UPDATE: One explanation was that there was a GPS problem that lead to a navigation error that brought the two boats into Iranian waters. I don't know; that doesn't sound realistic to me.
As a former U.S. Navy officer, I have to demur from the Obama administration's self-congratulations for peacefully "resolving" the capture and imprisonment of 10 sailors who were manning the two riverine command boats in the Persian Gulf.
Major questions remain about force protection, international law and sovereignty.
- How did the Iranians capture the boats? By force of arms, threat of attack? Is that a violation of U.S. sovereignty, no matter where the boats were.
- Did the boats "wander" off course because of mechanical problems, or were they on a spy mission near the Iranian naval base on Farsi Island? Did the sailors make a basic mistake in navigation?
- If the cause was a mechanical problem, what exactly was it and and how are they being addressed to avoid possible future engagements.
- Were the boats actually in international waters when they were captured? If they were in Iranian waters, how far off Farsi Island does Iran claim that their territorial waters extend? Three miles? Twelve miles? Twenty miles? Are those waters claimed as Iranian territory actually recognized as such by the international community?
- Did the Iranians violate the Geneva Convention or international law by showing pictures of the American captives? Did the Iranians violate international law or the Convention by requiring a sailor to "apologize" on camera? Did the sailors violate regulations by giving more than their names and serial numbers?
- Did the American sailors destroy classified equipment and documents as required by regulations before their capture?
- What dd the Iranians learn about U.S. military secrets in their inspection of the boats?
- Were the boats returned to the Americans with everything intact?
- Should the boats' commander have resisted the capture? (I'm not judging; I never faced a gun in my face.)
- How did U.S. "lose contact" with the boats? Wasn't the radar on nearby ships working. Did the boats inform higher command that they were having mechanical? That they were about to be boarded by hostile forces?
- Were the boats adequately protected by companion U.S. forces? Did they attempt to inject themselves when the Iranian boats were approaching the U.S. boats? Were U.S. forces ordered not to intervene?
- What, if anything, did Sec. of State John Kerry deal away in order to secure the return of the sailors?
These and other questions obviously will be asked by a Naval board of inquiry and other authorities in the military chain of command. These are not insignificant questions that can be brushed aside by administration apologists. The incident goes to the heart of questions about the Obama's commitment to national security, including whether it is fully determined to protecting its military personnel. We can only hope that our representatives in Congress ask such questions. And make the answers public because Americans have a right to know. I'm not confident that the media will ask such questions, either because of bias, disinterest or incompetence. (How many journalists have actually served in the military and would think about asking such questions?)
In the face of needed answers, we get this unintelligible babbling from Vice President Joe Bidden. As the Tribune reported he told CBS:
...the U.S. government had not issued an apology. “There’s nothing to apologize for,” Biden said. “When you have a problem with the boat, you apologize the boat had a problem? No, and there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice."
It's not standard "nautical practice" and, Joe, can't you get your stories straight?
Remember the USS Pueblo
The Pueblo (AGER-2) is a U.S. Navy intelligence ship that was attacked and captured by North Korea on Jan. 23, 1968. One U.S. crewman was killed and 82 others were captured. They were held and tortured for 11 months, before being released. North Korea claimed that the ship had violated its territorial waters while the United States asserted that it was in international waters. The Pueblo still is held by North Korea today and it officially remains a U.S. Navy commissioned ship.
For those of us of a certain age, the images of the U.S. sailors kneeing under guard on the riverine boats conjured up angry memories of the humiliation that we all felt from the Pueblo boarding. Let it never happen again, was the cry.
Indeed. There was anger because the Navy had doing little or nothing to protect the Pueblo. I know because I was is the Navy then. My ship, a destroyer based on the East Coast, was ordered after the Pueblo hijacking to sail to Cuba where a sister intelligence gathering ship was doing the same in Havana Harbor. For three weeks we slowly sailed back and forth, mimicking the spy ship's movements as a deterrent against the Cubans reenacting the Pueblo assault.
But now, with the riverine hijacking there's no public outcry, no administration or Pentagon promise that they'd never let this happen again. Sad. It appears that the riverine crew and other deployed military personnel are on their own. Unless, like Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl you desert your comrades and Obama comes to your aid by swapping five known and detained Islamic terrorists to get your sorry ass back.
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