« Fish. barrel. law professor — bang! | Main | Why is this not the solution re the 15 British hostages? »

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My name is Leading Seaman Faye Turney ...

Royal Navy Leading Seaman Faye Turney"My name is Leading Seaman Faye Turney," begins the voice on the video. "I come from England. I serve on Foxtrot 99, and I've been in the Navy nine years."

"Foxtrot 99" is Her Majesty's Ship Cornwall, the British frigate on which Leading Seaman Turney serves. The video includes a very short shot of Seaman Turney and the other crewmen from the Cornwall after their capture last Saturday as they're being ferried to Iran. In that shot, of course, she's in a Royal Navy uniform. Her head is uncovered, her hair pulled back but exposed.

As she is being interviewed in the video, however, Leading Seaman Turney wears a black veil (I gather it's also called a "hijab" or a "khimār") to cover most of her hair, with some sort of white gown or burqa covering her body. In another shot in the video, one of her and crewmates being fed while in captivity, she's still in her Royal Navy uniform, but wears a white veil with a blue check-marks pattern.

Elsewhere, I read that Leading Seaman Turney has a husband named "Adam" who's a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy, and together they have a three-year-old daughter named "Molly." This strikes a personal chord: I too have a daughter named "Molly," and I have a son named "Adam."

Of their religious beliefs and preferences, I read too that Faye and Adam Turney "were married in 2002 at her family’s local church in Oxon, Shrewsbury. Their daughter was also christened at the church." From that, I infer that she's probably not an adherent of the Islamic faith. From another U.K. news source, I read of Adam Turney's parents that

[t]he couple know their son and daughter-in-law are never called upon to under-take potentially dangerous missions at sea together.

One of them is always assigned land duties to allow them to be in the same country as their child.

So while Faye Turney was piloting one of the two boats [from the Cornwall] seized off Shaat-al-Arab waterway off Basra in Iraq, Adam was working as an instructor aboard HMS Raleigh, berthed close to their home in Plymouth.

Leading Seaman Turney's Iranian captors can force her to wear a burqa and a veil. They can coerce her to mouth the lies they've fed her, and they can then use the resulting video images in their propaganda efforts. And I guess that there probably are some people around the world who sympathize with her captors, or who otherwise find cause to celebrate in the forced imposition upon Leading Seaman Turney of the Islamic command that women are

not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent ....

I have no doubt that the reason her Iranian captors chose to coerce a phony "confession" from her in particular, and to display her in particular in the video they've released, is precisely because she's a woman. The Iranians may also insist on referring to her as "Mrs Turney," and various newspapers' and press agencies' stylebooks may likewise dictate that quaint form of reference (even though that's particularly anachronistic, at least bordering on inappropriate, in this context).

Leading Seaman Faye Turney, Royal NavyThe Iranians are apparently too stupid to realize, however, that in the first few sentences of her videotaped "confession," this twenty-six year old woman just kicked their asses in front of most of the world — specifically, in front of everyone in the world, including certainly some Muslims, who reject the notion that their religion, or any religion, or any army or regime may crush the individuality and humanity out of someone just because she's a woman:

"My name is Leading Seaman Faye Turney," she says. Her voice is calm on the video. But the subtext shouts "LEADING SEAMAN, do you GET THAT? I come from a world where women can wear Royal Navy combat gear and pilot assault boats without anyone thinking that's blasphemy or even unusual. I come from a world where women are people instead of possessions. I've been doing this for NINE YEARS, this is my CAREER. And when I choose my headgear, it's not some veil — it's the beret that's part of the uniform of a member of Her Majesty's Royal Navy."

Her daughter Molly, when she grows up, and her husband Adam will doubtless always consider Leading Seaman Faye Turney to be a hero many times over — not just as a mom and a wife, but as a warrior serving her country. Her very existence is a rebuke to the barbarism of her captors. Later this afternoon, I'm going to discuss these events with my own Molly and Adam as well, and I'm quite sure they'll feel the same way.


UPDATE (Thu May 31 @ wee-small-hours): Re-reading this entry in the light of the fuller story of the British sailors' captivity, I must recognize that there are good arguments to be made, and that have been widely made, to the effect that some of them behaved badly while in custody and then upon their release. Some apparently "broke" — gave the Iranians pretty much all the cooperation they demanded — on threat of torture not much more severe than the Monty Python "comfy chair/soft pillow" gag. Be that as it may: I stand by my original point, which has to do with the fact that a western woman — any western woman — has the opportunity to choose career paths, live her life, and pursue happiness in a wide variety of ways that would result in fatal stoning were a woman from a strict Muslim community to try to do so. I am not a cultural relativist: I claim that our culture is, indeed, a superior one in many respects, and this is one of them.

