Wednesday, 15 July 2009

There are orders that should not be obeyed

There has been much discussion of what the soldiers in Afghanistan should expect from the government. I have no intention of going into the rights and wrongs of that war - it should be sufficient to point to the history of wars in that country, and to remind you that the Khyber Pass in between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The lesson from history would be that no-one ever wins a war in that area...

But this blog posting is not about that.

A friend of mine pointed me to the Oathkeepers website. This site is US centric, and attempts to list those orders that a US soldier should not follow. On a similar line, the report from Breaking the Silence is worth a read. This is a campaign group that has gathered anonymous accounts of the Gaza conflict from an increasing number of Israeli soldiers.

The idea of the Oathkeepers could be taken more generally, to show the responsibility of everyone to uphold the law above and beyond any orders they are given: something fundamental to Geneva Conventions and post WWII principles.

So is I was only obeying orders a defence?

This is sometimes known as the Nuremburg Defence (Principle IV). It was clearly not a defence at Nuremburg, nor in a number of trials since. This is a problem for governments and the military.

I would suggest that the time has come for us all to agree that there are orders that no-one should follow. The interesting thing is that it would solve other problems as well - it might well mean that our troops were not in Afghanistan - and that they would not have been in Iraq...

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