Treatment of Captives 16

Terry Jones makes the legitimate point that we should look at the mote in our own eye. Nor can we just point at the Americans. Baha Musa was undoubtedly no terrorist; yet this father was also undoubtedly beaten to death by Briitish soldiers when in British detention in Iraq. Nobody was convicted. He was by no means the only one.

Two wrongs do not make a right; nor was that the fault of any of those held captive in Iran. I pray that the Iranians treat them very well indeed – even better let them go immediately.

But the truth is that, thanks to Blair and Bush, we have no right any more to lecture any other country on universal rights and treatment of captives.

No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch

Terry Jones

Saturday March 31, 2007

The Guardian

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this – allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world – have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God’s sake, what’s wrong with putting a bag over her head? That’s what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it’s hard to breathe. Then it’s perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can’t be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn’t be able to talk at all. Of course they’d probably find it even harder to breathe – especially with a bag over their head – but at least they wouldn’t be humiliated.

And what’s all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It’s time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That’s one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guant’namo Bay.

The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn’t rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it’s just invaded. The inmates of Guant’namo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What’s more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting “stress positions”, which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It’s all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is “unhappy and stressed”.

What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her “unhappy and stressed”. She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer – whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.

‘ Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python

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16 thoughts on “Treatment of Captives

  • writeon

    One of things that I find darkly amusing, or perhaps I really mean grotesque, is that much of the best criticism and scepticism in relation to our military adventurism, comes from British humourists. Why is this?

    In the run-up to the attack on Iraq there was an awful lot of rubbish on the television about Iraq. However, the Rory Bremner Show was an island of sanity and biting satire, in sea of absurd government propaganda. Why was this?

    Perhaps because the "arguments" for the invasion were so transparently absurd and grotesquely distorted, that they were easy targets for humourists. It was as if the only sane reaction to the governments arguments, was laughter and ridicule.

    Time and time again one wondered. How is this possible? How can we have a government and a prime minister that lies with such ease about going to war?

    I remember thinking, this situation is "funny", or rather it would be "funny" if it wasn't so deadly serious, if real people, thousand and thousands of innocent people in Iraq were not going to die. What made it so ghastly was that they were going to die because of the crass and stupidly second-rate lies coming from Tony Blair and his cowardly cabinet.

    I often wonder if laughing in the face of horror isn't a very noble human reaction.

  • Richard II

    >No hoods. No electric shocks. No

    >beatings. These Iranians clearly are a

    >very uncivilised bunch

    So, we go from calling Iranians savages to claiming they are more civilized than us.

    Terry Jones clearly finds the hanging of two gay teenage boys perfectly acceptable, so acceptable, in fact, that he's forgotten all about it:

    "…subsequent information received from Iran…indicates that the charge of 'rape' against the two teens was entirely trumped up by the religious authorities who control the legal system and has no basis in fact."

    Terry Jones has also forgotten about the Iran-supported Shiite death squads roaming Iraq, targeting gay men.

    I can't find Doug Ireland's article – he has no search facility on his site! – so here is the article posted on someone's blog, with supplemental information:

    "Iran Exports Anti-Gay Pogrom to Iraq":

    Also here:

    "The Iraqi murders are the work of the Badr Corps, the military arm of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The largest political formation in Iraq's Shia community, SCIRI was headquartered in exile in Tehran until Saddam Hussein's fall.

    "…the Badr Corps' salaries are paid by Iran ? as a counselor of Sistani's, Ali Debbagh, who is a member of the Iraqi parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed in a Feb. 17 interview with Le Monde.

    "'We desperately need protection!' Tahseen [a gay Iraqi] pleaded. 'But, when we go to the Americans, they laugh at us and don't do anything.'

    "An April 10 report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed that gay Iraqis have been targeted for kidnapping and murder because of their sexual orientation. A week later, the BBC also carried a report, interviewing several victims. But U.S. major media have so far turned a blind eye to this systematic murder of gays in Iraq ? and to the refusal of the U.S. occupier to do anything to stop it."

    An article on the BBC's Web site:

    "A website published in the Iranian city of Qom in the name of Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, says: 'Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way'."

    According to Terry Jones, if a few British servicemen and women are treated fairly that makes everything hunky dory.

    The Iranians are not going to torture the British marines – they are not that stupid!

    But absence of torture is not evidence of civilized behaviour.

