Instead of being spellbinding television with tales of hardship and physical threats meted out to the navy personnel, it was instead, a damp squib of a story which even the highly respected Mr McDonald seemed almost amused to be presiding over. For in reality, there was nothing to tell. Most Britons who have been on a cheap package holiday would come back with tales that were more frightening than those of Miss Turney and her colleagues. Perhaps that is why to date only two of the ‘hostages have ‘sold out’ to the press.
The Navy is hardly suffering the same hardship in the Gulf as it’s sister forces. It has the soft option of patrolling the disputed waters between Iraq and Iran, gathering intelligence and attempting to stop smuggling of prohibited goods into Iran. It is not under serious threat from attack, as the skies are controlled by the allies and neither Iran nor Iraq are known as a great naval threat. So perhaps it is for this reason that the personnel on HMS Cornwall have got complacent and allowed two of their patrol boats to be ‘escorted’ into Iran – you could hardly call it kidnapped as by her own admission Faye Turney stated the initial contact with the Iranians seemed friendly. It seems the HMS Cornwall personnel – for whatever reason – had let their guard down and allowed an opportunistic Iranian patrol to seize the initiative.
From there, as we all know, it snowballed and the navy captives became a pawn in a much bigger battle for the hearts and minds of the respective home countries. Tony Blair insisted the patrols had most definitely been in Iraqi waters at the time they were apprehended and the Ministry of Defence issued a map showing the exact location of the patrols against the red border line. As usual though, they were being ‘economical with the truth’ and it came to light – as it always does – there is no agreed border between Iraq and Iran.
So back to the main point; why were the 15 naval personnel given permission to sell their stories? Well, it is obvious that the Iranians had scored a great PR goal against the West. They exposed a weakness in the military might of western forces at a time when Iran is facing increasing rumblings from the US over development of its nuclear capacity. In short they gave us all a mischievous black eye and then gave us a ‘gift’ by releasing the ‘captives’
So what better way for the British government to regain lost ground, than for the ‘captives’ to tell their stories of hardship at Iranian hands to the waiting world. After all, the media would lap it up as it was an easy story for the hacks who could then be home early for Easter. Unfortunately, no-one had banked on the lack of ‘hardship’ to be told and the fact only two of the captives took up the offer. There were no bruises to be displayed and only perceived threats to be talked of. They say a picture tells a thousand words and unfortunately the pictures the Iranians took – of a laughing, smiling, compliant group of people – had already taken root as the true state of events.
Faye Turney has allowed herself to be used as a pawn firstly by the Iranians, and then by her own government’s spin machine. She has shown a lack of judgement which will not be glossed over by sharing some of her spoils with the crew of her ship. While those military personnel who face real danger on the front line in both Iraq and Afghanistan live in everyday fear of dying, she is now able to enjoy her fortune.
It is a bad day for the reputation of the once great British Navy. Once again they have managed to lose two craft!
Who would bet against Ms.Turney leaving the service and increasing her potential by being voluntarily incarcerated in the Big Brother house by this time next year?