Sometimes I write these things and don’t post them immediately, and then they seem wildly out of date. But it’s still worth putting them out there. Blogging doesn’t have to be completely reactive. Sometimes it should take the longer-term, contemplative view. So I offer this.
It seems obvious to me that, if your navy personnel are captured by the forces of a foreign power, in peacetime, and accused of being in the foreign power’s waters, then what you should do is as follows:
You say, “Oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to have them off station; didn’t think they were, actually, but if they were, we’re sorry.” Even, and let me make this quite clear, if you know perfectly well that they weren’t in the other power’s territory.
That, it seems to me, would be the diplomatic thing to do
So why did they not do that? My best guess is that they – the British government – were worried about losing face.
‘Losing face.’ It’s a strange thing for the government of what is still a fairly major world power to be worrying about, isn’t it? After all, it’s not as if making such a guarded admission and apology would actually have done Britain any harm, would it?
And it might have got the captured service people home a few days earlier – and without being humiliated on TV – you never know. Perhaps, even, the Iranian government would have apologised in their turn, and admitted that they might have made a mistake.
That last seems almost likely, given that they did appear to concede quite graciously in the end. But what do I know? I’m neither diplomat nor politician, and there might be some way in which doing what I suggested right from the start would have been political suicide. And obviously things will have been going on in the background of which we know nothing. But still…
And then they get home and tell their stories. I seem to be the only person in the country who thinks like this, but I see no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to profit from doing so. Somebody is going to profit from the stories being told, so why shouldn’t it be the ones to whom they happened?
Sure, if it’s against the rules of the service, then that’s the deal they signed up for. But since the Ministry of Defence authorised it, then at the very least, I don’t see how you can blame the sailors.
I speak as someone who likes to write; so if I imagine myself into a situation like that, I know I would want to write my story once I had escaped. And if I could go on to sell it for professional publication, then you’re damn right I would want to do so. Why not?
The reported reactions of some of the families of service personnel who have died in Iraq is, to my mind, a red herring. There’s no direct comparison. As far as I know, there’s nothing to stop those families from writing, telling, or selling their own stories, or those of their lost ones. If they choose not to, that’s fine. But the two situations are quite different.