January 10, 2008

Account of confrontation with Iranian small boats now falling apart

Like so many other attempts to gin up conflicts from President Jr. and the gang, the communication between Iranian small boats and a U.S. Navy gunship is now appearing to fall apart at the seams after attempts to inflate its fear factor.
The list of those who are less than fully confident in the Pentagon’s video/audio mashup of aggressive maneuvers by Iranian boats near American warships in the Strait of Hormuz now includes the Pentagon itself.

Unnamed Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that the threatening voice heard in the audio clip, which was released on Monday night with a disclaimer that it was recorded separately from the video images and merged with them later, is not directly traceable to the Iranian military.

That undercuts one of the most menacing elements from the Pentagon’s assertion that Iranian forces threatened the Navy ships: The voice on the radio saying, "I am coming to you. … You will explode after … minutes."

Here’s an excerpt from an article in this morning’s New York Times on the Pentagon’s assessment of the audio:
The audio includes a heavily accented voice warning in English that the Navy warships would explode. However, the recording carries no ambient noise — the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind — that would be expected if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small boats that sped around the three-ship American convoy.

Pentagon officials said they could not rule out that the broadcast might have come from shore, or from another ship nearby, although it might have come from one of the five fast boats with a high-quality radio system.
Earlier on Wednesday, a reader posted a comment on The Lede claiming to be a former Navy officer with experience in the Strait of Hormuz and offering an explanation for how easily a mistake could have been made by Navy personnel trying to sift through radio transmissions filled with chatter:
All ships at sea use a common UHF frequency, Channel 16, also known as "bridge-to bridge" radio. Over here, near the U.S., and throughout the Mediterranean, Ch. 16 is used pretty professionally, i.e., chatter is limited to shiphandling issues, identifying yourself, telling other ships what your intentions are to avoid mishaps, etc.

But over in the Gulf, Ch. 16 is like a bad CB radio. Everybody and their brother is on it; chattering away; hurling racial slurs, usually involving Filipinos (lots of Filipinos work in the area); curses involving your mother; 1970’s music broadcast in the wee hours (nothing odder than hearing The Carpenters 50 miles off the coast of Iran at 4 a.m.)

On Ch. 16, esp. in that section of the Gulf, slurs/threats/chatter/etc. is commonplace. So my first thought was that the "explode" comment might not have even come from one of the Iranian craft, but some loser monitoring the events at a shore facility.
The commenter, who signed his posting "SWO officer," went on to say, "I hope everybody exercises great caution here and doesn't jump to conclusions."

President Bush was criticized today for doing the opposite. According to The Washington Post, "some diplomatic and military officials in Washington" said that Mr. Bush’s statements on arriving in Israel Wednesday "inflated the significance of the brief incident" in the strait.

In his remarks, Mr. Bush warned Iran that "all options are on the table to protect our assets."
Bush instantly stated it was a provocative act and rattled some sabers, but then again he doesn't know any other response.

Read the piece from the NY Times here.

Of course, along with little George, the gullible righties and armchair admirals among us ate this story up with a spoon, rushing to try to convince others that this was yet more evidence that we should be shivering in fear and ready to get our war on against Iran. At least one regarded it as solid proof that Iran was going to come eat our pets and kick over our garbage cans and that anyone who didn't mindlessly get on board the fear train was an idiot.

Perhaps they should look in the mirror?

Won't it be nice when cooler, rational, heads prevail after January? Imagine, a president who doesn't treat us all like idiots by thinking his duty is to decieve and con us at every turn.

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