Posted by Beldar at 07:35 AM in Global War on Terror | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to My name is Leading Seaman Faye Turney ... and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» My Name is Leading Seaman Faye Turney from Musing Minds

Tracked on Mar 29, 2007 10:26:20 AM


(1) hunter made the following comment | Mar 29, 2007 8:08:14 AM | Permalink

The Islamofascists, at the end of the day, are intellectual cowards. They are the first to declare their victimhood, yet the first to break all rules of civilzed behavior. No wonder so many democrats find common cause with them.

(2) Halteclere made the following comment | Mar 29, 2007 8:29:24 AM | Permalink

I think this video has two audiences – (1) the Middle-Eastern viewer who Iran is trying to convince that Iran acted in a just and humane manner, and (2) the rest of the world who is going to call “bulls**t” on any taped “confessional”. Yea, “Leading Seaman” was a nice dig.

The only thing I take away from this video is that the British sailors don’t give any signs of mistreatment, they are not causing problems with their captors (hence the head covering), and they are biding their time until their government can secure their freedom.

(3) nk made the following comment | Mar 29, 2007 2:24:32 PM | Permalink

I am very happy that she is alive and pray that she will return to her husband and daughter. But if she were "Leading Seaman" and not "Mrs. Turney" she would be at the bottom of the sea having taken a few of her captors with her. To the people of England who depended on her to defend them it would have been better if she had been content to remain "Mrs. Turney" and not pretended to become a "Leading Seaman". And I use "pretended" in all its connotations.

Beldar, her captors lost an entire generation in suicide attacks against Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons. They'll let us have all the verbal "ass-kickings" we like while they administer the real ones.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Mar 29, 2007 3:03:50 PM | Permalink

nk, Ldg Smn Turney (I've seen that abbreviation, without periods, used in some of the U.K. press, along with just "LS") and her party were armed with pistols and a few rifles. They were climbing down rope ladders back into their inflatables when they were surrounded by patrol boats mounting belt-fed automatic weapons and RPGs. Their host ship was thousands of yards away; the covering helo that had backed them up when they were boarding the Indian freighter had already returned to the ship. I don't have enough of a military background to be confident in drawing any conclusions about whether mistakes were made to permit them to be in that situation, but given that they were in it, I don't fault her or her 14 crewmates for surrendering rather than suiciding — an incident that would have probably delighted the Iranians, by the way.

Obviously, neither you nor I know very many particulars about this young woman, and I'm not trying to make her into an Audie Murphy/Sergeant York figure either. The Iranians, though, want to use their video of her for its symbolic value. My point is that they're too barbaric to recognize its real symbolism, which is implicit but -- to civilized eyes -- not very subtle.

I think your take is a bit harsh this time, my friend, but as always, I welcome your civil and thoughtful comments.

(5) Dafydd ab Hugh made the following comment | Mar 29, 2007 4:22:51 PM | Permalink


I agree with commenter Nk -- who is also a commenter on Big Lizards and who posted a comment linking me to this post.

LS Turney is a woman, a wife, and a mother; but she is also a seaman in the Royal Navy, and that entails certain military duties... one of which, in my opinion, is to do her utmost to win the war. I do not believe she or the other seamen and marines, or the captain and crew of HMS Cornwall, did so.

I do not believe the British in general have done so during their deployment to Iraq.

Look at your second picture of her: She is carrying a select-fire rifle. She was an armed sailor on a potentially violent mission to interdict smugglers... of what? Typically of weapons, munitions, and drugs.

They know going in that this can easily lead to deadly confrontations. Somewhere in the forefront of Turney's brain, all of their brains, must have been a running list of scenarios under which they might come under attack -- which included, by the way, from the Iranians, just across the waterway. The Iranians had publicly announced that they planned to kidnap some Coalition soldiers to trade for the Qods Force Iranian soldiers captured in Iraq.

