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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Man of great moral courage

BBC NEWS | UK | Jail for Iraq refusal RAF doctor

Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith
It’s not every day that a member of the armed forces makes it big in my book. But this guy, Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who refused a direct order to go to Iraq, deserves all of our praise.

We should applaud those who make a stand and refuse orders for what they see as illegal activity by any government, including their own.

The Neurenburg trials after the second world war proved that to be the correct course of action.

The judge who sentenced Doctor Kendall-Smith to eight-months imprisonment sought, throughout the trial, to undermine the soldier’s credibility and sincerity and showed a degree of arrogance which is amazing. Consequently he and the judicial system lost any credit that might have been given for impartiality.

7 Responses to “Man of great moral courage”

  1. Wrong side of the pond here, John. Is Dr. Kendall-Smith a member of the medical corp? Or was he supposed to go over and fight? Do you mind recapping?

  2. john baker says:

    Ft Lt Dr Kendall-Smith would, as a doctor, take a non-combatant role. His defence said that he feared he could be asked to oversee legally ambiguous situations such as interrogations of prisoners.

    He said: “The flight lieutenant has been to Iraq, he knows in his own mind what it is like being there. As a doctor, he is entitled to say ‘I will be sharing responsibility by even demonstrating complicity’.”

  3. Michele says:

    That is so cool. Thanks for the story.

  4. Had Dr. Kendall-Smith been asked to oversee prisoner interrogations on his previous tour of duty? Did it happen to other doctors he knew of? I understand his unwillingness to be involved in that. Or did he have the same concerns about being complicit by treating civilian or military wounded?

    It’s too bad this story wasn’t covered in American media. Is there a link you can provide that explains it in a concise way? If you’ve any doctors on your blogroll, I’d be interested in their take on it.

    (Here’s a link to the Independent coverage and the Guardian Unlimited story, but it was reported by all the UK media.)

  5. Thanks for the links, John. They are light on real information though. It’d be interesting to know why Dr. Kendall-Smith joined the armed forces in the first place. Also, what specifics concerned him that he didn’t think he could go back, especially since his role would be one of comfort and succor, not combat.

    It says he got an honorable discharge though. So the powers-that-be eventually felt his concerns had merit.

    (John Baker says: Sorry, but you misread that. The guy who got an honourable discharge was someone else, former SAS soldier Ben Griffin, who resigned the service because of his objections to the war.
    Twenty-eight-year-old Griffin said that he had expected to face a court martial for his refusal to serve but instead was discharged with a glowing testimonial. Our guy, on the other hand, Dr. Kendal-Smith, is serving an eight-month sentence.)

  6. Oops. I wish there were more out there on the background of the case. I don’t mean to keep harping on it, John. It’s just striking me as odd because he wouldn’t be a combatant. The comment about the interrogations is intriguing, but that’s not elaborated on in those articles. Otherwise, he’s a physician, one presumes he expected to be treating the wounded. I’m just speculating. I have no real information on this case. Thanks for being patient with me.

  7. Andy says:

    This is an excellent tribute to a very brave man. This illegal occupation, the behaviour of our government, stains us all.

    You’re right about the way the judge tried to present him; but then, to give a man eight months in prison for refusing to fight in a hotly disputed war when they have recently decided to only caution more rapists because we haven’t room for them all in prisons… Well. It beggars belief.

    Clearly, criminality is a flexible thing and when Blair decides to go to war, this government is capable of making space for prisoners of conscience – which is what Dr Kendall-Smith is – by keeping violent sexual offenders walking our streets to prey on vulnerable women, and men. For shame.

    We need to fight not only against this war, but the many civil rights infringements this government has been and is hell-bent on making. The ‘war on terror’ is a cover. What it’s about is increasing social control by manipulating the public into giving them a hand in doing so. Truly evil. x