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Supporting the Troops

In the Federal seat of Eden-Monaro, which borders Canberra, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Kelly is running for office on the labor party ticket against Liberal Gary Nairn, the Special minister of State. No election has been called yet; but campaigning is in full swing in Eden-Monaro, a seat which has historically been won by the party which forms government.

Colonel Kelly has a distinguished record as a military lawyer. While posted to Iraq and afterwards, Kelly did his best to alert the government to the Abu Ghraib and AWB scandals. He was telling the government things that it did not want to hear, so he was ignored and later forced to resign.

Last week Colonel Kelly came under attack at a public forum by Nairn's chief of staff, Dr Phelps. Phelps, who has a PhD in foreign policy, says that he was there privately (and without declaring his party affiliation). Television recorded the exchange:

MIKE KELLY: I told you that it was a total failure of diplomacy, to establish that mission on a sound footing of legitimacy.
PETER PHELPS: (Inaudible) illegal and immoral. And you took part in it willingly because you weren't sent over there, you volunteered, didn't you?
MIKE KELLY: No, I was a soldier, and I did what I was ordered to do.
PETER PHELPS: Oh, like the guards at Belsen, perhaps? Are you using the Nuremberg Defence? No, no, come on.
MIKE KELLY: No, no, no that's fine.
PETER PHELPS: He is a military lawyer who knows full well…

Afterwards, Phelps engaged Kelly, who never seems to lose his cool, about Somalia, which Kelly advised the Somalis about the prosecution of warlord Hussan Gataale Abdul, who was eventually executed:

MIKE KELLY: That was the law of the land. There was nothing I could do about it.
PETER PHELPS: Yes, there is. You could've just not taken part in it. You seem to be saying that Nuremberg never existed, that an officer has no responsibility of saying "I'm sorry, I can't take part in that because I'm personally opposed to it.
MIKE KELLY: I personally am opposed to the death penalty but internationally the death penalty - it is not an international crime. Many countries have the death penalty. There's nothing I can do about that.
PETER PHELPS: Some countries also allow stoning. Would you help with that?
MIKE KELLY: There were special circumstances... Abdul's militia were committing genocide against a peaceful agrarian population and had already killed 40% when foreign forces arrived.
PETER PHELPS: So there are some circumstances where it alright to impose the death penalty?
MIKE KELLY: The only way to stop the genocide... was to kill one person. Imprisonment would not have stopped Abdul from exterminating the population. Mate, it was communal self-defence. He had a hugely armed militia organisation.
PETER PHELPS: And you were happy to be at the execution.
MIKE KELLY: I wasn't happy to be there.
PETER PHELPS: So you were there?
MIKE KELLY: To make sure that everything was done according to international law.

While claiming to be an expert, Phelps is clearly wrong on one key point: while the Army requires an officer to disobey unlawful orders (and allows you to disobey even some lawful orders) a personal opposition is not enough to cut the mustard.

So there you have it. As far as the government is concerned, it may have ordered the troops to Iraq, but that is not the government's responsibility; they volunteered. And the government may have applauded the use of the death penalty overseas, but the troops are at fault if they merely stood by. As far as the government is concerned, it is solely the troops who are to blame, not the government.

Nairn under fire after staffer's Iraq comments

Military veteran takes on a 12-year MP



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
23rd Sep, 2007 01:03 (UTC)
23rd Sep, 2007 01:14 (UTC)
*sighs* Politicians on this just roundly disgust me. :/
23rd Sep, 2007 05:09 (UTC)
I so totally and absolutely hate people who obviously have no morals or backbone whatsoever and still abuse the name "Nuremberg" whenever they feel like it. It cheapens what happened there and also reflects only on the person using the argument, not on the person the argument is being used against. The way that second argument went, it seems that Phelps would have been opposed to the assassination of Hitler!

I hope Kelly gets elected into a position where he can send Phelps into a war zone. See if he can actually do anything there without getting dirty hands...
23rd Sep, 2007 06:42 (UTC)
The desperation is so obvious...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )