Why Iran Gave Its Captives Western Suits

Having covered former Iran hostage Michael Metrinko’s homecoming to Pennsylvania 25 years ago, I remember the mixture of humiliation and rage that proceeded from that long nightmare.

The British hostage crisis has been a Broadway farce by comparison. The sailors (who were apparently guilty of worse than our diplomats in ’79) seem never to have feared for their lives, were never blindfolded or beaten or isolated. They were feted on their departure, adored by Ahmadinejad, and given brand new western suits to look sleek on TV in. The pictures were remarkably similar to the love-fest Nancy Pelosi got in Damascus.

There’s a lot of symbolism in those suits. Visitors to Iran describe it as a bustling, prosperous society. Scott Ritter lately compared Tehran to Tel Aviv,  in terms of street life, reflecting the fact that Israel and Iran are the region’s great powers.

Both Richard Bulliet (in my 2-1/2 Experts post below) and Bernard Lewis are right. Muslim societies are suffering from a prestige gap. It’s a small world. We need to boost their self-esteem. That means finding ways to include them in international development. Defanging China involved pingpong contests. Let’s increase civilian exchanges with Iran and Syria… It beats invading them. And beheading us.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in US Policy in the Middle East

{ 7 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Good point Phil. More personal contacts means that people are less dependent from the elites propaganda.

  2. Scott says:

    The jingo right is beside itself with rage over these photos (and those of Nancy in her headscarf in Damascus). They do much more thant words to present the "enemy Islamofascists" as normal human beings, with a different history and culture, but no insurmountable problem to share the world with.

  3. Steve says:

    Phil,

    My reference on Iran is Banafsheh Zand Bonazzi.

    She can tell you about the savage mentality of the Muslim rulers of Iran.

    Her father is a dissident journalist.

    In and out of prisons for the last 22 years.

    Iran is a bleeding and suffering country.

    The British sailors were humiliated in order to provide a circus to the small clique of the followers of the regime.

    We would be safer without such rogue leaders.

    The Supreme Leader of Iran is a self-appointed dictator. Corrupt and coward.

    The servants of the regime are living well. The rest is in the status of the slaves.

    In the Stalin Russia, the elite enjoyed opera and ballet.

    The rest was doing slave labor in the Gulag.

    I do not like Scott Ritter.
    He has no insight into the totalitarian systems. I have a little more experience in that area.

    Enough said.

  4. David says:

    Off topic: Eric Alterman has some interesting comments on a forum for Jewish student journalists he attended at the Center for Jewish History. Present among others was Ruth R. Wisse (the Marty Peretz Professor of Yiddishisms at Harvard)–

    ""Anyway, Wisse said quite a few things I found amazing. One was instructing these young journalists and budding intellectuals that they should think of themselves as a kind of adjunct to the Israeli army and ignore all intellectual distinctions, issues of personal honesty, moral complications, etc., and just defend Israel against its attackers. It reminded me of the time that Norman Podhoretz insisted, years ago, that "the role of Jews who write in both the Jewish and general press is to defend Israel," period. Talk about your dual loyalties. Talk about your intellectual dishonesty. … Scary that these kids were hearing this stuff from a Harvard professor. … "

    link to mediamatters.org

  5. David says:

    By the way, Prof. Wisse holds the distinction of being one of the first of the storm troopers to call Mearsheimer and Walt "antisemitic" — in the WSJ for March 22, 2006.
    link to israpundit.com

  6. Richard Witty says:

    "The sailors (who were apparently guilty of worse than our diplomats in '79) seem never to have feared for their lives, were never blindfolded or beaten or isolated."

    According to their public statements now that they have returned, the oppossite is true.

  7. Phil Weiss says:

    Richard's right; I'm wrong. The sailors now say they were intimidated and blindfolded…

    I find the Ruth Wisse thing amazing. She is now Lieberman's in-law. What amazes me is that the politics of Israeli support here are never explored by the media. She is explicitly calling on young Jews to have dual loyalty. There are many other such calls, explicit, in the record. Lately John Judis speaking of it on TNR's site. Why isn't this a legitimate issue? It is