IRAQ: British Doctor, refuses military service, follows in footsteps of South Africa’s own Ivan Toms

On March 3, 1988 – Conscientious objector Dr Ivan Toms was sentenced to 640 days’ imprisonment for refusing to serve in the SADF. Yesterday, a Royal Air Force doctor was jailed for refusing to serve in Iraq. A case of history repeating itself?

SEE Full story by Hasan Suroor, THE HINDU

LONDON: A Royal Air Force doctor has become the first serving British military officer to be dismissed from service and jailed for refusing to serve in Iraq on grounds that he believed it was an illegal war.

But Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith (37), maintained that he was justified in refusing to participate in a military campaign which, he argued, fell into the “category of criminal acts”.

“I have been convicted and sentenced… .but I still believe I was right to make the stand that I did and refuse to follow orders to deploy to Iraq ‘” orders (that) I believe were illegal,” he said after a court martial sentenced him to eight months for disobeying orders to go to Basra last June.

Dr. Kendall-Smith said there were “many others” in the army who shared his view. Describing the Iraq invasion as a “campaign of imperial military conquest”, he said: “To comply with an order that I believe unlawful places me in breach of domestic and international law, something I am not prepared to do… .I would have had criminal responsibility vicariously if I had gone to Iraq.”

Dr. Kendall-Smith, who served in Iraq twice before, said he decided the war was illegal after reading books and articles on the subject. The court martial ruled that obeying orders was at the “heart” of any disciplined force and an officer could not “pick and choose” which orders to obey.

Dr. Kendall-Smith was praised by anti-war groups and rights campaigners for taking a “courageous stand”.

“Many people believe the war in Iraq was an illegal war and therefore we would consider he was quite within his rights and it was indeed commendable to stand up to what he considered to be an illegal instruction to engage in an illegal war,” said Kate Hudson, chairperson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Recently, an SAS soldier Ben Griffin resigned from the army protesting that the Iraq war was illegal.

From THE HINDU — Online edition of India’s National Newspaper

  1. David you sit on the sideline with a big mouth but how patriotic are you when you comment on these things, would’nt you do it for your country or, are you to scared you remind me of a coward.

  2. I was there, so I can comment (by your criteria).

    Do you realize how much courage it takes not to just go with the flow? I remember once, after having gone AWOL to Johannesburg for a bit of a jol, I was locked up for a few days. In the same cells were a group of conscientious objectors. They were badly treated, reviled, and their lives were pretty close to being hell on earth.

    I admired them even then, but for the wrong reasons. I admired them because they seemed, to me, to have industrial sized balls. I could never imagine bucking the system in the way that they did. I admire them now, but now I admire them for their humanity.

    You may believe what you wish, I can’t say for certain that I am right and you are wrong, but the one thing I can tell you for sure is this: there is no cowardice in choosing peace.

  3. Conscientious objector is defined in the dictionary as a person who refuses to take up arms because of their religion or moral beliefs, but now tell me, why would a man that’s born in that country, that’s given him everything, that now needs him in a time of need decides he won’t do it.

    While they sleep peacefully and argue their case, there are thousands of other men who also have morals and religios beliefs, doing the dirty work for them, if you think a cell in DB is harsh then you ain’t seen nothing yet. As far as i’m concerned Saddam was a threat to world stability and needed to be stopped, so i take my hat off to all the soldiers from all the nations trying their best to make peace there.

  4. The question is a little more complicated. You see, there were no weapons of mass destruction.

    This was the pretext for a war and tens of thousands of deaths, and yet there were no weapons of mass destruction. Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd?

    Saddam Hussein is a real piece of work, but he hasn’t changed much over the years. He was essentially the same man when the CIA supported his rise to power. He was the same man when the US supplied support and weapons for the war against Iran. He was a problem in the region, but he never threatened world stability.

    Try to put yourself into the shoes of the common Iraqi people. Your country has been invaded by bumbling idiots with weapons of immense power. Your children are dying; your country is sliding into civil war.

