Sunday, April 08, 2007
An Englishman of no uncertain opinion links to this account by one of the United States Marines taken hostage by the Iranians in 1978. Read it.
The most comprehensive account of the mother of all Iranian hostage crises is Mark "Black Hawk Down" Bowden's outstanding Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam. It came out in paperback last week. Not only is it a gripping read, but it is extremely relevant to the current confrontation with Iran.
Guests is chock full of stories about American resistance and Iranian abuse, but one short passage strikes me as directly on point:
For many weeks [Political Officer John W. Limbert, Jr.] had no contact with anyone other than his guards. He began to worry that something had happened. Had everyone else been released? Had he been left behind? Had the others been killed?
Then one day a guard asked him to define some English words that he didn't understand.
The words were "raghead," "bozo," "motherfucker," and "cocksucker." Limbert laughed. It warmed his heart. Someplace nearby his captors were still coping with the United States Marine Corps.
Great story, TH. Having never served in the military, I hesitate to criticize the Brits for surrendering in the face of overwhelming force because I don't know what I would have done myself. I'm pretty sure, though, that as a captive I wouldn't have been prancing around with a shit-eating grin in staged publicity photos, at least not without trying to subvert it like American POWs once did when they gave the finger in one of those shots.
Gary Rosen: "Having never served in the military, I hesitate to criticize the Brits..."
The incident reminded me of the old joke from World War II: "The British will always fight to the last American."
To DEC's comment which cited an old expression from the 1940s, I would add (or clarify) that I believe it referred to the British Army. The Royal Navy, which was at the end of a couple of centuries of being the dominant military force in the world, was still very good, as my father would attest to (while in the USN, he served alongside many Brits on escort missions and in hunter/killer groups in the North Atlantic and Med). He would say that they did more with less as compared to the USN -- I suppose as basic a definition of efficiency as there is.
As to the conduct of the 15 recently held in Tehran for almost two weeks, I am willing to wait until the MOD makes its findings known, but based on the comments made by several of the 15, it is hard to find a lot of fault. I think that if the IRGC had used different tactics (swarming all six boats in at once from, say, two miles away, which would have taken about 4 minutes at 30 knots), thereby allowing the lead officer perhaps a minute to make a decision to break off the inspection and retreat, there would be more room for second guessing. The first two Iranian boats came in with a friendly attitude before the other four more heavily armed boats came in to make it clear that it was a snatch and grab operation.
Once the Royal Navy has completed its investigation and wishes to resume inspection operations in the Northern Gulf (and assuming the location of the 15 Brits who were snatched was where the British say it was -- 1.7 miles inside Iraqi waters), it might want to put a crew of these guys in a RIB at the same location and see what happens. Not necessarily baiting a trap here for the IRGC, just wanting not to diminish the size of the patrol zone by backing down.
Escort81: "I would add (or clarify) that I believe it referred to the British Army."
Thanks for the additional info, Escort 81. My father told me the joke. He, too, was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was on the battleship USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
"Having never served in the military, I hesitate to criticize the Brits for surrendering in the face of overwhelming force because I don't know what I would have done myself. I'm pretty sure, though, that as a captive I wouldn't have been prancing around with a shit-eating grin in staged publicity photos, at least not without trying to subvert it like American POWs once did when they gave the finger in one of those shots."
Precisely. The military completely understands that our enemies tend to be brutal people who will torture captured US servicemembers, and the Code of Conduct is written with that in mind, with phrases like "to the best of my ability." Matter of fact, here it is.
I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
Should I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
I will never forget that I am an American fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America."
I dunno what similar code the Brits might have, but according to our Code, they failed in their duties according to Articles II, III, and V.