Downing Street has been working furiously yet in vain to portray the capture of the British sailors in the worst possible light. It seems that everything the Blair government touches turns to stone.
The first thing they did to the marines was to rake them over the coals for their behaviour and for being unacceptably calm and un-terrified. They were then summarily rolled out in front of the cameras and made to read a carefully prepared, albeit incoherent script, which documented their “horrific and inhumane” treatment at the hands of the Iranians.
The Iranians evidently knew what to expect after they had released their captives, and had some compelling footage of the marines looking remarkably sanguine, which raises the question.
Were the marines acting very convincingly while in captivity or acting very badly when they gave their press conference? The contrast is stark. Appearing in front of the Iranian cameras, the marines were able to speak without a script, whereas the choreographed British state propaganda stunt showed them with scripts in their hands, reading out a staccato sequence of nonsensical claims apparently designed to somehow convince the world that they had been through something of a nightmare.
With the official story changing from one day to the next, it’s little wonder why the Blair government is so worried. It was revealed that one of the marines had told Sky News that they were spying on Iran before they were captured, and it turns out someone in Iran happened to be watching the TV when this interview was being broadcast.
Once again, it looks like Iran won this round in the PR battle – and it gets worse.
Just when you thought they couldn’t make more of a mess than they already have, the British MOD authorize the marines to sell their stories to local papers. Craig Murray has some interesting thoughts:
It is worth noting that the MOD have announced that the ex-captives will be “Advised” by MOD press officers in writing their stories, which will be subject to approval by their commanding officer, Both the MOD, the ex-captives and the tabloids will have an interest in exaggerating the horror of their captivity. It is worth remembering now that the senior officer with the party said explicitly at their press conference that they were not subject to mock execution. Despite the newspapers giving the impression they were blindfold all the time, one of them said that they had blindfolds put on when they were led to the toilet. I am sure it was all a horrible experience.
Any man on the street could have told you this would turn into a PR disaster for Downing Street.
The British government has banned all military service members from talking to the media in return for payment following a storm of protests over interviews with the 15 marines and sailors who were held captive in Iran.