RAF Doctor Sentenced for Refusal to Serve in Iraq
It was reported on Friday by The Scotsman that Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a serving officer in the Royal Air Force was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment and what amounts to the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge from the service. Dr. Kendall-Smith was ordered to Iraq but refused on the premise that the war was an illegal action comparable to Nazi aggression. In addition, Dr. Kendall-Smith was also assessed twenty thousand pounds to defray the cost of his defense.
In a stinging slap, the Court, Mr. Judge Advocate Bayliss presiding, told Kendall-Smith that he sought to make a martyr of himself and showed "amazing arrogance". Well, he got what he asked for. The cost of resistance to military orders is high, as the significant number of Americans in Scandinavia who are deserters from the Vietnam war can attest.
One wonders what was really at issue in this case. Surely, a physician's first duty is to heal, and I am quite sure that any doctor who finds himself in Iraq will find plenty of opportunity to practice the healing arts on soldiers who have need of his care, and on civilians who find themselves in the midst of a fire fight. There is a great need for physicians in Iraq, military or otherwise, as the state of public health is dismal.
In short, there was little to prevent Kendall-Smith from speaking his mind, serving his country, and healing the sick all at the same time, yet he sought to sit the dance out. Britain is remarkably tolerant of dissent and remains a bastion for freethinkers of every stripe.
However, the situation in Iraq demands the very best of everyone serving, particularly those with skills besides killing.
Prisoner of conscience or coward?