Some on the Right are tearing their hair and hyperventilating about some mild violation of the Geneva Conventions by Iran with their videotaping and photographing of our captured sailors. I see nothing outrageous about that, even if it is a technical violation of the Conventions. We show video of enemy combatants at Guantanamo and elsewhere, and nobody seems upset by that.
What has me exercised is that the United States Navy let 10 sailors be captured! This wasn’t a jaunt around Coronado or Portsmouth. This was movement of sailors and equipment through one of the most contentious and volatile areas in the world. That our navy was sufficiently inattentive to the possibility that these boats might encounter difficulties while traveling near the territorial waters of Iran is simply outrageous. That we didn’t forcefully demand the immediate release of these men and their boats, backed up by a significant show of force is cowardly.
I recall the U.S.S. Enterprise running into a rock off San Diego in the 1980s. That was a big deal, even though there was no damage to our international reputation and San Diego was a friendly port, although it was California. The captain was relieved of his command, even though the pilot was in nominal charge. That is as it should be.
So who is going to be cashiered for allowing the capture of United States military personnel by a foreign power?
It’s humiliating to the US, and the Navy, and massive propaganda coup, but hardly a war crime. In fact, it is something of a defense against charges of war crimes. Had the Iranians paraded the troops through the streets and permitted throngs to abuse them (something the North Vietnamese routinely did with captured American aircrew) that would have been a war crime.