Saying whatever they want you to

So, it turns out that the boundary between Iraqi and Iranian waters that the British and the Iranians were fussing over has never been defined and Iran appears to have backed down in its confrontation with Britain over fifteen British sailors it had seized, extracted confessions from, and now pardoned and released.

My favorite professor thinks that it is really Britain who backed down, but now that the sailors are back in British hands, they have, according to bulletins from the BBC and the U.S. broadcast network, ABC, repudiated the confessions Iran attributed to them, declaring that they were in Iraqi–not Iranian–waters at the time, and that the Iranians had put them under “psychological pressure.” My professor thinks the British and Iranians made a deal — Prime Minister Tony Blair certainly hinted as much when he had said that the next 48 hours would be crucial and for the Iranian president to call the release a “gift to Britain” suggests his satisfaction with the outcome.

Whatever happened behind closed doors, each side has scored its propaganda points. While those fifteen sailors undoubtedly had the experience of their lives, it seems they’re now safely back in Britain, telling authorities there what they want to hear, just as, perhaps, they “confessed” to the authorities in Iran what they wanted to hear.

I can only hope that perhaps through some sort of catharsis, this outcome reduces the chances that the United States will attack Iran. If it doesn’t, Noam Chomsky advocates popular protest such as that which “frightened the political-military leadership enough in 1968 that they were reluctant to send more troops to Vietnam — fearing, we learned from the Pentagon Papers, that they might need them for civil-disorder control.”

Uncharacteristically, such protests might have an impact. The Bush administration now seems in retreat. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has embarassed neoconservatives, taking up the quest for peace between Israel and Syria. Bush was “too busy” to throw out the first pitch of the baseball season; Susie Bright suspects Bush “feared the stadium crowd would boo and jeer [his] arrival” and comments at length on the sexual politics of presidential crisis. The conservative Washington Times carried a story about a popular demand for impeachment; an online petition counts over 863,000 “votes” in favor.

But as has previously been noted here, Tony Blair is hardly in better shape. It is something of a miracle, from the reports I’ve been seeing, that the man is still in office, having served as Presidential Poodle, led his country into two unpopular wars alongside his master, and been implicated in an honours scandal. Where Susie Bright sees sexual politics as a diversion from Bush’s troubles, the crisis between Iran and Britain also serves as a diversion for Blair.

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