
    dress up:
    they all look terrific in that brand new Ahmadinejad´s style…
    the headscarf didn’t worried me as much as that kind of blue with the striped t’red she wears…

  73. Peter Eggenberger says:

    I’m surprised that you don’t discuss the Iranians’ motives. I think it was, mainly, a means to raise the price of oil– and it succeeded. Making the Royal Navy look foolish was merely a collateral advantage. The Iranian government and the Revolutionary Guard need oil revenues to pursue their high minded objectives.

  74. Will says:

    constantly having to scurry to translators and dictionaries to read here.
    As a public service.
    Heard around the staterooms of the carrier Le Generale de Gaulle somewhere in the Arabian Sea
    “It’s necessary to recognize these choice words: Hah , as habitually , the treacherous British. AND ” well , these bastards will thankfully eventually cease breaking our feet with {foutu?} this whorehouse Surrender Monkeys bullcrap.”

  75. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “wardrooms” not “staterooms.” Actually it sounds better in French. pl

  76. fasteddiez says:

    casser les pieds means to bust balls, though pieds means feat. As to foutu bordel, it can mean whorehouse, but also a mess, bloody mess and foutu can mean damned, so damned mess or bloody mess.

  77. JT Davis says:

    “FDR Democrat… I think what colors the reaction to this for many Americans of a certain generation is the feeling that the 1979 hostage taking remains “unfinished business” with the Iranians.”
    I think some Iranians may feel that was in response to what they may consider as “unfinished business” we started in Iran in 1953.

  78. steve says:

    For what it’s worth, perhaps this sheds some light on the events:
    “Royal Navy personnel seized by Iran were blindfolded, bound and held in isolation during their 13 days in captivity, the crew have said.
    They were lined up while weapons were cocked, making them “fear the worst”, one of the 15 freed sailors revealed.
    The crew were told that if they did not admit they were in Iranian waters when captured that they faced seven years in prison, a press conference heard.
    Opposing their captors was “not an option,” they said.
    And after the 15 marines and sailors were seized they were subjected to random interrogation and rough handling, and faced constant psychological pressure, they said.”

  79. Chris Stiles says:

    Perhaps some of the posting Brits here can comment on this (if they have any military experience…doubtful as most are probably Market analysts and the like, (a more respectable metier for a chap, doncha know, post the Somme and Paschendale).

    I think the sobriquet you are looking for here is ‘Walt’.
    If you want a response from serving Brits you could always ask the British Army Rumour boards at http://www.arrse.co.uk/

  80. FDR_Democrat says:

    “I think some Iranians may feel that was in response to what they may consider as “unfinished business” we started in Iran in 1953.” Posted by: JT Dav
    I am not defending what happened in 1953, but Khomeini shed few tears for the fall of the Mossadegh government and it certainly provides zero justification for the taking of our hostages in 1979.
    Here is what a July 16, 1979 TIME Magazine article about Khomeini had to say:
    When Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh came to power as Iran’s Premier in 1951, Khomeini welcomed his anticolonialism and his opposition to the Shah, though he considered Mossadegh too secular. Khomeini had much more sympathy for the Ayatullah Abolqasem Kashani, who was then Mossadegh’s partner. Kashani later split with him and may even have cooperated with the CIA-backed coup that toppled Mossadegh’s government in August 1953 and enabled the Shah to return to his throne. Khomeini still identifies himself with Kashani, whose memory is reviled by Iranian nationalists because of his alleged betrayal of Mossadegh. One link between Kashani and Khomeini is the Fedayan Islam, a group of fanatical Muslim nationalists who opposed the secular government.”

