Thoughts sadly do not count in the Military

It seems a serving member of the RAF disobeyed a direct order. Although this man is allowed thoughts and although I agree in most respects with his words, when one joins a Military command in what ever country, he should have bitten the bullet kept his mouth shut and obeyed the order. I agree we should not be in Iraq, I agree we the western nations who invaded the country have committed atrocities that were not the done thing and in fact breached all civilised laws as well as the Geneva Convention. However this man even if he had done this only as far back as WW11 could well have been executed indeed many were. As an officer he only had to resign his commission to get out of going back to Iraq, obviously he wants the best of both worlds. I guess you can think yourself lucky Mr. Kendall-Smith you will get off lightly I think although you may not be allowed to practice medicine in the UK now, that is a matter for the medical council of course. The sad thing is you did what most of us would NOW do and it now seems you have ruined your life and in that respect alone I feel sorry for you,I guess you will now become a prison Doctor for eight months.


  1. You would do well to remember your history, sir.

    The Nuremberg Principles (written and ratified by the U.S. and Allies as part of the 1950 UN Treaty) expressly direct soldiers that they not only have the right, but the express DUTY to refuse an immoral order.

    Princple IV states "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

    As the invasion of Iraq is in direct violation of the UN Charter and manifestly in violation of Nuremberg Principle #6, this soldier was compelled to exercise his moral choice of not participating in the war.

    While you say that he is trying to have it both ways, in fact by *not* resigning his commission, but by refusing a specifically immoral order, he would appear quite consciously to be acting within the legal framework established after WWII to discourage just the sort of disaster as the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

    Will anyone be prosecuted under the manifest violation of the Nuremberg Principles? Of course not, because the U.S. and the U.K. have far too much money and power. But neither has either country rescinded their ratification of those principles, and the RAF doctor is quite right to act in accordance with them.

  2. Sir,

    Thanks for suggesting that I needed a history lesson, but I assure you I do not: rather, it is Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair who could use a history lesson.

    According to well-established international law (and the UN Charter, of which Australia is a signatory), an individual soldier is in fact obligated to refuse a direct order that is immoral or illegal. If he or she follows that order knowing it is illegal or immoral, he or she may not use the fact that it was an order as a defense.

    This was established during the Nuremberg trials, during which various Nazis declared that, even though they had tortured and killed Jews and others in concentration camps, they should not be considered culpable because they had been merely "following orders."

    The only valid defense for an individual soldier is if they are threatened with death (so, for example, if one is ordered to gas a Jew at the point of a gun, one may follow the order without becoming legally liable for that act, in which case the person who held the gun to the soldier's head is the one legally liable for committing a war crime).

    This is well known to all members of the American and British military, as it is reproduced as part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (as it is known in the U.S.).

    I'm glad we agree that the Iraq war is immoral, as did the RAF soldier who refused to serve (like an increasing number of American soliders). May I suggest that you look up the "Nuremberg Principles" at a place like wikipedia.org, and that you follow up that short page by looking at the page www.benferencz.org -- he was actually the lead prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg.

    Any good twentieth-century military history will also contain this information.


  3. You would do well to remember yours as well SIR Kindly take note of the following.
    UNITED STATES: Convicted for refusing to fight Bush’s war
    Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, the first US soldier to go public with his refusal to fight Bush’s war in Iraq, was convicted of desertion on May 21 and sentenced to a bad conduct discharge and one year of hard labor. Tod Ensign, the director of GI support organisation Citizen Soldier, was part of Camilo’s legal team. He spoke with the US Socialist Worker’s Eric Ruder the day after the verdict.
    Mejia participated in the invasion of Iraq. After a two-week furlough last October, he refused to return to his unit because he believed the war was unjust. “I have no regrets — not one”, said Mejia, before the jury handed down his sentence.
    Several weeks before his trial, Mejia said, “No soldier should go to Iraq and give his life for oil. I have witnessed the suffering of a people whose country is in ruins and who are further humiliated by the raids, patrols and curfews of an occupying army. My experience of this war has changed me forever.”
    Can you describe Camilo’s trial?
    Given that Camilo was tried in a special rather than general court, he received the maximum punishment. But in my view, an important struggle was won when the decision was made not to take Camilo to general court, because that would have meant the possibility of a five-year sentence and a dishonourable discharge, which is virtually impossible to upgrade.
    Yesterday, I picked up a copy of the base newspaper. And this week, at Fort Stewart, which is a pretty big base ... they list 17 desertions or absents without leave (AWOL) in one week.
    Does the military want this conviction to intimidate other soldiers who may share Camilo’s criticisms?
    Certainly. He was tried by a jury composed of career infantry commanders. These are colonels and majors, and these people run infantry units. And they’re sitting there looking at a guy who’s very credible, very intelligent, very sincere, very conscientious. And they’re thinking that this is their worst fear — that in their unit, they have this problem.
    Are they going to allow this guy to walk free, or just give him a bad conduct discharge and no jail time, or just three months? Are they going to do that? Given their institutional interests — that is, to field an infantry — the answer is no.
    The military court didn’t allow your defence team to present its case. Why not?
    We offered former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who in the last 30 years has also had extensive experience in international human rights practice, as a witness.

    One wonders what happened to the Nuremburg principles in this case.