  • Craig


    You always reply to any posting with a rant about something else.

    Nobody is claiming the Iranian government is a good one. I have described elements of them as "theocratic nutters". On the other hand, the Persians have a very ancient civilisation that has much to commend it.

    Jones' point is that to date Iranian treatment of their captives contrasts very favourably with our treatment of Muslim captives. That is true.

  • simohurtta

    Remembering how little "respect" USA and also GB have shown to diplomats and citizens of other nations during the past years it seems to be time to take own medicine. After throwing the rule book in the garbage can it is somewhat hypocritical to demand others to behave.

  • Craig


    I think that there is also something about it of the Shakespearean concept of the license given to the fool. Rory Bremner and Terry Jones are allowed to say these things, but not quite taken seriously.

    If someone like me makes the points while claiming seriousness and intellectual and professional credibility, the result is ridicule and vilification. Foreign Policy describing me dismissively as a "Gadfly" (see below) is an example from the milder end of that spectrum of denigration.

  • Ed

    Hate to sound like an apoligist for the Iranian gov't but actually the "hanging of gay teenagers" thing isn't quite so clear cut as made out to be either:

    Washington Blade:

    But the circumstances that triggered the executions are now being questioned by several human rights groups, which claim the teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, may not have been killed for being gay….

    It appears that reports claiming the boys were executed for being gay originated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group that is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department….

    "It was not a gay case," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, taking issue with the Human Rights Campaign's statement that was quick to condemn the execution as anti-gay.

    "We would welcome HRC's involvement in demanding that our government speak out on human rights violations. It was just the wrong case," she said. blog_id=1786


    From Gay City News:

    As the beginning of the week, posted an article claiming

    that a gay man had been executed in Arak on August 16, and cited as its

    source the British newspaper The Observer. But, when this reporter

    reached the author of The Observer's article, the newspaper's

    social affairs editor Jamie Doward, he said that the newspaper had no

    independent source for his article's one sentence reference to this

    new execution, and that he obtained the information from a private

    e-mail he received from the British gay rights group OutRage…

    When this reporter tried to confirm from Iranian sources the reports

    that had appeared in The Observer and the French bulletin, an

    underground Tehran 'zine for gays published in Farsi-whose editors

    requested, out of fear, that neither their names nor that of their

    publication be cited-replied that a man had been hanged in Arak's

    public square on August 16, but that they had no information as to his




    "Doug Ireland began a campaign in Gay City News to prove that the Mashhad case was one of consensual homosexual sex, and that the Ahmadinejad regime was carrying out a "massive pogrom," an "intensifying crackdown." His reporting was deeply irresponsible. His claims about Mashhad relied entirely on second-hand sources. Ireland never confirmed those reports. No one has. His main source hasn't shared information directly, even with the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. Ireland proclaimed the rape charges "refuted."

    A few Iranian exile groups saw a new audience in Western gays. They began reporting multiple executions in Iran as gay-related. Ireland was one of many drawn into Iranian exile politics with little feel for its complexities. And he leapt ahead even of his secondhand sources?for instance, suggesting a rape trial in Arak was a trial for consensual homosexual sex even though voices within Iran clearly doubted it."

  • Richard II

    Historical, you need to have a go at Craig. Craig doesn't want to cover these issues, or properly inform people.

    He just posts up articles from newspapers, scores a few points with others, and writes a few words for his devoted followers to coo over.

    If Craig only knows about Uzbekistan, he should stick with Uzbekistan.

    Historical, what you've said doesn't help, though. If these teenagers weren't hanged for being gay, why were they hanged? And what about the killings in Iraq? I didn't get the impression from Doug Ireland's articles that a "massive pogrom" was taking place, however – more, opportunistic killings.

    As for "an opposition group that is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department" – should I trust the U.S. government's classification?

    Craig's site is clearly useless for finding out about the nature of these regimes, so we are left to do it ourselves.

    And that's why I post these things up, to allow others to correct me – I can only check so much!

    As much as Craig hates a "rant", it might clear up a few important points.

    At least your post was intelligent and polite, unlike Craig's criticism of me – but then what can I expect from a former government employee?

    I would normally have tried to find out more about what you said, Historical, but I've had enough.

    This is Craig's den, for him and his friends to discuss only what they want to discuss, not to get to the bottom of anything – so they can have it!

    Thanks, anyway, Historical.

