Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Do We Really Want The Hikers Back?

San Francisco Chronicle headline: "U. S. Hikers Leave Iran Prison Fitter With Sean Penn to Thank." By their friends shall ye know them. Iran has kept two of the three American hikers in prison for 781 days, releasing them earlier this week. They were finally released after the Sultan of Oman paid their $1 million bail (read "ransom").

I truly hope the United States government doesn't decide to reimburse the sultan with taxpayer money for the return of these two twerps. It isn't just that they didn't have the brains to stay out of harm's way. It's the question of whether these two were worth all the breathless headlines and sob-stories that led up to their release. In case you didn't know the details, these two (along with a female companion who was released earlier) couldn't find a good hiking trail anywhere in America or Europe, so they decided to take a jaunt around the Iraq-Iran border.

All three were arrested by Iranian storm troopers and tried on charges of spying. Needless to say, they were found guilty. Is anyone brought before an Iranian court ever found not guilty? Whether they were actually inside Iranian territory is debatable, as is the question of whether or not they knew exactly where the border is. So naturally, American indignation was fanned into a blaze. American diplomacy failed to get them released. We must obtain the release of these young American innocents! How dare Iran imprison such fine young American patriots?

Despite my feelings about Iran, its insane concept of "justice," and the imprisonment of American citizens, I can't get too exercised about their incarceration nor too joyful about their release. Let's take a slightly closer look at these sweethearts. Asked why they were stupid enough to explore a waterfall in the wilds of Kurdish Iraq without a map, they acted as if the questioner was the stupid one. "This was never about crossing the unmarked border. We were held because of our nationality. We do not know if we crossed the border. We will probably never know."

I'm not one for believing anything that the government of Iran tells us, but how did the Iranians know what nationality they were when they were arrested inside Iranian territory? Their nationality may very well have been the big issue at the show trial, but it has damned little to do with their original arrest. Sarah Shourd, who was the earliest of the trio to be released (on $500,000 "bail") said: "We regret we didn't know more about the area." Well, duh.

Shourd and Shane Bauer had been shacking up with each other in Damascus before they got the brilliant idea of hiking along the Irag-Iran border with their companion, Josh Fattal. Shourd was studying Arabic and teaching English to our good Syrian friends when they all met up in Damascus. Fattal is a radical environmentalist who joined the other two just before they went hiking. When they encountered locals who spoke Farsi rather than Arabic, Shourd should have been able to figure out they weren't in Kansas anymore. And if Fattal wants to investigate waterfalls, then I suggest he visit Yosemite next time, and gaze at the wonders of Bridalveil Falls. Or Niagara, maybe.

Ironically, all three of these UC Berkeley graduates are ardent advocates of closing the detention facilities at Guantanamo. And surprise, surprise, they compare the two as if the purposes of the Iranian jails are based on the same rationale as Guantanamo and as if the two facilities are like each other. That silliness is worth another entire article, so I won't bother vetting that argument here. But whether it's Stockholm syndrome or their radical education at Berkeley, the trio found very little negative to say about their Iranian captors. (Full disclosure: These clowns are among the multiple reasons why I am not attending my 45th Berkeley reunion, despite multiple pleas, letters and e-mails from the Alumni Association).

At their homecoming festivities, the families of the former captives read a written statement in which they credited the release to Hollywood celebrities and heads of state. Chief among the former was America-hating Sean Penn. It's probably no coincidence that the Chronicle ballyhooed Penn's role, since they also used him as a "war correspondent" during the hostilities in Iraq. Among the latter group, Venezuelan socialist dictator Hugo Chavez (a great friend of Iran) received special notice, as did the Sultan of Oman (for obvious reasons).

We are expected to celebrate their safe return. Cindy Hicks (mother of Shane Bauer) praised her son's brillance in keeping fit by exercising using full water bottles as exercise equipment. Well, I guess that shows that a UC Berkeley education is worth it. "They're both thinner than when we left them," she said, "Their hair is nicely cut. They had slight gray under their eyes because they did not have much sunshine. No vitamin D." Well, that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

On the same day that the two fans of Mideast democracy returned to New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived at the United Nations building to make his speech damning American imperialism, touting the elimination of Israel from the face of the map, repeating his Holocaust denial, and charging capitalism with the decimation of the world economy. I'm not so sure that the unholy trinity of Bauer, Fattal and Shourd would disagree with Ahmadinejad.


Patti said...

i saw a headline as soon as the squad was released that implied they were hard left-leaning individuals, and it made me laugh because you'd never find that a hard right-leaning conservative hiker was captured because they tend to use the brain in their head. i also so thought someone better keep an eye on this group, as it's highly possible they'll wander off and get "lost" again.

Tennessee Jed said...

Were I someone who believed in conspiracy theories, I'd actually believe these idiots were living in luxury because they were part of a plot to gain support for Guantanimo closure. Who knows, even since I'm not, it still is possible :-)

Seriously, it is like going for a walk at night through the badlands in north Philadelphia. Although one cannot condone being stomped to death, there is a bit of "serves them right" that has to be added to the cognitive mix.

T-Rav said...

While I can't imagine how anyone could be stupid enough to go hiking on the Iraq-Iran border (or anywhere in the Middle East, for that matter), I can't quite say good riddance to these three. Whatever their history, they were being held unjustly by Iran because, well, it's Iran. And perhaps more importantly, it's high time we got them back so Tehran couldn't use them as bargaining chips any longer.

