This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 30, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And this is a FOX News alert.
It is now day eight in the Iran hostage standoff. And there were significant developments today that are making the crisis more and more dangerous. Just hours ago, Iranian television aired this video showing one of the British servicemembers being held in custody. On this tape, Royal Marine rifleman Nathan Thomas Summers apologizes for crossing into Iranian territorial waters. But there is a great deal of skepticism at this hour as to whether or not this so-called apology was coerced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATHAN SUMMERS, BRITISH IN IRANIAN CUSTODY: I know it happened back in 2004, and our government promised that it wouldn't happen again. And, then, again, I deeply apologize for entering your waters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Nick Summers, who is the brother of the marine seen on this tape, spoke to Sky News in Britain earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just seemed perfectly normal to me. I mean, you see in the news a little clip of all three of them laughing, so obviously they're in good health, and obviously not happy to be there, but they don't seem to be put in any undue strain. So, I think, you know, he acted normally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed outrage today, saying that the video doesn't fool anyone. And the European Union added yet another call for the Iranians to release the sailors and the marines.
And coming up in just a few minutes, we're going to analyze the images coming out of Iran to see if they give us any clues about the conditions of these British hostages.
But, first, we begin tonight with FOX's own Steve Centanni. He was held hostage, if you recall, in Gaza last summer.
And also joining us is Kevin Hermening who was held hostage at the U.S. embassy in Iran for 444 days back in 1979. And Iran expert and author Ilan Berman.
Your story is unbelievably compelling. You were a young guy. You were at the youngest hostage at the time. You were 20 years old.
KEVIN HERMENING, FORMER HOSTAGE IN IRAN: Indeed.
HANNITY: Tell us about what happened to you in that time.
HERMENING: Well, I was one of the Marine guards, although not on duty when the embassy was originally overrun, and held in the communications vault for those last couple of hours before the decision was made to give up the embassy, with the full intention and expectation that the Iranian government would do its job under international law and come to the security and rescue of the Americans.
HANNITY: Yes, I read that you had only seen two hours of sunshine in 444 days.
HERMENING: Forty-three days in solitary confinement after a failed escape attempt, nothing, though, in comparison to what some of my colleagues had experienced.
HANNITY: All right, you have this incredible experience that you can share with our audience. When we see this videotape, when we read these letters from these hostages, what should we take from that?
HERMENING: Well, it's very evident that this is being done under duress, that the remarks and presentations had probably been four or five times as lengthy as the brief clip that we had seen, and that these gentlemen, these fine marines and sailors, were simply trying to get these Iranians off their backs, move on to the next phase of their situation, and hopefully everyone in the world would see that this was being done under duress.
HANNITY: All right.
Steve Centanni, you had this horrible situation happen to you. What do you make of it, in light of the letters that are coming out, the video that we're seeing, and the statements that are clearly coerced?
STEVE CENTANNI, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I agree with Kevin; of course they were coerced. They were told what to say. And when you're in a situation like that, you really don't want to say no to your captors. You take a great risk in doing so. You don't know what the result might be.
All you want to do is protect your life, make your life as easy as possible while you're being held captive, and try to do all you can to assure you're going to be released safely and save your life. So you don't want to say no. You don't know what kind of risk you're taking. If they tell you to say, yes, you were trespassing or straying into Iraqi waters, sure, why not?
And, actually, why would this crewmember necessarily know exactly where they were, what are the satellite coordinates, unless he was the skipper of the boat? So he was following directions, and probably wisely so. I think it's the prudent thing to do.
HANNITY: You know, Kevin, you had said that, after 40 days it, quote, "began to wear on your soul." But you said you were able to cope with it. You were a young guy. You had a lot of youth. I remember in one of the interviews you gave you said you'd slept 20 hours a day. What is going through the minds of these sailors and marines right now, now as we hit day eight?
HERMENING: One of the reasons that these men are and the female hostage are making these statements, for all the criticism that some people are leveling against them...
HANNITY: That is outrageous to me.
HERMENING: ... it's to get their families to understand and realize and see that they are still alive, that they're probably being fed not three squares a day. They certainly don't have the liberties and the freedoms that they had prior to their captivity. I read one of the Iranians had said that they have a better life now, now that they're in captivity.
HANNITY: Oh, that's...
HERMENING: It is ridiculous.
HANNITY: And then...
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Ilan, let me go to you. What does Iran want here, do you think?
ILAN BERMAN, "TEHRAN RISING" AUTHOR: Well, I think the Iranians are using these sailors to send a very clear message. And it has nothing to do with the British. It has nothing to do with Iraq, even. What it has to do is with the Iranian nuclear program.
