AT THE start of the Iranian hostage crisis I was quite indignant. How dare they argue with our Government s statement that the sailors were in Iraqi waters when captured? How dare they hold on to our people without either charging them or releasing them?
AT THE start of the Iranian hostage crisis I was quite indignant. How dare they argue with our Government's statement that the sailors were in Iraqi waters when captured?
How dare they hold on to our people without either charging them or releasing them? How dare they deny our Government consular access to its people?
Then I started thinking more clearly. The UK Government's reputation for statements that could be relied upon was hard won over many years, and it survived right up to The Falklands Campaign and the First Gulf War. Then we had the campaign to support the theory of Iraqi nuclear and biological weapons in the run up to the Second Gulf War ... Shall we content ourselves with saying that, from that stage, our Government found itself with a credibility problem?
I was brought up on the idea that Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus showed the world the way when it came to human rights and how justice should be administered. Then we found ourselves, as a nation, "acquiescing" in the operation of Guantanamo. I know that our Government did not actually support the idea, but its protests have been squeaks rather than roars.
Certainly in the eyes of many Muslim states, we are seen as accomplices in that process. And how would you summarise the essential differences between what was done to the inhabitants of Guantanamo (particularly those who were subjected to "Extraordinary Rendition") and what Iran did to 15 British sailors?
Don't get me wrong. I believe quite firmly that our sailors were in Iraqi waters when they were kidnapped. I find it quite offensive to see captives (even if they had been fighting) paraded on the world's TV screens and patently being coerced into propaganda broadcasts.
But I am disappointed that the UK Government has thrown away our ability to take the moral high ground on incidents like this.
Thank goodness our sailors were eventually released, even if the propaganda victory went conclusively to the Iranians.