That said, I am highly annoyed that the hikers and their families were singing A-jad's praises after being released. Having not been in that situation, I can't say I wouldn't cooperate with such a regime as a prisoner--probably I would--but I'd be chewing them out all day once I got back on American soil.

Writer X said...

I thought the same thing about these three brain surgeons: You couldn't find a cool place to hike in North America?

No doubt book deals and the talk circuit will follow. I hope people don't buy their stupid books.

TJ said...

I got the impression they were left-leaning individuals when one of them said something (I am paraphrasing here) about people being unjustly prisioned in Iran and the US. I remember wondering if I heard that right. I guess I did as this now confirms it. Good grief - can we give them back?

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: Maybe they'll come hiking here in the Tehachapi Mountains and get lost somewhere near Caliente. We know how to take care of enviro-freaks here. LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: Don't feel alone about the conspiracy theory. I had exactly the same thought. First they have show trials, then they have show imprisonment. But what's actually going on? I also couldn't help wondering if they got a piece of the "bail" action. But we're probably just being paranoid.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I agree. It is simply unacceptable for America to allow American citizens to be unjustly imprisoned by rogue regimes. But how much did you hear on TV or in the mainstream press about all the herculean efforts of our government to get them back? Almost all the negotiations were done by private parties, with Obama cowering in a corner, afraid of uttering a discouraging word.

When you have a government that delegates its diplomacy to the likes of Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Hugo Chavez and the Sultan of Oman, you know America is in trouble.

As for how they could be that stupid as to go hiking on the Iran-Iraq border, you have to remember that peacenik liberals believe they are exempt from the predations of the bad guys. They learn their language, try to mimic the locals, spout anti-American slogans, and expect that will immunize them against the kind of thing Iran did. They're not so much stupid as plain damned foolish and deluded.

LawHawkRFD said...

Writer X: I guess they figured that having learned Arabic there weren't many places in California, Colorado or Utah where they could use it. Maybe they'll go back to school and learn Farsi too, just in case they decide to revisit their fifteen minutes of fame.

After they write their books, they'll probably be hired as full professors in the international relations department at Berkeley.

LawHawkRFD said...

TJ: I had the same experience. One of them made a statement about Iran/Guantanamo while still waiting to be flown out of Iran. But I wasn't sure either if I had heard it correctly until I also heard they were all UC grads. Then I was sure I had heard it right. Subsequent events have confirmed that.

rlaWTX said...

"When you have a government that delegates its diplomacy to the likes of Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Hugo Chavez and the Sultan of Oman, you know America is in trouble."


LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: I thought you'd like that. On a smaller and slightly older scale, when a major metropolitan newspaper like the San Francisco Chronicle delegates its war-reporting responsibilities to someone like Sean Penn, you know that paper is headed for the birdcage.

AndrewPrice said...

I'm glad to hear Sean Penn is running our foreign policy now. At least someone is in charge.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: And the truly sad part is he couldn't do any worse than our current administration's "professional" diplomats.

CrisD said...

Havasupai, at the Grand Canyon, is a challenging, remote, and beautiful hike. Of course, you won't get your book/movie deal by going there (unless you cut your own arm off :D)

LawHawkRFD said...

CrisD: Both funny and timely. LOL

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, if you did that, I have no doubt you'd be condemned by the media as "insensitive," and no doubt someone would manage to turn it into bullying, and then you're just done for.

Also, I would recommend they just hike the Appalachian Trail instead (something I'd like to do, someday), but no doubt when they began this trip, they were far more scared of the people in West Virginia and East Tennessee than they were of the Arabs/Middle Easterners. Probably still are.

BevfromNYC said...

Hey everyone - Been out of touch for a few days, but I baaaaack!

So these are only question that interviewers should ask the dolts:
1. Now, why were you hiking on the Iraq/Iran border when you know that you will be arrested?
2. And why didn't you know where you were hiking? Isn't that the first rule of hiking?

Oh, and then there's this:

3. So who is paying the $1million ransom, your parents or the taxpayers of America?

BevfromNYC said...

There are millions of places to hike around the world where one wouldn't be arrest for crossing into hostile territory. Even in the Middle East there are places to hike where one wouldn't be arrested for crossing into hostile territory and I bet they speak Arabic too.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: They should try the Appalachian Trail. They might even pick up an Argentinian hottie just as S.C. Governor Mark Sanford did. LOL

Actually, that wouldn't work since current UC grads tend to prefer drag queens posing as Cher.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: Welcome back, and I hope your family emergency came out well in the end.

Answers to your questions:

1. We knew we would be arrested, but we thought it would be like getting arrested for property damage in Berkeley where you get arrested, get your picture in the paper, and released within an hour. We didn't know that people actually sometimes go to real jail. Nobody we know has ever actually had to spend a night in jail.

2. You're being ethnocentric. We free spirits don't need no stinking maps or directions when we're wandering around in the friendly lands of Jihadistan.

3. Do you think we're stoopid? Of course the cost of the bail will be foisted on the American people eventually. You didn't expect us to pay for our own wrongdoing, did you? Mo' money posing as foreign aid for the Sultan of Oman.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: Details, details. You don't get publicity for left-wing causes by hiking peacefully somewhere where you won't get arrested.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk: Or drag kings posing as her "son."

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: And they could all dance with the stars, on the border. The Eagles could make a song about it. LOL

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