Mutiny in the Gulf?

Tony Blair rails against the shameless parading of the 15 captured Brits with his usual vigor, but what really takes the air out of his rhetoric is the alacrity with which the detainees have turned against their own government.

It’s been less than a full week since they were taken into custody, and already the woman, Faye Turney, has written three letters, two of them overtly critical of the British government and its foreign policy. Both Ms. Turney and Nathan Summers have gone on television, admitted to being in Iranian waters when apprehended, and apologized profusely to the Iranian people. They don’t appear to have been coerced, although, of course, their very presence in Iran is hardly voluntary: no doubt they’ll be judged victims of the “Stockholm syndrome” upon their return.

Blair avers that the Iranians “aren’t fooling anyone” with this exhibition of prisoners, and their clearly staged “confessions,” and yet one has to wonder why these frontline sailors turned so quickly. It’s embarrassing. No signs of torture, no glassy-eyed stare, no Morse code eyebrow movements signifying extreme distress, all perfectly calm and even natural:

“I ask the representatives of the House of Commons, after the government have promised that this type of incident would not happen again, why have they let this occur, and why has the government not been questioned over this? Isn’t it time for us to start withdrawing our forces from Iraq and let them determine their own future?”

That doesn’t sound at all like the stilted propaganda spiels coerced out of prisoners during, say, the Vietnam war. It sounds like an ordinary disgusted British citizen who blames her own government, rather than her captors, for her present predicament. “Why has the government not been questioned over this?” — indeed. In yet another letter recently released, Ms. Turney declared: “I’m writing to you as a British serviceperson who has been sent to Iraq, sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair government.” The accusatory nationalist undertone, implying not too subtly that Blair is Bush’s poodle, is unmistakable and, under the circumstances, astonishing. Next we hear of Ms. Turney, she’ll be running for Parliament alongside George Galloway on the “Respect” ticket, and booked solid for a speaking tour of America.

I don’t mean to be disdainful of either of these two, whose predicament I can only imagine, but I think their behavior says something about the tenuous hold the official ideology has over our own centurions. One has to assume that the views of this bunch are, while expressed under duress, at least to some extent, a) sincere — how else to explain Ms. Turney’s eloquence? — and, b) fairly representative. If so, one has to wonder how long before their loyalty to the War Party is exhausted. The “coalition” hasn’t even attacked Iran yet, and already the troops are rebelling. Can we look forward to a full-scale mutiny if and when it comes to war?