Sunday, April 16, 2006

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?


At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prisoner of conscience. It was his right, and his duty as a doctor to speak out against, and refuse to be a part of, a war of occupation that many see as an illegal and unsupported (should I mention the yellow cake uranium, or the total lack to this day of any evidence of link between Saddam Husein and al-Qaeda ?) act of war.
What there was to "prevent Kendall-Smith from speaking his mind, serving his country, and healing the sick all at the same time" was his conscience. That's all a man needs to stand up to tyranny.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Robert Luedeman, attorney at law said...

I disagree. It was his duty to serve his queen and country first as a member of the military, and secondly to aid the sick and wounded as a practicing physician. You put a lot of value on being able to obey the dictates of conscience, but in the case of military people that means resigning your commission and then speaking out, not choosing what you will and what you will not do. The military service is not a democracy and there are no referendums on where and how you will honor recipt of the king's shilling.


Post a Comment

<< Home