  81. Babak Makkinejad says:

    FDR Democrat & JT Davis:
    There were 2 take-overs of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. FDR Democrat & JT Davis:
    There were 2 takeovers of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. During the first one, Ambassador Sullivan was captured as well – and the crowd was going to hang him. The take-over ended when some Revolutionary Committee (disbanded later) intervened and forced the occupiers to leave the Embassy compound.
    There was a second take-over a few months later when the Shah of Iran was admitted to the United States.
    There was a lot of anger in Iran at the time of the Iranian Revolution against the United States as complicit in the crimes of the Shah. “It is a revolution and not a dinner party” as Comrade Mao had observed.
    Whether it was justified or not depends on whom you ask – the Western people ( and not just Americans) are shocked, absolutely shocked. For the Iranians (and indeed all those people that have had to endure the Western hegemony for so long because their were weak) it was an act of Catharsis.
    I recall Ambassador Sullivan observing years later that the anti-Americanism of the Iranian Revolution and subsequent Iranian behavior towards the United States were the acceptable costs of a very successful and prolonged US policy that began with the overthrow of Dr. Mossadegh which kept the oil prices low and Iran an anti-Soviet Western alley.
    During the first one, Ambassador Sullivan was captured as well – and the crowd was going to hang him. The take-over ended when some Revolutionary Committee (disbanded later) intervened and forced the occupiers to leave the Embassy compound.
    There was a seond take-over a few months laer when the Shah of Iran was admitted to the United States.
    There was a lot of anger in Iran at the time of the Iranin Revolution against the United States as complicit in the crimes of the Shah. “It was a revolution and not a dinner party” as Comrade Mao had observed.
    Whether it was justified or not depends whom you ask – the Western people ( and not just Americans) are shocked, absolutely shocked. For the Iranian (and indeed all those people that have had to endure the Western hegemony for so long because their were weak) it was an act of Katarsis.
    I recall Ambassador Sullivan once observing that the anti-American Iranian Revolution and subsequent Iranian behavior towards the United States were the acceptable costs of a very successful and prolonged US policy that began with the overthrow of Mossadegh and kept the oil prices low and Iran an aniti Soviet Western alley.

  82. FDR_Democrat says:

    “Whether it was justified or not depends on whom you ask – the Western people ( and not just Americans) are shocked, absolutely shocked. For the Iranians (and indeed all those people that have had to endure the Western hegemony for so long because their were weak) it was an act of Catharsis.” – Babak Makkinejad
    No, Americans were shocked, period – no “Casablanca” wordplay appropriate here. And there are no differing standards. Every country, “Western” or not, accepts the notion that embassies are to be accorded respect. To the extent anyone claims an exception so they can work out their “catharsis” is no excuse. Otherwise we have the law of the jungle. I could care less what Ambassador Sullivan said or didn’t say. The 1979 Embassy takeover(s) were on their face a violation of accepted international law and diplomatic behavior.
    The Iranians were perfectly within their rights to terminate diplomatic relations and toss our people out. They had no right – zero – to take them hostage.
    We need to choose a single standard and stick to it. There is controversy right now over the Iranians seized by the US from the “consulate” in the Kurdish north. Should we credit the argument they are wrongly seized because they were diplomats on the soil of an Iranian Mission? Or should we nod indulgently over how the US needs a “catharsis” for the EFPs the Pasdaran has been so kindly sending our way?

  83. Babak Makkinejad says:

    FDR Democract:
    I was hoping to indicate the emotional background of the US Hostage Crisis. I was not suggesting that Catharsis as an excuse – it was an empirical observation.
    I am in agreement with you that the satandards have to apply to everyone otherwise they mean nothing- but in the international arena – Might makes Right; i.e. Power & Legitimacy go together; some regulations apply to some state actors but not to others.
    (Iran was attacked by Chemical Weapons and nary a word came out of the so-called Advanced Civilized Rules-Loving States.)
    In regards to the movie “Casablanca” a number of Western States including US, France, UK have used their embassies to overthrow sovereign governments – I do not believe that is acceptable. But I mentioned Ambassador Sullivan’s observations because he was fortright & honest (in my opinion) in the inherent costs of all these policies.
    In regards to the US need for Catharsis – we already have had one: the Iraq War of 2003.

  84. spartina says:

    Colonel, agree wholeheartedly about the tactical imcompetence of the Cornwall’s commander and the disturbing performance in captivity, but isn’t that just soooooo . . . Iraq war? It’s bad enough to pursue foolish dreams of empire, but it’s downright criminal to do so without anything approaching the means to succeed, such as properly trained and equipped soldiers and seamen.
    What the hell are the Brits doing there in the first place? Which, of course, leads to what the hell are we doing there? All that aside, I’m glad that they returned unharmed, even if somewhat dishonored. They really shouldn’t have to pay the ultimate price for their leaders’ incompetence.

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