This is happening against the backdrop of a new round of sanctions that just came out of the Security Council. And what the Iranians are saying, in not so many words, is our nuclear program is not a bargaining chip. It's a staple of regime stability, and we're willing to fight for it. Are you?
COLMES: Is there a role for the United States in any of this at this point?
BERMAN: Well, I think there is, but, you know, we have to tread carefully here. We can't be more British than the British. So there's clearly — the onus is on Prime Minister Blair to make a decision about how he wants to proceed.
But I think there's actually an opportunity here, a fairly large opportunity, to use this new awakening that we're beginning to see in Europe, that the Iranians are bad faith actors, that they're not legitimate and reliable partners, to leverage that and to actually create a greater coalition to squeeze them financially.
COLMES: Iran tonight, we're reporting, sent a letter, basically saying to Britain, saying, "Let's settle this between our two countries. Let it be just us two," as if they don't want U.N. involvement, they don't want U.S. involvement. What are they truly saying here? What does that really mean?
BERMAN: Well, I think what they're trying to do, in no uncertain terms, is to create greater fissures in the coalition. They're trying to pry off the British from the coalition. They're trying to create a situation where the Brits hammer out a separate piece with the Iranians and, therefore, become less reliable to us on the big issue that's sitting in the background, which is Iran's runaway nuclear ambitions.
COLMES: Kevin, as you watch what's going on here, and this plays out on the public stage, do you relive what you went through?
HERMENING: Only to the extent that President Ahmadinejad and the rest of his fellow terrorists and rogue leaders of their country have their own citizens hostage, and now they have 15 British sailors hostage, just like they had 52 of us hostage.
COLMES: Are you convinced that Ahmadinejad was one of your captors?
HERMENING: There's no question he was involved in the original interrogations, Alan. And this is a last gasp effort of a dying regime. Our country, and the Brits, and the French, and everybody else has a responsibility to help the people who want to see regime change, bring it about in their country.
COLMES: Ilan, let me go back to you for a second. The BBC has reported that Ahmadinejad is practically absent in all of this, he's not part of it, he's not really talking about it. And those decisions are really approved by the ayatollah that is truly in charge. Does that make any sense? -- That's what the BBC is saying.
BERMAN: No, it does. It does, because Ahmadinejad has been very useful to the clerical regime in radicalizing the dialogue about the nuclear program, essentially walking the regime out, appearing brinksmanlike. But this is a very delicate situation, and Ahmadinejad is a little bit like an expensive sports car. You point him in the direction you want to go and then hang on and hope for the best.
He's not one that finesses his words. He's not one that is capable of navigating through this crisis carefully. So what they did was they kicked the issue to the adults in the room.
COLMES: Steve, you've had a much more recent experience than Kevin has. What does this do for you, as you see this played out? And it's got to touch you very deeply.
CENTANNI: Yes, very different situation, of course. We were journalists and these are soldiers or sailors. But one thing I want to point out is that I had Olaf Wiig as my partner. We were kept together the whole time when we were held captive in Gaza for 13 days. These guys are 15 in number, so they have each other to keep their spirits up, so that's not bad for them.
But, you know, the worst part is the uncertainty. You don't know how it's going to end, whether you're going to be rescued, in the worst case, of course, killed. -- I don't think that's going to happen, because, of course, the Iranians need them for whatever bargaining chips they're going to use them for. They're being held for political purposes, and it wouldn't do them any good to kill them, or to abuse them, or torture them, or deprive them of food. So I think they're probably going to be OK.
HANNITY: All right, Steve, stay right there. We're going to have more on this hostage situation when we come back, also what military options exist.
COLMES: We now continue with FOX News correspondent Steve Centanni, former Iranian hostage Kevin Hermening, and the author of "Tehran Rising," Ilan Berman.
Kevin, you know, we were having a very interesting conversation off the air. And a lot of people believe, you know, Ronald Reagan becomes president, you're released, that's sending a signal, some say, "We don't like Carter. We're more scared of Reagan."
The patience of Jimmy Carter, not even leaving the White House to campaign for reelection, which may have cost him the presidency, because he wanted the hostages safe, was that a good thing or bad thing?
HERMENING: Well, clearly he had his moral compass aligned with the families of the hostages and those of us who were held captive. But what I think it did was send a wrong message to the rest of the world, that our country was willing to put the interests of 52 families and their loved ones in captivity ahead of the interests of an entire nation, and with it the rest of the Western world.
