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Campbell on Iraq
April 18, 2006 4:24 AM   Subscribe

One Solidier free but a second in jail for having a "very informed conscience". Interesting views on motivations later in the interview.
posted by doogyrev (23 comments total)

 
> "Maybe Dr Kendall-Smith thought that in joining the British armed forces he wouldn't be
> getting into morally dubious stuff. Which sadly proved not to be the case."

One might expect that a very informed conscience would have tumbled to this in advance.

posted by jfuller at 4:46 AM on April 18, 2006


He's right, but he'll be character assassinated anyway.
posted by Acey at 7:11 AM on April 18, 2006


Dr. Kendall-Smith is Cindy Sheehan dressed up like an RAF surgeon. Statements like, "Acts of aggression in Iraq provide a moral equivalent between the US and Nazi Germany," certainly did not help his case.
posted by three blind mice at 7:13 AM on April 18, 2006


acey: yep a dissenting officer is like plague, soldiers must not criticize, they must obey ! Of course then they are to be condemned for obeying illegal orders, but who cares about the contradiction except the soldiers and who cares about soldiers ?

It would be interesting to know more about the evidence he presented to the court
posted by elpapacito at 7:36 AM on April 18, 2006


It would be interesting to know more about the evidence he presented to the court

Right... certainly before we have to listen to anymore of that rhetorical bullshit in your first couple of sentences.
posted by Witty at 7:50 AM on April 18, 2006


It would be interesting to know more about the evidence he presented to the court

It might have if he'd had a chance to present it. I think a big part of this story is that the judge refused to allow him to argue that the war was illegal.
posted by 327.ca at 8:01 AM on April 18, 2006


Oh well of the evidence he intended to present, certainly he had some or was it just a bluff a-la WMD ?
posted by elpapacito at 8:40 AM on April 18, 2006


Right... certainly before we have to listen to anymore of that rhetorical bullshit in your first couple of sentences.

Yeah yeah witty, you forgot your pills again ? Told you not to leave home without your pills !
posted by elpapacito at 8:42 AM on April 18, 2006


> yep a dissenting officer is like plague, soldiers must not criticize, they must obey

Sincerely dissenting soldiers would fall on their swords.

posted by jfuller at 8:44 AM on April 18, 2006


327.ca: the offence under the law in question (the Air Force Act 1955) is failing to follow a "lawful order" so if you're not allowed to present evidence that the order was unlawful you're pretty much screwed. His problem was that the judge ruled that the "invasion was illegal" point was irrelevant because at the time he was doing his disobeying the Iraqi government had requested the coalition armed forces remain present. His argument falls apart slightly at that point. It was also a problem that four of the five orders he didn't follow were mundane training and equipment orders, it's difficult to see how they were illegal orders too.

Perhaps resigning would have been the honorable thing to do?

The Wikipedia article on this is pretty good.
posted by patricio at 9:01 AM on April 18, 2006


No, I think he's doing the right thing. He's going to get jail time for it, I guess, but this was covered very carefully in my Philosophy of Law course at George Mason University.

A soldier who is being ordered to do an illegal thing would be behaving ethically if s/he refused the order. Soldiers are not drones, but living, breathing people. The problem is that commanding officers are not always sympathetic to the soldier in such a situation, and the soldier generally gets reamed out for her/his trouble.

But from an ethical standpoint, especifically Kant's ethical/philosophical standpoint (note that the one recently in court did work in Kant's philosophy), the clear course of action is to refuse the order and take the penalty. If your CO orders you to do an illegal thing, you are ethically obligated as a thinking, living person who is also a soldier to refuse to follow that order.

Taking your lumps for being ethical is par for the course. It's not really a survival-oriented strategy, but it does bring light to the situation.

My follow college students weren't so keen on this message of ultimate responsibility and pointed out that soldiers can reasonably be seen to be treasonous when not taking orders and killed for their trouble, and the professor agreed but stated that we weren't talking survival here, but ethical responsibility.
posted by kalessin at 9:10 AM on April 18, 2006


Oops, sorry, I should have said "morally" and "moral" not "ethically" and "ethical". Kant was all about morality, not ethics. Sorry.
posted by kalessin at 9:11 AM on April 18, 2006


kalessin raises some good points. I think doing this is better than deserting.
I can attack someone’s moral position, but I can’t attack them for following their conscience and defending that position; doing what they believe is right.