    As a white South African, this is easy to imagine. Let’s pretend you never voted for the National Party. Let’s pretend that there was no Mandela miracle, and that South Africa was invaded to right the wrongs of apartheid. So, South Africa is invaded and now your children start dying. Would it be right and moral that those who had nothing to do with apartheid died? Of course it wouldn’t be!

    Now, imagine that South Africa is invaded today because of apartheid. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it? Wrong because there is no more apartheid or racism (well, except for the racist policies of the ANC, but that’s another blog entirely).

    Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

  5. Let’s imagine Saddam was still in power today, do you think the world would have been safer the people of Iraq better off, i can’t imagine that, so no the war in Iraq is not illegal but justified. We should all be gratefull that some men have got balls and guts to defend the democracy and rightfull place for everyone to live, on this planet in peace and harmony.

  6. I need to ask you if you are in a position to comment.

    I assume you went to the army…. What did you do while you were there?

  7. actually i volunteered i was’nt born here, i spent last 6 months on the border as a driver in 85, then did another 3 months stint as a camper in 87 and i saw enough.

    and you?

  8. lets just say that I was involved on the ground (rather than merely driving around). I spent almost two years there in total (excluding training).

  9. Well Good for you, we all did our part in some small way or other right.
    Surely you did’nt walk around all the time, who brought you rations and water at different camps and other supplies?

  10. I never meant to make light of your experience. It’s just that I was at the sharp end of this vast killing machine, and you were a cog somewhere in the engine. Had you been at the sharp end, your understanding of what actually happens might be different. This thought is in line with your comment earlier about who may or may not be in a position to comment.

    My thoughts are that that anyone can comment, and comments don’t require personal experience; what is required though, is a certain amount of insight (which seems to be in short supply behind your PC).

    You, on the other hand, seem to think that a particular course of action invalidates the right a person has to comment on an issue.

  11. “peace and harmony” in a blog about America in Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The Americans do not hold any moral high ground after using chemical weapons and being guilty of massive doses of human rights abuse. The infrastructure of the country is smashed, the Sunnis and Shias are closer to all out civil war than they were for a long time and Iran would not be belligerent if Saddam was still around. America loves to play God. They helped put Saddam in power and supplied him with weapons to use against Iran. Now they justify a war that both Bush and Blair lied to their people about by saying they are defending democracy. Don’t you see the joke.

  12. okey what did ( merely driving around) mean, you might have been in the firing line but without that small cog you where fucked admit it, who drove the anti-mine carriers and took you deep into the bush, who drove the medical vehicles….. every one is free to make comments, but if you got experience at least that validates your comment.

  13. But don’t you understand there’s not only American and British forces involved, the UN and other countries are also there, bringing peace and stability in that region, so that everyone can sign a breath of relief, when all said and done is finished that country will build itself and hopefully we will all live in peace and harmoy and wait for the next generation.

  14. without the UN because they refused to wait as Saddam was a “threat to global stabality”. “Peace and stability” in Iraq? What media coverage are you reading? Mad magazine maybe?

  15. i know they invaded without permission but it happened, and for a doctor not to go and help the wounded, and then making it sound like he’s a hero, well i don’t get it. And of coarse david has the right to his comment.

    cool mag hey.
    cheers off to play snooker.

  16. If you mean, being patriotic by not taking up arms, or refusing to go the Army, I see what you mean. But unfortunately, I’m a lowly deserter, who refused to obey my call-up papers, and technically was AWOL until the morotorium on prosecutions for draft dodging was announced.

    On a more absurd note, South Africans who deserted the SADF or failed to respond to their call-up notices, can still be prosecuted as the morotorium will eventually run-out if it is not enacted as a piece of legislation.

    I encourage people of conscience in the US and UK to do the same as Ivan Toms, Philip Wilkinson & David Bruce, South Africa’s first conscientious objectors.

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