Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fortunes to hostages

I agree with pretty much everybody else, for pretty much the standard reasons, that the sailors and marines held by the Iranians shouldn’t have been allowed to sell their stories. But I see it as an minor, stupid misjudgement that warrants a couple of slapped wrists and red faces – it’s not a national scandal that merits all this shrieking about public inquiries and resignations.

Almost any policy can lead to controversy, and there’s always easy mileage in throwing around outraged blame. The media are a storm in search of a teacup.

I wonder what would have happened if the 15 had been prevented from going public…

Gagged By Iran, Then Gagged By The MoD
By our reporter Frank Blunt

What has this government got against our servicemen and women? First it sends them to the Middle East on a Texan fool’s errand – arming them with rifles that jam every other shot and forcing them to fork out for their own boots. Then it protects them so feebly that a bunch of third world fanatics can seize 15 of them without any comeback.

And now it refuses to let them tell their side of the story.

Sure, they can sit at a Ministry of Defence press conference, under the watchful eye of the government spin-masters, and accept the blame for themselves while they parrot the party line. But they’re not allowed to speak out freely.

Tory defence spokesman Hubert Blatherton is spot on when he asks what Labour has to hide: “We know some of the blunders that led to this public humiliation at the hands of Iran. But why does the government insist on keeping from us the full story? They should known by now that there’s a time to stop spinning and let the truth out.”

We’re told the sky would fall in if the freed hostages earned a few quid to add to their modest wages. But all the while, well-fed ministers – including the ones responsible for the state of our armed forces – are signing six-figure deals to dish the dirt in their memoirs.

As Faye Turney’s mother tells us in her exclusive interview (see pages 7–12), “My girl spent all that time in isolation, being forced to put her name to propaganda and lies. Now she’s back home, we can’t understand why she’s still not allowed to speak for herself.”

The continued gagging of these young men and woman, who risked their lives for their country (on the orders of Tony Blair), sends a terrible message to the world about Britain’s contempt for its service personnel. This air of secrecy and off-the-record briefings stands in stark contrast to the smiling images of President Ahmadinejad openly shaking hands and chatting with the 15.

Once again, Britain has been shamed by Blair’s control-freakery and obsession with spin. The sooner he’s out of a job, the better – and let’s lose the gormless, gutless Des Browne while we’re at it.

No comments: