Sunday, April 08, 2007

Return for Profit

**UPDATE***/1002 am PDT

Michelle Malkin has a timely link to a London Telegraph story that relates directly to the issue of wartime media coverage, and who the press defines as "hero."

Seems that the oh-so-politically-correct BBC is refusing to air a drama on British Private Johnson Beharry, Britain's youngest surviving winner of the Victoria Cross (see below). The "Beeb" says that airing the program might offend audience members who are opposed to the Iraq War.

Did we mention that Private Beharry is also the first black British subject to win the V.C.? Could there be an element of racism at work here? The BBC, of course, would deny that, but it makes as much sense as the b---s--- excuse offered by the network.

I second Michelle's idea. Perhaps Fox News could purchase the program and air it here in the states (and on their sister network, Sky News, in Great Britain). She also has a link to the British MoD site which has the full citation for Beharry's V.C.


A hat tip to Scott Johnson at Powerline, for pointing out this London Sunday Times article on those recently-released British prisoners.

As the Times reports, there is growing outrage in Great Britain over a Ministry of Defense to let the former captives sell their stories to the media. Reading some of the quotes in the Times article, it sounds like the repatriated sailors and marines are almost gleeful at the prospect of a big payday, based on their experiences in captivity.

"One of the hostages, Dean Harris, 30, an acting sergeant in the Royal Marines, told a Sunday Times reporter yesterday: “I want £70,000. That is based on what the others have told me they have been offered. I know Faye has been offered a heck more than that. I am worth it because I was one of only two who didn’t crack.”

Well, that certainly puts him in the same league as Nelson, Wellington and Montgomery, doesn't it? Why, given his "heroism," I'd say 70,000 pounds is a media bargain. Heck, why doesn't the Blair Government simply complete the coronation by awarding the Victoria Cross (V.C.) to some of the former detainees. At first blush, that sounds like a sick joke, but sadly, there are hints that such an honor might be in the works. Justifying the decision to let the 15 sell their stories, an MoD spokeman indicated that their ordeal was "in some ways similar" to those who have won the V.C., Britain's highest award for military valor. Past winners of the Victoria Cross have been allowed to "sell" their stories in the past, on a case-by-case basis.

Obviously, I've never served in the British military, but I don't see how any politician or defense official could actually propose the V.C. for sailors and marines who gave up without a fight, and spent part of their captivity apologizing to the Iranians. The same holds true for comparing the captives ordeal to the actions of military personnel who have received the Victoria Cross. Consider the example of Private Johnson Beharry, the only British solider (so far) to win the V.C. in Iraq, or Corporal Bryan Budd, who received the medal (posthmously) for his actions in Afghanistan. If their personal courage and valor are typical of V.C. winners (and they are), then it would be an insult to Beharry, Budd, and the 1,300 past recipients of the Victoria Cross to consider a similar honor for the former detainees from Iran--or compare the captives' actions to those of true British military heroes.

The conduct of the captured British personnel is also in sharp contract to the behavior of our own Marine embassy guards in Tehran, taken prisoner when Iranian radicals seized the U.S. embassy in 1979, and held our personnel captive for 444 days. One of those former Marines has recounted his experiences at IMAO, and it provides quite a contrast to the recent standoff between British military personnel and their Iranian captors. According to the former hostage, the Marines in Tehran resisted from the first day of captivity, until the end of their ordeal:

When we were first taken, the Iranians took us into a room individually and asked us to sign a statement denouncing the US policy in Iran, Israel, the Shah, etc. The Marines signed with names such as Michael Mouse, Chesty Puller, Dan Daly (google the last two...Marine Corps legends), Harry Butz, etc.

During the ordeal they would try to tape us for propaganda purposes. Personally, I would keep looking down to the ground or hide behind others so that my face wouldn't show (in fact, after a couple of months of not seeing me in any of the videos my records I was classified as MIA). Another Marine and I shared the same cell and when they came in with cameras we'd strip down. I heard a rumor that one of the other Marines smeared ketchup on his face and started howling.

They day before they released us, we were taken to a room with a camera and Mary the Terrorist who was going to interview us. We were threatened that if we didn't say the right things we wouldn't be released. Some Marines gave only name rank and SSN, others sang (Marine Corps Hymn or God Bless America), others just said nothing.

On the day they let us go, I was being herded towards the airplane by a couple of those monkeys. I pulled my arm out of their grasp and let them know that "We're number one"...but used the wrong finger.
For our troubles we were isolated, thumped, went through two mock executions, starved, threatened, and had to put up with useful idiots from Amnesty International showing up just to let the world know how humane we were being treated.

We resisted at each opportunity, except for Army Sgt Joe Subic who collaborated from day 1 and was later snubbed by the rest of us (and was the only one not to receive a citation). We refused to cooperate, stole keys, plugged toilets, pissed in their rations, blew circuit breakers, laughed in their face when they threatened us and cursed them when they beat us. Steve Kirtley even told one of them to pull his finger! The monkey did and Steve was beaten for the inevitable result.

We did this because we were first and foremost, MARINES! Our honor and loyalty to the United States gave us the courage. We would rather die (and that was a definite possibility) than to shame ourselves, our Corps, or our Country. We had to live up to our history and got to measure ourselves and our actions against those of greater men.

Yes, we broke now and then. But would immediately pick ourselves back up and go back to fighting. Which, by the way, confused the hell out of the monkeys!

Pity the poor Brits. All they had was the history of the E.U. and the U.N. as examples.

Semper Fi

In fairness, we should note that the British MoD has approved the former captives selling their stories to the media, so their efforts are unseemly, but hardly illegal. Indeed, with the returned sailors and marines still on active duty, the Defense Ministry apparently believes it can influence their accounts, and use the incident as a potential public relations bonanza.

But the Brits might also learn from our own, frentic attempt to "create" a hero in the early days of the Iraq War. Remember the story of Private Jessica Lynch, captured by Saddam's forces when her logistics convoy became lost and was ambushed? Initial accounts described Private Lynch as a female Rambo, bravely defending her unit--despite serious wounds--until she ran out of ammo and was captured.

As we later learned, the reality of that event was much, much different. Seriously injured and knocked unconscious in the ambush, Private Lynch remembers little of the incident and her subsequent captivity. She later disputed initial accounts of her "heroic" defense, describing herself as merely a "survivor." But Private Lynch still signed a lucrative media deal to tell her "story," including a made-for-TV movie, and a biography, written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg. Lynch was medically retired from the Army (due to the injuries she suffered in Iraq), and is now a college student in her native West Virginia. She attends school on a full scholarship and lives in a new home, two additional "benefits" that were awarded upon her return from Iraq.

Of course, there were some genuine heroes in the Jessica Lynch saga, including the special forces teams that freed her and "Omar," the Iraqi lawyer who risked his life to tell the U.S. military where she was being held. And finally, there's Army PFC Patrick Miller, the soldier in Lynch's unit who actually performed many of the heroic deeds orginally attributed to her. Accounts of Miller's deeds didn't surface until months later, and he never signed any sort of media deal (to my knowledge). Private Miller did receive the Silver Star, he was promoted to Sergeant, and at last report, was still in the Army. In an age when valor is often defined in terms of media exposure, it's nice to know that some heros don't have a dollar sign associated with them.

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