COLMES: But are you saying that your life could possibly or maybe even should have been sacrificed for the greater good and that you would have — well, you...
HERMENING: It's easy for me to say that sitting here tonight, and as I've said the same thing for the last 25 years. It's very simple to say that. But I do think that that's why people enter into service of their country, knowing that there may be that kind of tragic ending.
COLMES: So you would rather have seen a quicker resolution, even it were for the greater good of the country and the world, even if it meant that not all 52 hostage would have come back?
HERMENING: Alan, a couple of days ago, you had authorMark Bowden on the air, the author of "Guests of the Ayatollah." And our situation truly was America's first battle in the war with Islamic fundamentalism, no question about it.
COLMES: Ilan, you know, as I understand it, they don't want to use — Tony Blair does not want to use the word "hostage," because they feel that could further inflame the situation. Does that make sense?
BERMAN: It does make sense, because I think the cautionary tail of the 1979 hostage crisis is that — this is a situation, by the way, that is beginning to look more and more like that situation, in the sense that the Iranian regime is using these captured sailors as a political prop, to make a political point, to showcase its radical ideology.
And so I think Blair has decided to tread very carefully here, but I think there's also an understanding, certainly on the part of the British government, that a failure to respond at this point is not an option, because it will just invite — it will be provocatively weak. It will invite additional infractions.
COLMES: If watching the rhetoric is that important now, is it also important not to beat war drums, using phrases like "axis of evil," which has been very controversial? Does that not inflame them even more, to do these kind of provocative acts? I'm not saying that's what's responsible for it, but does that contribute to an atmosphere where there's this kind of hostility?
BERMAN: Well, I think on that phrase, especially, the jury is decidedly mixed, because I've heard from equal parts, Iranians who were thrilled by that phrase in the same way that Cold War dissidents in the Soviet Union were thrilled by someone calling a spade a spade.
HANNITY: Hey, Ilan, wait a minute. If only we talked nicer to the Holocaust denier? If only we talked nicer to the guy that thumbs his nose at the world community, that provides the weaponry that's killing American soldiers, that's taking the innocent British hostage? If only we'd be nicer to the regime, oh, they'll maybe be nicer to us? I don't think so! They are evil.
BERMAN: No, no, no, I think you're exactly right. I think the point here is that everybody sort of assumes that the Iranian regime is a rational actor the way Luxembourg or Mexico is. It's not.
HANNITY: Let me tell you something. The first thing that Ronald Wilson Reagan did was identify the former Soviet Union for what they were, which was an evil empire. What they're doing here in this regime is an axis of evil.
I want to go back to something, though, Kevin, that you experienced. You tried to escape when you were being held hostage. They caught you.
HERMENING: There were several of us who tried to escape.
HANNITY: So you spent 43 days in confinement in a 5-by-10 cell.
HERMENING: Yes, sir.
HANNITY: You never got out of there.
HERMENING: Twice a day to use the restroom, and then the night that there was the mock execution. Middle of the night, two o'clock in the morning, stripped down to our shorts, weapons shoved into our backs, as they chambered their rounds and ran up and down the hallway shouting out execution commands.
HANNITY: Is that the worst it got?
HERMENING: That was the worst — that was the bottom of the 14 1/2 months.
HANNITY: Yes, and the fascinating thing is, one week before you were released, they stick you in this posh hotel in the hopes that you forget all the atrocities they committed.
HERMENING: And that was the intent of the interviews, as well, that they did immediately, shortly before we were released.
HANNITY: Steve Centanni, what was the lowest point for you? What was the most difficult part for you?
CENTANNI: Well, just after we were nabbed, we were handcuffed with cable ties, our hands held behind our back in a very painful way, and blindfolded, and pushed around onto a concrete floor of a garage, we couldn't see where we were, but we could hear a loud generator rumbling. We felt guns to our heads.
That only lasted the first six to eight hours before they let our hands loose, took the blindfolds off, started feeding us, giving us water, and treating us more decently. These may have experienced something like that when they were first taken into captivity. I don't know.
I don't know what they're being treated like now, because off camera you don't know what kind of weapons are there or how they're being treated at all. We only see that they appear to be — in fairly good health, when we see them on tape.
And tape is good for one thing: Their families can see that they are alive and fairly well. A similar tape came out of us after nine days in captivity, and our families were very relieved to see at least that we were alive.
COLMES: Steve, we thank you very much. Glad you're here tonight. Ilan, thank you. Kevin, very nice to meet new person. Thank you all very much.
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