Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sale of Stories "Offensive" - Roger Gale

North Thanet`s MP Roger Gale, a former journalist and TV producer, has condemned as "offensive to the memory of those servicemen and women who have died" the sale, by some military personnel taken hostage by Iran, of their stories to the press.

"There are now many - too many - Members of Parliament who have lost young constituents in Iraq and Afghanistan" says the MP "and their families and those of us who represent them know that they will never be able to tell their stories to their wives, their mothers, their fathers or their children, never mind to the media.

I have personally been battling to hold the Prime Minister to his undertaking to make adequate facilities available so that bereaved families may be professionally and legally represented at the inquests into the deaths of fallen servicemen and women. To date the Government has declined to honour that promise and yet is apparently willing to allow those who have returned from captivity in Iran to capitalise on their experiences while still serving in the armed forces: I find that offensive to the memory of those who have given everything in the service of their country.

I would like to think that those - newspapers and those who have sold stories - will now think long and hard and donate the money to a service charity to help to ensure that those who have lost their loved ones in conflict do not have to pay for their own legal representation at inquests. That would at least go to right what is a huge wrong"


Anonymous said...

As an ex-service-man, I am so ashamed to see this nonsense happening. This appears to be a callous propagandist stunt by the Government to allow stories to be splattered across front pages to try to show how 'beastly' those Iranians were to our boys and girl!
Last week some of the papers reported how the Americans picked up a British Citizen in the Gambia and how he was flown to Afghanistan and then onto Guantanamo Bay. If you want to see how badly treated hostages can be, read the US accounts of treatment at Guantanamo of hostages kept without trial for more than 5 years. Our boys and girl should consider themselves lucky they were held captive by Iran and not by our so called 'coalition partner'.

Doctor Doom said...

Much as I hate to agree in any way shape or form with Roger Gale, MP, his comments on the latest bizarre twist in the “Iranian hostages” saga cannot be faulted.

It seemed things simply could not get any worse. Not only did the captured British military, after a matter of just a few days, cave in totally to their captors, not just admitting guilt, but writing letters to our own government stating our policy to be wrong (it is, but I don't expect those entrusted to the safety of our nation to say so on foreign tv). But they then thanked the president (again on tv) for his hospitality in looking after them, and even accepted gifts to take back to the UK.

I didn’t quite expect them to be court-martialled on their return, but at the very least some serious dressing downs and urgent re-training seemed in order.

But no, the UK military supreme commanders backed them 100% (the only criticism from on high, incredibly, was that the now famous Miss Faye smoked during her televised confession!), told us this is what captured troops are told to do nowadays, and generally carried on as if the "hostages" had been tortured on the rack and had barely escaped with their lives. In fact it transpires they were blindfolded and kept in solitary for a few days.

These are the elite armed forces to whom we entrust the safety and defence of our nation? Well pardon me for being unimpressed.

Before the questions flood in let me say that I was arrested in East Berlin many years ago for photographing the Berlin Wall from the inside, and spent an unpleasant few hours in detention courtesy of the East German comrades, and more recently was held by the militia in Sierra Leone, and let me assure you all I was extremely cooperative. In a situation like in Iran I’m pretty sure I’d have reacted very similarly to the way our troops did.

The difference being I’m not a volunteer (and let’s be clear, these were volunteers, not conscripts) in one of the world’s supposedly elite armed forces. I don’t parade around the world in uniform with a gun slung over my shoulder playing the tough guy, boarding unarmed ships and dictating what other countries can or cannot transport at sea.

And I certainly would not expect to be allowed, let alone actively encouraged, to sell my story to the highest bidder when I got back.

At least one of those held has intimated he would give any proceeds to charity. Sadly it seems most if not all the others will be lining their pockets. Of course their stories of what “really happened” will be repeated across the world, and especially in Iran, I expect. But when the Iranian public are told the “captives” were paid apparently six-figure sums for their version of events then this will be just another propaganda victory for President Ahmadinajad.

Don’tcha just hate it when Roger Gale is right?

Anonymous said...

It's a disaster for the reputation of our armed forces. The latest videos out of Iran show them to be having a rather good time but conceals the true emotional torture of having to smoke Iranian cigarettes and eat pitta bread and cocal cola with their rice.

chris wells said...

This appears to be the ultimate in labour spin tactics, and the ultimate in their worship of money.

This undermines the integrity of our armed forces, and plays into the hands of the enemy propogandists every time.

Tony Beachcomber said...

Why is then, when a high ranking officer, general or whatever makes a public comment, it is a slap on the back for acting in the public/tory interest. Yet other ranks must know their place as Roger Gale is suggesting, sounds like double standards to me.

Anonymous said...

Tony, come off it! Roger Gale has not said anything of the sort! Even our inept master at the MOD and his boss Tony are wriggling over this whole sad saga. It has been a long tradition that service-men and women do not talk in such a way to the media and that MOD retains the right to vet what is said before it is said! This, by the way, includes senior officers in retirement wishing to publish memoirs!
It is quite clear that Des Browne and Tony Blair were 'aware' i.e. had been briefed over media approaches and were happy for interviews for money to go ahead, no matter how they might attempt to duck the issue now. I am afraid I see this as yet another example of inept governance from a Labour Government that has passed its sell by date. The disgust felt by servicemen and women and bereaved families runs very deeply, if quietly, on this issue.

Some might argue that by allowing such nonsense, the Defence Minister has cleverly diverted attention away from the real scandal of how one of Her Majesty's Ships managed to have 15 members of its crew grabbed by Iran in the first place. Will we have an Inquiry?