THE Labour movement must salute the courageous action of Flight-Lieutenant Kendall-Smith who yesterday declared, after a court martial had found him guilty on five counts of disobeying orders, that he would do exactly the same again, and refuse to serve in Iraq.
In the dock he refused to be bullied into silence by the prosecutor general and insisted that his view, based on a study of the Nuremburg trials, the Geneva Conventions and International Law, was that the war was illegal, and that he could play no part in it.
He continued to compare the Bush regime to the Nazis and the military operations carried out in Iraq as no different from the actions of the Nazis throughout Europe in the 1939-45 war.
The judge declared most threateningly: ‘You have, in the view of this court, sought to make a martyr of yourself and shown a degree of arrogance which is amazing.
‘Consequently you have lost any credit you might have been given for guilty pleas.’
Yet the sentence was just eight months, implying that there were a number of officers on the panel who either sympathised with his viewpoint, or who are very well aware that large sections of the military from, privates to officers, agree with him.
The case of Ben Griffin proves that point.
Ben Griffin was an experienced soldier and SAS man who reported to his commanding officer that he could no longer serve in Iraq and expected to be arrested and court martialled as a result.
Griffin said: ‘I did not join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy,’ adding that he had witnessed ‘dozens of illegal acts’ by American troops. He said that they viewed all Iraqis as “untermenschen”, the Nazi term for sub-humans.
Griffin also accused the British Prime Minister and government of repeatedly lying about the conduct of the war. He added to his commander that he would play no more part in a war that he regarded as ‘illegal’.
Far from being court martialled, and imprisoned as he thought would be the case, he was discharged with a testimonial describing him as a ‘balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions’.
There cannot be one law for Kendall-Smith and another for Griffin.
In fact, as is well known, the British General Staff were not willing to order their troops into action against the Iraqi people until the Blair government managed to force a ruling out of the attorney general that the war was not illegal. This was very much in opposition to the view of the UN secretary general, and the rest of the world.
The labour and trade union movement must demand the immediate release of Kendall-Smith, and the restoration of his full rank. It must also urge every soldier and officer who considers the war on the Iraqi people to be illegal to refuse to serve there, and assure them that they will be defended and protected by the labour movement.
They should all follow the example of Kendall-Smith.
In fact, the Labour leadership must be made to show a fraction of the courage that Kendall-Smith has shown. It must put an end to the war by mobilising the working class to bring down the Blair government, to bring in a workers’ government, that will withdraw all British troops from the Gulf, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
This will set the scene for the trial of those who are responsible for the illegal war.