  • greengorilla

    "One of things that I find darkly amusing, or perhaps I really mean grotesque, is that much of the best criticism and scepticism in relation to our military adventurism, comes from British humourists. Why is this?"

    I guess because the rest of them don't have any sense of humour to speak of. Unless, of course it's to make jokes about Johnny Foreigner who we all know is born inferior, is emotionally unbalanced and hence dangerous.

    Perhaps it's also because humourists are mostly sensitive people who know only too well their own dark demons. Uptight Blimps, on the other hand, project theirs onto non-white folk, most of the rest of the world 'surrounding' them.

    Just read the online UK Sunday Telegraph. Apparently the Brits are offering a compromise based on a juggling of semantics. Typically Blair but let's hope it does the trick.


  • Ray Turney

    Thanks for bringing up the point that the diplomatic issue of just where the territorial waters of Iran begin and end is unresolved.

    Agreed that the US is not exactly in a good position to talk about human rights at the moment. It is instigating a lot of low level really unsavory things which will eventually come back to haunt it. I take my hat off to Terry, his article is much funny than my post.

    Anyway, I added a link to Craig's blog on my blog at:

    P.S. As far as I know, I am not related to Fave Turney

  • Craig

    Hanging teenage boys in a public square is atrocious whatever they had done. I do take the point about the manipulaton of information by opposition groups though. It is worrying that, just as with Iraqi WMD, some of the info the US has given the Security Council on the Iranian nuclear programme has come from dubious opposition groups.

    Richard, I agree this website is not a great source on human rights abuse in Iran. It has never claimed to be. It can't cover every country in the World. It's a site about the things that I know a bit about myself. But that in no sense means I don't realise the himan rights situation in Iran is very bad.

    As with Iraq, I strongly suspect that the human rights situation in Iran will get massively worse if we invade it.

  • writeon


    Humour often functions as a kind of "safety valve" in various social situations. One choose to laugh, rather than cry. One of the worst things one can be acused of in england is lacking a sense of humour. An ironic distance is a national characteristic, at least among the educated.

    Terry Jones is a master of irony, but really he's a "moralist" whose hopping mad. But who wants to listen to an angry man raving? So one uses the only weapon available to one; one laughs at the powerful because one can't do anything else.

    One can also look at the role of the fool. The fool was allowed to say and do things which would have cost a normal person their heads!

    I think, in many respects, laughter undermines Power. In a way it's a shame we don't take humour more seriously!

    Craig, you really have to regard the distortion, vilification, ridicule and denigration, with the contept it deserves. This kind of unbalanced and irrational criticism goes with the territory when one steps forward and dares to speak truth to power. It's possible and advisable to turn this kind of criticism to one's advantage. One can do this by conciously deciding to "read" this kind of criticism as praise. It is a sign that one is doing one's job. It is a badge of honour. In fact the more one is attacked the better one should feel about oneself.

    I once wrote a short-story about a homosexual, communist, jewish, cabaret artist, working in Hamburg during the Nazi rise to power. He chose to dress himself as a Brownshirt on the upper part of his body, but from the waist down he wore the costume of a female ballet dancer, flamingo-pink tutu, tights and slippers. The few Nazis who wandered into the club were appoplectic with rage as he danced and goose-stepped around the tiny stage. Anyway, the louder the Nazi's shouted and cursed him, the bolder and more fearless he became. He became truly inspired and the muse found words for him that cut through the gathering darkness like a flaming sword.

  • writeon

    I don't wish to sound parronizing, but I think you're getting it! Be my guest and keep your chin up.

  • graeme

    To respond to Richard: I'm sure Terry Jones recognizes that Iran has a nasty government that often tortures captives. The difference in this case is that there would be intense consequences for torturing these particular captives.

    Moving on, the real point of what terry wrote is to mock the feigned outrage of the British government over the treatment of its sailors. Even if other prisioners in Iran are treated harshly, the fact remains that these British ones seem to be treated better than the prisoners taken in Iraq. The moral outrage is rather strained, and the article drives that home nicely.

    Also, lighten up. Terry Jones is from monty python for god's sake.

  • NightWatch

    How refreshing to find a serious site where most comment is constructive.

    I think someone else said it before me, but I think Terry is deadly serious.

    Of course he is also "right on".

    It is a rare breed of cat that can package a message like that.

    If only one single national reporter in my country (usa)had either the awaremess or the nuts to speak apart from the crowd.

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