I’m not arguing either here (brain no work coffee without). But I do think his decision and the entire situation merits serious and deep consideration whatever position one holds.

Which is why I get such a kick out of this statement:
“He's a thoughtful individual, quite intense in some ways. One felt like saying to him 'lighten up'."”

It’s like something out of Brecht or Heller.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:22 AM on April 18, 2006


It’s like something out of Brecht or Heller.

Right! As I read patricio's interesting comment about "lawful orders" and the Wikipedia article he linked to, I immediately thought of Heller and the sweet logic of Catch-22.
posted by 327.ca at 10:10 AM on April 18, 2006


...with the rather critical difference that Yossarian was drafted and this guy volunteered.
posted by jfuller at 10:17 AM on April 18, 2006


... with the rather critical difference that there is no draft in the UK today.
posted by funambulist at 10:19 AM on April 18, 2006


I support some of the troops.
posted by srboisvert at 10:27 AM on April 18, 2006


His problem was that the judge ruled that the "invasion was illegal" point was irrelevant because at the time he was doing his disobeying the Iraqi government had requested the coalition armed forces remain present.
I wonder if the German general heading the occupying forces in France, at some point in World War II, might have hit on the idea of having the French puppet government, that they had set-up, 'invite' the German army to stay ... just until, you know, the region had stabilised ...
posted by kaemaril at 12:30 PM on April 18, 2006


From wiki

the judge advocate also rejected Kendall-Smith's claim that by serving in Iraq he could be complicit in a crime of aggression. Such a crime "cannot be committed by those in relatively junior positions such as that of the defendant. If a defendant believed that to go to Basra would make him complicit in the crime of aggression, his understanding of the law was wrong," Bayliss said.

So what would have made him complicit of aggression ? I could infer that seniority of position (?) changes the classification of crime, even if the substantials facts commited during the crime don't change. It's aggression if it's done by state, policing if it's done by a soldier ?
posted by elpapacito at 3:45 PM on April 18, 2006


"Relatively junior"? Sorry, wrong number. The guy was a very highly educated officer. And I seem to recall that some of those convicted at Nuremberg were enlisted men.
posted by Goofyy at 1:00 AM on April 19, 2006


The judge advocates seem to be pretty preachy, how can you have a fair trial when the they have an agenda, they made biased comments right after the trial about the defendant.

You can not, repeat, can not have a fair trial today in most courts. Judges can ban your defense, not allow your evidence, tell the jurors which way to vote, or a number of other biased actions.

I'm not even amazed of the outcome, its politics as usual. He had to be quilty, there was no other acceptable outcome.
posted by IronWolve at 1:06 PM on April 19, 2006


Naturally. No court-martial is going rule "My God, you're right! You were quite right to disobey orders as it WAS an illegal war! What were we thinking? OK, lads... EVERYBODY OUT!" :)
posted by kaemaril at 3:00 PM on April 19, 2006


Kalessin: it's interesting to mention the ethical angle (though I know next to nothing about Kant). The Air Force Act (and its equivalent the Army Act) were both enacted with the "lawful order" provision specifically so that British soldiers would not have the excuse that was used after WW2 of "only following orders". The entire point is that the person receiving the order needs to evaluate its lawfulness.

However, I would say that it's clear that the "lawful" part of the provision was meant to get at obvious illegalities such as an order to rape or murder a civilian as opposed to an order to deploy to an occupied country or attend a helmet fitting session prior to such deployment. This distinction gets very blurry very quickly though.

IronWolve: The judge advocate was certainly outspoken and his position in a court-martial is a bit different but it's not unusual for judges in England in both civil and criminal trials to make stinging comments about the defendant if guilty or the prosecution if the defendant is innocent.
posted by patricio at 12:38 PM on April 20, 2006


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