On March 23, the Iranian government captured 15 British sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf, alleging that they had entered Iranian territorial waters. During their captivity, the detained sailors apparently participated in the production of various propaganda materials, leading several conservatives -- including New York Post columnist Ralph Peters, National Review Online contributor John Derbyshire, CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, and syndicated radio host Michael Savage -- to mock and smear the captives.
On April 4, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced at a 7:30 a.m. ET news conference in Tehran that the 15 British sailors and marines would be released. While Ahmadinejad maintained that all of the captives had admitted to trespassing in Iranian waters and that Iran had "every right" to put them on trial, he said that it was "a unilateral decision" to release the captives. He added that the decision was, in part, a "gift" to honor both the upcoming Easter holiday and the Muslim commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad's birth. He said the captives would be taken to the Tehran airport immediately following his remarks.
In his April 3 Post column -- headlined "Where's Winston?" -- Peters called the captives "wankers" and asserted that they "wimped out in a matter of days and acquiesced in propaganda broadcasts for their captors," a reference to videos aired on Iranian television in which several of the captives said that they had entered Iranian territory. Peters continued: "Jingoism aside, I can't imagine any squad of U.S. Marines behaving in such a shabby, cowardly fashion. Our Marines would have fought to begin with. Taken captive by force, they would've resisted collaboration. To the last man and woman." He went on to write that the "once-proud" British military has "collapsed to a sorry state."
In an April 3 post on National Review Online's weblog The Corner titled "Brit Wimps," Derbyshire linked to Peters' column and stated, "Once again, it's me and Ralph Peters on the same wavelength, deploring the cowardice of the British sailors and marines kidnapped by Iran." Derbyshire further wrote: "When it happened, I said I hoped the ones who'd shamed their country would be court-martialed on return to Blighty, and given dishonorable discharges after a couple years breaking rocks in the Outer Hebrides." Derbyshire added: "And in any case, there was no evidence of torture or mistreatment in any of the filmed cases I have seen. They look just fine. You can't fake that. The girl sailor had that headscarf on within hours. From what I've heard of torture, even weaker cases can hold out for a few days." In an April 3 post on Time magazine's weblog Swampland, Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox criticized Derbyshire's attack on the sailors.
On the April 2 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, Beck hosted "body language expert" Robert Phipps to analyze video of the captives. Discussing footage showing the only female sailor "smiling," Beck asked: "[C]an you fake that? Would you fake that? What does that tell you?" Phipps replied that the female sailor's "smile is not a genuine smile."
BECK: Now, I saw some clips where she was smiling. And, you know, it's really hard because we know this has been edited and edited so tightly, but there's times when she's smiling. I mean, can you fake that? Would you fake that? What does that tell you?
PHIPPS: Well, the smile is not a genuine smile. Because when we genuinely smile, there's two muscles that come into play: the zygomatic muscle at the side of the mouth and the orbicularis oculi under the eye. And what that does is it turns the corner of the lip up and the corners of the eyes up, and you get that sort of symmetrical meeting of the eyes and the mouth.
Now, what she didn't do was -- she couldn't engage those muscles because it wasn't a genuinely felt emotion. So what she did was a masking smile. It literally sort of appeared on the face -- mm-hmm -- and it disappeared just as quickly.
And she didn't show any teeth. Now, when you smile genuinely and happily, you show your teeth.
Further, on the March 28 broadcast of Michael Savage's nationally syndicated radio show, a caller asked if the British troops were given Bibles upon their capture. In response, Savage said: "I don't think these people need a Bible. They probably need a condom," adding, "By look of the British sailors, they look like they took them off the back streets of Liverpool." Savage went on to say that they were "lucky they found a job in the navy. I mean, I don't know. You take a look at them -- no wonder they were captured. I don't think they even know they were on a boat":
CALLER: And, you know, all these groups, you know, that are worried about whether the terrorists at Gitmo have a dinner mint on their pillow at night. Are these sailors getting culturally correct meals? Do they have a Bible? You know, where are these people asking these questions now?
SAVAGE: I don't think these people need a Bible. They probably need a condom. By the look of the British sailors, they look like they took them off the back streets of Liverpool. Thank you for the call. I don't think these people need a Bible. They're lucky they found a job in the navy. I mean, I don't know. You take a look at them -- no wonder they were captured. I don't think they even know they were on a boat.