Revolution #85, April 22, 2007

Who is Holding Whom Hostage?

Who is Mistreating Captives?

Who is the Criminal Aggressor?

The recent “hostage” face-off between Britain and Iran stinks of enormous hypocrisy on the part of the U.S. and Britain. While Bush and Blair denounce Iran for “illegally” seizing British personnel and Bush cries “hostage”—the U.S. is routinely taking Iranian officials hostage in Iraq. Since the beginning of 2007, the U.S. has seized Iranians inside Iraq three times, once with the cooperation of Iraqi government forces. All were Iranian officials in Iraq legally, and all but one are still being held without any formal charges, without any means of redress. The Iranian government is not even being allowed to see its personnel, and the U.S. only recently allowed a Red Cross visit.

One Iranian captive—Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at Iran’s embassy in Baghdad, seized by Iraqi Ministry of Defense forces—was released just prior to Iran’s release of the British military personnel. The U.S. denied any involvement in his seizure, but the U.S. oversees the operation of the Iraqi Defense Ministry and works closely with it. When Sharafi returned to Tehran he said he’d been brutally interrogated and tortured with a U.S. official present (which the U.S. denies). According to the BBC (4/12), Jalal Sharafi appeared at a Tehran news conference and gave a detailed account of beatings and harsh interrogations, including being whipped on his feet with cables and tortured with an electric drill. A Red Cross official has confirmed that he saw marks on Sharafi's feet, legs, back and nose, and an Iranian psychiatrist said that Sharafi was suffering from sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, and a mock execution.

All of this is treated by the U.S. government and media as if it is perfectly normal and routine—barely worth mention—and certainly not worthy of condemnation and exposure. This is a chilling illustration of the degree to which the Bush program of institutionalizing illegal detentions and torture, and stripping people of legal rights, has been institutionalized and normalized.

The government and the media—in both the U.S. and Britain—kicked up a fuss about the sole British female captured being forced to wear a veil. And forcing Seaman Faye Turney (or any woman) to wear a veil is reactionary and reflects the repressive, anti-woman politics and ideology of Iran's Islamic Republic. But it paled in comparison to U.S. treatment of its prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and elsewhere. As British novelist Ronan Bennett noted in the Guardian (3/30):

“Turney may have been ‘forced to wear the hijab’, as the Daily Mail noted with fury, but so far as we know she has not been forced into an orange jumpsuit. Her comrades have not been shackled, blindfolded, forced into excruciating physical contortions for long periods, or denied liquids and food. As far as we know they have not had the Bible spat on, torn up or urinated on in front of their faces. They have not had electrodes attached to their genitals or been set on by attack dogs.”

“They have not been hung from a forklift truck and photographed for the amusement of their captors. They have not been pictured naked and smeared in their own excrement. They have not been bundled into a CIA-chartered plane and secretly ‘rendered’ to a basement prison in a country where torturers are experienced and free to do their worst.”

And on the most basic level—what right do the U.S. and Britain have to cry “hostage” and denounce “illegal” Iranian actions, or even utter the words “international law,” after they illegally invaded and conquered the entire nation of Iraq—killing over 600,000 people in the process? When they now hold 25 MILLION Iraqis hostage to their imperialist occupation? And when they’re engaged in unjust aggression—on many fronts—and may well be preparing for yet another bloody, horrific, and utterly criminal war against Iran?

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