Weird Vietnam Analogy, Part 5: Iranian Captives by mattsteinglass
April 7, 2007, 10:40 am
Filed under: Iraq, United States, Vietnam

Even in Britain, it seems, the ghosts of Vietnam are never far away. The Royal Navy captives hadn’t been back in the UK 2 days before they came under fire for their televised false “confessions” to having been in Iranian waters, says the NY Times:

“It was highly damaging that all of them apologized publicly for something they had not done,” said Sir Max Hastings, a military historian and former newspaper editor, in a BBC radio interview on Friday, comparing the Britons unfavorably to American pilots who withstood much crueler treatment in North Vietnam for much longer.

Just to get a few things straight: US POWs in North Vietnam served their country admirably, but many of them did “confess” to having committed war crimes, made radio broadcasts supporting the Communists and condemning US imperialism, and provided their captors with non-critical operational information. This is perfectly understandable; they were subjected to physical and psychological torture. Also, US POWs generally knew that they were going to be held for years, not days, which reduced the incentives to “confess” that were brought to bear on the Britons, who were told they would be let go quickly if they admitted to being in Iranian waters, but sentenced to 7 years if they didn’t. Overall, the main lesson to be drawn from both the experiences of US POWs in Vietnam and the Royal Navy captives in Iran is that physical and psychological torture is a great way to get people to say things that are not true, and a lousy way to find out information that is true.


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Whatever happened to the “name, rank and serial number” of the Second World War. Leaving aside the question of women on ‘Men of War’ the men in question did not have the bearing of the old Royal Navy. The US prisoners were often beaten severely and showed it. There is something terribly fragile about the men of today.

Comment by Rose

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