The Armed Forces Bill 2006, a major redrafting of military law, will be in the Commons on 22 May. Yet it has gone through committee stage with hardly a whisper in the media and a deafening silence even from politicians who opposed the Iraq war.
Section 8 of the Armed Forces Bill 2006, now discussed in Parliament, would introduce a new and tougher definition of desertion: soldiers who go absent without leave (AWOL) and intend to refuse to take part in a “military occupation of a foreign country or territory” can be imprisoned for life.
The government would expressly legitimise occupation, and with a proposed re-write of the Geneva Convention, would legalise pre-emptive military action – revamping the traditional English imperial policy to serve Bush and his “endless war”.
In this way, the government contravenes the Nuremberg Principles (1950) which enshrined in international law the responsibility of each of us to refuse to obey illegal and immoral orders from any government.2 The eight-month sentence of Flight-Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith is a warning to military personnel who would act on principle.