But the failure didn't begin when the Royal Marines were climbing down a rope ladder. The Cornwall itself has a literal boatload of radar and other surveillance and detection equipment, along with access (as a U.S. ally) to all of our mil-sat tracking and targeting data. If they didn't know that Iran had launched some swift boats towards their position, and that those boats had entered Iraqi waters... they bloody well should have known.

The helo should never have gone back to HMS Cornwall until the operation was over and the men home safe again.

On the high seas, you can see a lot farther than a couple of kilometers; why didn't the lookout see the swift boats as they chugged towards the zodiacs? Why didn't the captain call for air support... from Basra, if there was nothing closer? Harriers could have been there in 10 to 15 minutes, probably before the swift boats even reached the boarding party, if the lookout and the ship's crew were doing their jobs.

And in any event, I'm pretty sure that the Cornwall (32 kts) can outrun those swift boats (probably no better than 25 kts).

My problem with the Brits throughout their deployment is that they simply haven't taken the mission seriously... starting right at the very beginning, when they refused to wear combat gear while occupying Basra because it would not signal "friendliness" to the Shiite civilians they were supposed to be guarding -- or to the Shiite militias they were supposed to be fighting.

Under British noses, they allowed the Mahdi Militia and the Badr Brigades (now the Badr Organization) to infiltrate every level of government in the South and all the police stations. They ceased stopping and searching cars; they let known militants swagger armed through streets that the Brits patrolled; they allowed open defiance of the government.

Sadly, under the previous American commanders in Iraq, we did some of the same; but the Brits did it much worse than we.

This operation was just in keeping with their lackadaisical, devil-may-care attitude throughout their time in Iraq. In addition to Ahmadinejad's public threats to seize Coalition soldiers in "retaliation" for our capture of Qods Force in Iraq, the CIA actually warned MI6 of much more specific kidnapping threats directed at them in particular; but MI6 didn't even bother raising the threat level (which would have had real-world consequences in the posture of the troops in the area).

So what about this particular incident?

  • The British have never taken seriously the deployment of their own soldiers, sailors, and marines to a war.
  • They blew off the simplest and most obvious security procedures.
  • They have emasculated their troops with ROEs even more ridiculously restrictive than ours ever were.
  • They did absolutely nothing as this situation was developing, when they still had time before the seizure.
  • They did nothing after the seizure until long after the hostages were secured in Iran.
  • And their troops did nothing to defend themselves during the seizure. Instead, they make "confession" videos for the Iranians and sign letters demanding Britain withdraw from Iraq.

Since then, they've done a few things, including cutting off normal relations with Tehran and attempting to freeze some bank accounts; but so far, it's much too little... as evidenced by the fact that the Iranians are not only not giving them up, they've ratcheted up their demands: Now they insist not only on individual "confessions" from the hostages but a full-blown "confession" from Great Britain itself -- which would be a total lie; and if given, would show the world the spectacle of the UK kowtowing to the mullahs. (Lordy, I hope they don't take the Jimmy Carter attitude.)

The last I saw, Britain was plaintively asking the U.N. to condemn the kidnapping! Evidently, it doesn't worry the mullahs that the same U.N. has already condemned their nuclear-weapons program.

God knows, Great Britain is better than France, Spain, Italy, and Germany; still, they must wake up and realize that "the war" is larger than just Iraq and Afghanistan; it is nothing less than a war between modernity and barbarism, between civilization and global jihad.

Nation-building turns out to be necessary in large swaths of the ummah; I just didn't realize it would also be necessary in equally large swaths of Christendom.


(6) Beldar made the following comment | Mar 29, 2007 7:04:37 PM | Permalink

Dafydd, I wasn't undertaking to defend the entirety of the UK's contributions to the Iraq War, nor of their participation in interdiction patrols, nor their rules of engagement (whatever exactly they are), nor the Cornwall's decision-making and response (or lack thereof).

But you and nk are going to offend unnecessarily (and I hope unintentionally) a lot of folks by your implicit suggestion that Leading Seaman Turney in particular, or her 14 other crewmates, ought to have turned their encounter into some sort of O.K. Corral shootout in which they damn well better have come back with their shields or on them.

Your comment and nk's both have more than a whiff of sexism, in addition to criticism of the Royal Navy's powers that be. I don't think either of you intended that, but you're charging in on a post that was written about her specifically and then simultaneously pointing out her sex (which I don't think is actually relevant to any of your points, although it is to my different one) in the process of criticizing her superiors. If you're arguing that the fifteen British personnel should have shot it out rather than be captured, you haven't even made that case, other than by a vague assertion that well, people in the military are supposed to defend themselves. But I know you would concede that at least in some circumstances, the appropriate thing for military personnel to do is instead to surrender.

