It’s a bad week to be Lt. David Nartker.
Since being captured by the Iran Revolutionary Guard after drifting into foreign territory, Nartker’s face has been plastered on both American and Iranian televisions and his words scrutinized by thousands. Once he returns home, Nartker will have to live with the fact that he starred what is sure to become Iran propaganda material.
At home Nartker may be a “fun-loving, gun-toting” service member and Naval Academy grad, but abroad he will forever be the sailor who apologized for entering Iran waters.
“It was a mistake,” Nartker said in the clip. “It was our fault and we apologize for the mistake.”
“It was a misunderstanding. We did not mean to go into Iranian territorial water. The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here. We thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance,” he added.
After Iran released the ten sailors safely to the U.S. Navy, it declared that it did so only after the U.S. apologized. Both the Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and military spokesmen denied that the United States had apologized for anything. Sure enough, Iran published a video of Nartker to directly contradict that claim.
Once the shock of Nartker’s video subsided, policymakers began to wonder whether Iran’s video of the sailors was manipulated, either through coercion or video editing. CENTCOM said in a statement that while the video was authentic, it “cannot speak to the conditions of the situation or what the crew was experiencing at the time.”
Nartker himself has become a target of scrutiny because in making that public apology, he violated the U.S. Navy’s Code of Conduct.
From Article IV of the Code:
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
Whether he meant to or not, Nartker’s choice to make an oral statement could qualify as being “harmful” to the United States’ cause.
Nartker is apparently en route to the United States, along with the nine other captured sailors.