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04 April 2007

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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

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.

walrus

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.

W. Patrick Lang

Brits

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

EJ

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!

fasteddiez

Colonel,

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."

lina

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.

walrus

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.

Comment

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.

matt

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 ...

Clifford Kiracofe

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:
http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/
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:
http://www.dur.ac.uk/ibru/

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:
http://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/bi-51757.pdf
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.

Nelson

"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.

Leo Strauss


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 !"

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lamg:

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

Will

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.
----------
trivia
the last two Israeli Chief of Staffs have been Iranian Origin. Mofaz having been born there. Halutz born to immigrants.

Nancy Kimberlin

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

Cold War Zoomie

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.

D.Witt

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...

Trickster

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!

4 billion

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

Rev Zafod

"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.

rebecca

"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.

jb

"Amazing! Yes it is true that we unsophisticated Americans would probably not do that!"

*cough*Desert One*cough*.

*ahem*Mogadishu*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.

Andy

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.

W. Patrick Lang

all

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

Mike Moscoe

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

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