Slow news day. So here’s a Mark Steyn I’ve had open since last Sunday.

NY Sun – Haleh Esfandiari, By MARK STEYN

How do you feel about the American hostages in Iran?

No, not the guys back in the Seventies, the ones being held right now.

What? You haven’t heard about them?…

Two months in an Iranian jail is no fun. Four years ago, a Montreal photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, was arrested by police in Tehran, taken to Evin prison, and wound up getting questioned to death. Upon her capture, the Canadian government had done as the State Department is apparently doing — kept things discreet, low-key, cards close to the chest, quiet word in the right ears … By the time Zahra Kazemi’s son, frustrated by his government’s ineffable equanimity, got the story out, it was too late for his mother.

Still, upon hearing of her death, the then Foreign Minister of Canada, Bill Graham, expressed his “sadness” and “regret,” which are pretty strong words. But then, as Reuters put it, this sad regrettable incident had “marred previously harmonious relations between Iran and Canada.” In his public pronouncements, Mr. Graham tended to give the impression that what he chiefly regretted and was sad about was that one of his compatriots had had the poor taste to get tortured and murdered on to the front pages of the newspapers. With an apparently straight face, he passed on to reporters the official Iranian line that her death in jail was merely an “accident.” The following year, Shahram Azam, a physician who’d examined Ms. Kazemi’s body, fled Iran and said that she had broken fingers, a broken nose, a crushed toe, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, and internal damage consistent with various forms of rape. Quite an accident.

The longer American prisoners are held in Evin, the more likely it is they’ll meet with a similar accident. It would be nice to think the press has ignored these hostages out of concerns that they might inflame the situation. (To date, only National Review, Bill Bennett on his radio show and various doughty Internet wallahs have made any fuss.) Or maybe the media figure that showing American prisoners on TV will only drive Bush’s ratings back up from the grave to the rude health of intensive care. Or maybe they just don’t care about U.S. hostages, not compared to real news like Senate sleepovers to block unblocking a motion to vote for voting against a cloture motion on the best way to surrender in Iraq.

And more spook scorn:

In recent days, they’ve stoned to death various fellows for adultery and homosexuality, two activities to which Europeans are generally very partial. But why let a few stonings throw your negotiations off track? And, if the Americans are so eager to get a seat at the negotiating table, why not remind them of the rules of the game? Last week, the Iranians paraded their U.S. hostages all over TV as they confessed to engaging in espionage, along the way fingering the Woodrow Wilson Centre and George Soros as key elements in the plot to overthrow the ayatollahs. If only.

The week before, Iran captured 14 spies near the Iraqi border whom it claimed were agents of American and British intelligence equipped with surveillance devices. The “spies” in question were squirrels — as in small furry animals very protective of their nuts (much like the Democratic Party re Mr. Soros). I’m prepared to believe that a crack team of rodents from NUTS (the Ninja Undercover Team of Squirrels) abseiled into key installations in Iran and garroted the Revolutionary Guards, but not that the U.S. and British governments had anything to do with it. If they have any CIA or MI6 training at all, they must be rogue squirrels from the Cold War days who’ve been laid off and gone feral.

Bah.