Earlier this week, I came out publicly against the war in Iraq. I'm
not the only member of the Labour Party to be opposed to our military
participation in this American-led adventure, nor am I the only soldier. In
fact, there growing vocal minority within the Territorial Army that is
against the war. Nonetheless I am the first one to make it clear, in public,
that if called to serve in Iraq, I will refuse.
This has not been a decision arrived at impulsively. I have never
believed in the rightness of this war; in fact I was on the big anti-war
March in February 2003. Even then - before the absence of the weapons of
mass destruction that Prime Minister Blair and President Bush cited as the
principal reason to rush to war was admitted by all - I was astounded that
they could take us to war when it was clear the majority of the population
was opposed. Members of the Labour Party at the time were talking about
practicing an "ethical foreign policy", and yet there was nothing ethical
about the way this was being planned and sold to the public.
It was not as though there was no alternative at the time. Hans Blix,
the chief UN weapons inspector, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had both
pressed for more time before the final decisions were taken. And much of the
rest of the world, both governments and their peoples, were saying, "Let's
get this investigation sorted before we start blowing up human beings."
I could have quietly left the Army then, without fuss; you can resign
from the Territorial Army if you've not actually been called up to serve in
action. But from boyhood I had wanted to be a soldier; in fact, when I was
22 I had taken advantage of my dual Cypriot-British citizenship, and done
national service for the Greek army in Cyprus. Later I had joined the TA, as
a medic, and I was proud to be a part of that institution, and bound to my
friends and comrades there, some of whom agreed with me about the futility,
immorality and illegality of the war. None of us had been called up yet, so
we succumbed to the all too human temptation to put off the evil day until
it was upon us. In the end, quite a few did resign, and others who were
called up deliberately failed their medical examinations.
But although I stayed on a while longer, in the last year, when two of
my comrades returned wounded, I began thinking seriously about what I could
do to help end this continuing war. I began to do a lot of research,
learning everything I could about the illegality and immorality of our
occupation of Iraq. And I started to go on the anti-war demos that continue
around the country. I listened to peace campaigners and soldiers who had
been out there, and MPs like George Galloway. I would recommend similar
research to any soldier who is having doubts about the war.
Finally, one day about a month ago, I stood up at a demo in my local
London borough of Hackney and just said "I want to get out of this, but what
can I do?" It became clear that working with Military Families Against the
War, I could make public my despair, my anger and my intention to refuse any
call-up to serve in Iraq.
I wanted to leave the TA in the public way I have because, although so
many solders are against this war, they don't have a rallying point. There
has to be someone who is the first to go. After that, there will be another
and another and another. They're out there, the soldiers who want to make
plain their refusal to part of this illegal war - I know, I've talked to
Many people, even those who agree with my views on the war, will say
that it is not the place of soldiers to decide which wars they will fight;
that decision must be taken by their senior officers, and ultimately by the
government of the day. But you should only obey orders that are morally
right. The WMD claims were untrue, and so many other lies were told in the
pursuit of this war. Every individual soldier also has the moral right to
decide whether he will put his life on the line. After all, it is his flesh
and blood that gets wounded; that gives him the right to an opinion.
And in the modern army, not every opinion will be the same. No longer
do soldiers come from a uniform cultural background. The Army wants lots of
ethnic groups, and now that they've got them, they have to accept that there
will be different points of view. Think of the position of Muslims in the
Army. My own background as Greek Cypriot has made me aware of some
distasteful things that the British military did in Cyprus in the Fifties;
so I too have a different perspective. If the Government wants their
soldiers to fight, they will have to be clear and honest about what they are
asking them to do.
I'm proud to be part of the military family that is against the war.
There will be more soldiers coming out soon, and I'll be proud to stand next
to them on 19 March at the anti-war demo in London. We can help stop this
illegal and immoral war, and that is our duty now.
If any soldier would like to contact George Solomou or Military
Families Against the War, they can do so at www.mfaw.org.uk
© 2005 Independent Newspapers