I must confess that the events of the last few days involving British woman Faye Turney and her Royal Navy shipmates have filled me with mixed emotions.
Faye is a captive of the Iranian Government and I can’t help drawing parallels with my days as a prisoner of the Taliban way back in September 2001.
Like Faye, I was simply doing my job and just like her I ended up being plastered across the world’s newspapers portrayed as a victim of an evil, brutal regime.
Funnily enough, I went tresspassing too. Although to be fair to Faye she might not have realised she was entering Iranian waters whereas I was caught banged to rights for my illegal trip into Afghanistan without a passport and visa.
And, just like Faye, once my captors realised I was a nicotine addict, they kept me topped up in cigarettes for the duration of my ordeal.
Mercifully, the Taliban did not parade me with fag in gob for the media, that would have been too cruel … my mother would never have forgiven me! She despised my cigarette habit and would certainly not have approved of me puffing away in public, stressed or otherwise.
I do hope Faye’s ordeal does come to a rapid end. It is not much fun being anyone’s prisoner but she should count her blessings that she’s in the hands of the Iranians.
Imagine if she had been caught by the Americans? By now she would have been shaved, shackled and sodomised at the very least in her first week of capitivity.
She would almost certainly be wearing an orange jumpsuit after being thrown into a rat-infested cage via a rendition flight to Guantanamo.
I just thank God that she was, like me, captured by an evil, brutal regime instead of the US military!
George Bush and Tony Blair’s indignation over her arrest, and the Western tabloid outpourings regarding Faye’s black headscarf has certainly been something to behold. Although, with regard to the head covering, to a certain extent, I can see their point – by contrast the Taleban issued me with a rather fetching little hijab, a sort of autumnal blend of colours. Black can be too drab without the right accessories.
Muslims don’t have any such fashion dilemmas when they find themselves in the hands of the British or the Americans because there’s nothing like a good old fashioned hood over the head to hide your blushes, and some sticky tape across your mouth will certainly curtail such anti-social and potentially life-threatening habits like smoking.
We only know this because those nice folk from the US and British military were thoughtful enough to take lots of pictures and videos of their treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Basra, Guantanamo and elsewhere.
How thoughtful, as I say, to hide their identities and prevent them from being publicly paraded in the same way as Faye and her naval colleagues.
And of course a hood over the head would have stopped them from talking publicly infront of the cameras about how they strayed into Iranian waters under the orders of the UK military.
Mind you, the Brits appear to have become regular little chatterboxes haven’t they? According to declassified US documents Khalid Sheikh Mohamed had to be coaxed with CIA watersports before he overcame his shyness.
I wonder if like the Australian David Hicks, the British naval crew will be allowed to enjoy five years in solitary confinement before being charged with anything?
Given the choice, what do you think Faye and her mates would prefer – Western justice Bush and Blair-style or Islamic justice?
Just in case you are struggling with an answer, here are some clues to help you supplied by my man in Virginia who has outlined below some of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.
All have been tried and tested on Muslim detainees at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe.
* The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach designed to cause pain, but not internal injury.
* Long Time Standing: Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours.
* The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
* Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaida suspect Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won their admiration when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
According to Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism: “What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets.”
Ah, ha. So now we know. Those devious Iranians are trying to build up a relationship of trust with their captives by acting in a civilised manner.
Quick George, Tony … get the Brits out now before it is too late!