British officer jailed for refusing to go to Iraq
ALDERSHOT, England, Apr 13 (Reuters) A British Air Force doctor was sentenced to eight months jail today for refusing orders to go to Iraq.
Australian-born Flight-Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, was convicted by a five-member panel of officers of what the judge called ''calculated and deliberate disobedience'' of five orders to train, prepare and deploy to Iraq last year.
Kendall-Smith said he viewed the war as a crime and could not participate in any form.
But judge Jack Bayliss ruled British troops were in Iraq in 2005 with the permission of the United Nations, and that Kendall-Smith's view of the war's legality was no defence.
''Obedience to orders is at the heart of any disciplined force.
Refusal to obey orders means that force is not a disciplined force but a rabble,'' he said.
''Those who wear the queen's uniform cannot pick and choose the orders they follow.'' His lawyer, Philip Sapsford, described him as a ''man of great moral courage'' who had taken his step out of principle.
But Bayliss said Kendall-Smith had had the opportunity to resign from the military earlier if he opposed the war.
''If they disagree with the moral position of the government, the recourse of an officer in a volunteer service is to do the honourable thing and to request to resign and to give his reasons,'' he said.
''You didn't ask to resign. You continued to draw your not-inconsiderable salary.'' During the tense two-day court martial, on a base in southern England, Kendall-Smith, who has dual British-New Zealand citizenship, testified on his own behalf. He was the only witness to be called.
In frequently abrasive exchanges from the witness stand, he described the United States as the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany, and the prosecutors themselves as complicit in crimes.
As an officer, he must serve his prison term in a civilian jail.
He was also expelled from the Air Force and ordered to pay 20,000 pounds towards the cost of his defence.
In passing down his sentence, the judge said Kendall-Smith's own testimony had hurt his case.
''You have in the view of this court sought to make a martyr of yourself,'' he said. ''You have shown a degree of arrogance which is amazing.'' The case was the first of its kind in Britain, with war opponents viewing it as a landmark test of whether the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was lawful.
But Bayliss ruled before the trial began that the question of the legality of the invasion itself was irrelevant, and that British troops had a right to be in Iraq in 2005 under UN resolutions passed after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Defence lawyer Justin Hugheston-Roberts issued a statement after the verdict, saying Kendall-Smith would appeal.
''He feels that his actions were totally justified and he would not, if placed in the same circumstances, seek to do anything differently,'' he added.
REUTERS SHB PM2005