But if you're arguing that she in particular was at fault, when I think we can safely presume (based on her rank, which is one step up from entry-level) that she wasn't in charge of the 15-member detachment ... well, I'm pretty sure that wasn't your intention, but you certainly have left yourself open to misinterpretation.

I lack the details and I certainly lack the military training to feel competent to second-guess Her Majesty's Navy here; I could certainly come up with a fair number of counterarguments to yours (which as always are well constructed), but they'd be based on guesswork.

Regardless of all that — and it's an argument I'm trying to stay out of — please don't forget who the bad guys are. Whatever you think about the overall operation, don't lose sight, please, of the fact that we and the Brits share, and the bad guys lack, certain values of the sort that permit women not to wear burqas and veils. That's the point of my post here, and I'd sort of like to keep the comments on that topic to the extent possible.

(7) nk made the following comment | Mar 29, 2007 9:27:37 PM | Permalink

Heh. There is an ancient Greek saying that women are not allowed to fight wars because they would be too ruthless.

I was not being sexist, Beldar. I was being "civilianist". That's all "Mrs. Turney" vs. "Leading Seaman Turney" was about in my comment.

And there is nothing unintentional in my contempt for the pusillanimity shown. I hate war. I consider war except in self-defense or defense of innocent third parties a crime against humanity which should be punished by Carthaginian penalties. But when a soldier undertakes a duty to defend "the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods" he should carry out that duty. If he does not, at the very least he should not be called a soldier.

And thank YOU for your courtesy and this forum.

(8) DRJ made the following comment | Mar 30, 2007 12:07:56 AM | Permalink

It's a pleasure to run into people I know discussing an interesting topic. I hope you don't mind if I add my 2 cents worth:

First, I think there's a subtext in any conversation that involves a woman in combat. Like it or not, it changes the dynamics of any situation. Maybe we are too PC to say it but our enemies aren't so concerned. After all, look which hostage they picked to parade before the world.

Second, just like with Jill Carroll or any hostage, I'll give these sailors a pass until they are free and can speak for themselves.

Third, I agree with Dafyyd that the Brits have taken their usual attitude toward all things Arab and military. I apologize for not having a link - I'm too lazy tonight - but I distinctly remember a report from a British military source that everything these sailors initially did was mandated by their rules of engagement, which are apparently even more limited than the American rules.

To me, this is one more example of why the UN is a waste of time and money. We follow all the rules and our enemy takes advantage of that. They don't follow the rules and there's nothing we can do about it. We can whine about the weak-willed message we send or we can trumpet the strength of character LS Turney showed by proclaiming her rank, but at the end of the day all that our enemies will notice is who wins - and it better be us.

(9) David Blue made the following comment | Apr 8, 2007 4:18:47 AM | Permalink

DRJ: "Second, just like with Jill Carroll or any hostage, I'll give these sailors a pass until they are free and can speak for themselves."

OK, they're free, they're speaking for themselves, and it's time.

I consider every aspect of their performance utterly shameful. This includes, as the top item, the slackness that led to their capture in the first place.

I'm not minded to knock the UK or its traditions. But it's no good saying something was good enough when it was really shameful.

Check out the excellent blog EU Referendum. Do you think the posts there are becaause this site is anti-UK? The concern there is that this blogger understands the issues, and he wants the UK to be the best or at least right up there, and in this case that hasn't been so.

Faye Turney, who should stick to her real job as a mother and avoid military matters from now on, has not been a credit to the queen. But, God knows what a young mother was doing in that position in the first place. She should not be punished, just sent home.

Royal Marine Captain Chris Air is a disgrace. He should be very severely punished.

I would say the same if it was Australians behaving like that.

(10) Kregg made the following comment | Apr 19, 2007 4:48:41 PM | Permalink

Trying to do anything you can to squeeze out a quality to make this pathetic skank the real winner, when realistically she submitted perfectly as the squirming coward her and the rest of the british are.

Stop trying to make excuses and false justifications. Your just being a narcarsist when really you are no better then the french; creating cresent muffins because they couldn't actually defeat the Turks.

Face it, the sun set on the british empire along time ago. Time for you all to wake up and smell the coffee.

The comments to this entry are closed.