Friday, January 11, 2008

Boo! Terrorizing the US navy.

Reports out of Washington DC say that assets of the US Navy's fifth fleet felt they were seriously menaced by elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Persian Gulf recently. Three US warships (the destroyer USS Hopper, the cruiser USS Port Royal, and the frigate USS Ingraham) claim they were aggressively confronted by five speed-boats (one of which was a jolly blue colour) which zipped around them, bouncing around in the wakes of the larger ships and just generally being annoying. "I am coming to you," someone on the boats allegedly radioed. "You will explode after... minutes."

At first glance this story looked kind of funny. Five speed-boats (including a blue one) frightening three US warships? Sure, the US ships were outnumbered, but still. Of course when you remember what happened to the USS Cole a few years back (October 12, 2000), the wariness of the US sailors is understandable. As everybody remembers the USS Cole was at Aden harbour in Yemen when some freak drove a small boat loaded with explosives into it's side, killing 17 US sailors and knocking the Cole out of action.

But still, the public reaction of the US administration has been a little over the top. The US President's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, said, "This is a very provocative act by the Iranians," and, "it's the kind of incident that can provoke exchange of fire..."

A White House statement called this, "a reckless and provocative act." Then, just to make everything crystal-clear, US President George W Bush threw in his two-cents. He agreed that the alleged incident was a provocative act, saying, "It was a dangerous situation. They should not have done it, clear and simple. I don't know what their thinking was, but I'm telling you what my thinking was. I think it was a provocative act." Word on the street is that he then sort of threatened the Iranians, telling them they were playing with fire and that next time they would be dead, just like that armadillo he had found on the ranch back in Crawford. And he had poked that armadillo with a stick because it was kind of neat.

If Iranian acts were misinterpreted it wouldn't be the first time. On July 3, 1988 near the end of the Iran/Iraq war (widely considered to have been one of the stupidest and most pointless wars ever fought) and the guided-missle cruiser USS Vincennes was patrolling in the Persian Gulf. The crew of the Vincennes detected what they thought was an Iranian F-14A Tomcat. They tried to contact the aircraft on the military emergency frequency and on the civilian emergency frequency (neither of which are usually monitored by civilian aircraft), and when there was no response the Vincennes fired two SM-2M2 surface-to-air missiles, destroying the aircraft. It was then that the crew of the Vincennes realized that the aircraft had been civilian. Oops.

At the time it had been shot down Iran Air flight 655 had been on a scheduled flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran, travelling to Dubai, UAE along commercial air corridor Amber 59. Somehow the crew of the Vincennes decided that the aircraft which was ascending to it's cruising altitude was actually an attack craft descending to attack them. An odd (and unfortunate) mistake to make, and not one made by the crew of the missile frigate USS Sides, which was in the area with the Vincennes. The Captain of the Sides was not sure of what the Vincennes was preparing to attack, but once he realized what the situation was he contacted the airliner, using an air-traffic control frequency, and warned them about what was going on. Flight 655 turned away but it was too late and a minute later there were 290 dead civilians (including 66 children) for the US to brag about. (I have to assume that the Sides tried to contact the Vincennes as well, but I don't know for sure.)

The US President of the day, big Ronnie Reagan, said that the Vincennes had taken, "a proper defensive action" (ie: whacking civilians) although he did admit that the loss of life was unfortunate. "Oh, yeah. That's kind of rough. It reminds me of the time..." and he went on to reminisce about the time he had met Mickey Mouse, or was it Bugs Bunny? One of those cartoon guys anyway.

Ron's Vice-president, George H W Bush, was even kinder and gentler than his boss, saying "I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever, I don't care what the facts are." (So you can see where his kid gets his smarts from.)

So here it is some twenty years on and these two countries are still acting like spoiled little kids. At least nobody died this time, on either side, so that's an improvement. But not much of one.

Anyway... Humouroceros

A spiffy blue terrorist boat

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