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Cowardice

Robert Thompson

April 15, 2006

How many of us have the courage to speak out to tell the truth when we wish to stay in our comfortable lives? Obviously, not very many of us are willing to do this.

It took a single young R.A.F. Doctor, Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, to show that there are still courageous men willing to serve the real interests of their country.

Even though we might have done the same as them, we have to condemn the following for their part in the illegal war, invasion and occupation of Iraq and/or of cowardice in failing to stand up for this excellent young man when he came to trial before what looks like a "Kangaroo Court'.

First of all, all senior Officers in the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom should have had the courage to make it clear before March 2003 that they were not going to follow the path of Hitler's Generals and Admirals in obeying commands which were in serious breach of the Nuremberg Principles. Their formation which led to their promotion to such very high rank must have included at least some reference to these Principles which form the foundation of international criminal law and of the rules of warfare. In the event, there were one or two honourable exceptions, but most of these extremely high-ranking Officers preferred criminality and keeping their jobs to their personal honour and that of their respective services. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, and should all face prosecution for their crimes.

Secondly, there was the Judge Advocate in charge of the Court Martial faced by Dr Kendall-Smith. Judge Bayliss, variously named in the press as John and Jack, ruled that the Defendant could not rely on the illegality of the war, invasion and occupation as a defence to the charges of failing to obey orders. In other words, he was ordering the five R.A.F. Officers who sat in the Court Martial to find the Defendant guilty without reference to serious principles of international criminal law. As a lawyer, I can only feel sorrow that this man should have been willing to toe the line dictated by Mr Anthony Blair, presumably under instructions from his Fuehrer in the White House, before even hearing the very sound and solid arguments for the Defence. One finds oneself in the unhappy position of having to assume that he was either desperate to keep his job or a very poor lawyer. Much the same can be said of Prosecuting Counsel, Mr David Perry, who should have made it cristal clear to those instructing him that it is the duty of every member of the armed forces, such as Doctor Kendall-Smith, to refuse to obey illegal orders, on pain of himself committing a crime. Had I been in Mr Perry's distinctly uncomfortable place, I would have advised the powers-that-be that the prosecution should have been withdrawn in view of its being in complete contradiction of the Nuremberg Principles. These are supposed to be two lawyers of a certain standing, and they should have upheld the honour of their calling by remaining absolutely unaffected by the undoubted strong pressures from a totally discredited government, which apart from its implication in such criminality in Iraq due to its being infeodated to the Bush rÚgime, is now facing serious accusations of fundamental corruption.

Finally there are the five Officers who formed the panel at the Court Martial. If they had any genuine sense of honour, they would have disregarded the order given by Judge Bayliss and insisted on giving full weight to the arguments of the Defence. In other words, they should have been prepared to examine in depth the question of the legality of the orders given to the Defendant.

I can close by repeating my admiration for Dr Kendall-Smith, the R.A.F.'s latest hero, and wishing him well for the future. As to those mentioned above, I can only accuse them all of cowardice when faced with a serious question of conscience. This case has brought shame both on the military and on the legal profession and the guilty have now to live the rest of their lives with this sad matter on their consciences. If they are at heart men of honour, they will do what they can to make amends for their own crimes and/or for this serious injustice inflicted on a man who shone a harsh light on their actions by his courage.


:: Article nr. 22590 sent on 15-apr-2006 15:47 ECT

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