The number of British soldiers deserting military service over the US-led occupation of Iraq has been on the rise with more than 1,000 personnel went absent without leave and failed to return since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, the BBC reported Sunday, May 28.
“As part of my day to day job, I am approached regularly by people who are seeking to absent themselves from service. There has been an increase, a definite upturn,” solicitor Justin Hugheston-Roberts told the British broadcaster.
Roberts was the solicitor for Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith who was sentenced to eight months in prison for refusing to follow orders in connection with a deployment to Iraq.
Labour MP, John McDonnell, told Parliament later last week that there had been a tripling in desertion cases over the past three years.
The BBC says the Ministry of Defence is very secretive about the number of men and women who desert from the armed forces.
But it has been told that more than 1,000 military personnel went absent without leave and never showed up again since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.
During 2005 alone, 377 people deserted and are still missing. So far this year another 189 are on the run.
Some 900 have evaded capture since the Iraq war started.
Some lawmakers have suggested life sentences for deserters, a proposal that was condemned by MacDonnell as “inhuman and barbaric.”
A bill on the phenomenon is being debated by Parliament, but it does not apply to military personnel who deserted service in occupied Iraq.
Staunchly backed by Britain, the US invaded Iraq in March 2003 on the grounds that it was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and had links to Al-Qaeda.
A congressional report later concluded the Bush administration was “dead wrong” on the MWD claim and that Iraq had no link with Al-Qaeda.
“Lot of Dissent”
Ben Griffin, who was allowed to leave the military after he told his commander that he would not return to the occupied country due to the illegal acts committed by US troops, has become the public face of many UK soldiers demoralized by the Iraq occupation.
“I can’t speak for others but there’s a lot of dissent in the Army about the legality of war and concerns that they’re spending too much time there,” he told the BBC.
He said he would never have considered deserting but he says that his views are shared by many others in the British military.
What has offended Griffin most is the way the American troops are treating the Iraqi people.
“I was disturbed by the general day-to-day attitude of the American troops. They treated Iraqis with contempt, not like human beings. They had a complete disregard for Iraqi lives and property,” he added.
He says Iraq is different to other conflicts because, in other operations, the main aim is to improve life for the local population and he believes that is not what has happened in Iraq.
“There’s contempt for the locals. We don’t even know how many have been killed,” he added.
Former US Marine Jimmy Massey has urged the Iraqi people to forgive the US “war crimes” in Iraq. He applied for political asylum in Canada in protest at the “atrocities” committed by the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A wide-ranging poll of US troops in Iraq conducted by Le Moyne College and Zogby International has found that the vast majority of US troops in Iraq wanted to end occupation of the Arab country and return home within a year.
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies