While looking for the latest on the 15 British sailors and marines hanging on in Tehran's Hijab Hilton I accidentally stepped in a big pile of Melanie Phillips' column from the insufferable Daily Mail of March 28th. The very fact that Phillips' spews on behalf of the Hate Mail and is the author of a laughable book called Londonistan should discount her as an authoritative source on matters Middle Eastern, but I have to admit I had only rarely read her filth and was in the mood for a bit of rough, so I took the plunge. Here's some of the choicer cuts:
"Admiral Lord Nelson must be revolving in his grave. While on patrol in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq, 15 Royal Marines and sailors were seized by Iran on a trumped up charge that they had entered Iranian waters.....
We have consistently shown we are not prepared to defend ourselves. In 2004, the British servicemen who were kidnapped by Iran were spirited to Tehran and paraded blindfold on television, which broadcast their apprehensive apologies for a ‘big mistake’. It was an act of war against us. We let them get away with it....
Third, we should announce that we are seeking a UN resolution condemning the kidnap of our Marines and enabling us to use ‘all necessary means’ to get them back. And we should back this up with some significant moves by a couple of frigates. In short, we need to rattle some sabres through a far more muscular and indeed coercive diplomacy...." (the rest of this crap is here, if you must)
How nice of Ms. Phillips, a woman of late middle age and as far as I can tell no military reserve obligations, to offer up the lives of young British servicemen and women in pursuit of some vague notion of national outrage (outrage missing, it appears, from Britain's High Streets). We don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go, and all that. Perhaps in an effort to drum up troops for her proposed diversionary effort she'd like to stand outside some of Britain's rougher housing estates handing out white feathers to those of military age not in uniform. Wikipedia notes she has two children: if they are of age, can we presume they are doing their bit for the Union Jack, defending British honour against johnny foreigner and reminding him whose empire it is anyway?
Of course, Ms. Phillips makes no mention as to why Britain's name is mud in Iran, and has been long before any of the Ayatollahs were born. For those of you interested in the subject,this book is a decent place to start; if you want to get a grip on the Anglo-Iranian thing in the context of American policy, this one is rather good. But for Phillips that would of course mean reading things that don't cleave to her pre-existing world view. Of course seizing the sailors was a dumb move (didn't the Iranians understand that Royal Navy tars on shore for more than 20 minutes without access to cheap lager become unmanageable?) but acting as if the Iranians had given the Queen a dirty sanchez is even dumber.
Oh and Phillips, take your horrible mitts off Nelson, thank you very much. We Norfolk types don't care for his misappropriation by idiots. To suggest that Horatio would have chased pell mell after the Iranians betrays a breathtaking ignorance of the great man's methods. Bold and decisive he may have been, but he was also a meticulous planner who never fought a battle half-cocked or on terms of another's choosing.
Notwithstanding the above, I may have to start reading Phillips' column on a regular basis, if only to read her inevitable insistence that the British Government reactivate the Bengal Lancers to pursue the killers of cricket coach Bob Woolmer lest Britain's national honour wither on the vine.