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SAS soldier quits Army in disgust at 'illegal' American tactics in Iraq

Sean Rayment / London Telegraph | March 12 2006

An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the "illegal" tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.

After three months in Baghdad, Ben Griffin told his commander that he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American forces.

He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human.

The decision marks the first time an SAS soldier has refused to go into combat and quit the Army on moral grounds.

It immediately brought to an end Mr Griffin's exemplary, eight-year career in which he also served with the Parachute Regiment, taking part in operations in Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.

But it will also embarrass the Government and have a potentially profound impact on cases of other soldiers who have refused to fight.

On Wednesday, the pre-trial hearing will begin into the court martial of Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a Royal Air Force doctor who has refused to return to Iraq for a third tour of duty on the grounds that the war is illegal. Mr Griffin's allegations came as the Foreign Office minister Kim Howells, visiting Basra yesterday, admitted that Iraq was now "a mess".

Mr Griffin, 28, who spent two years with the SAS, said the American military's "gung-ho and trigger happy mentality" and tactics had completely undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. He added that many innocent civilians were arrested in night-time raids and interrogated by American soldiers, imprisoned in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, or handed over to the Iraqi authorities and "most probably" tortured.

Mr Griffin eventually told SAS commanders at Hereford that he could not take part in a war which he regarded as "illegal".

He added that he now believed that the Prime Minister and the Government had repeatedly "lied" over the war's conduct.

"I did not join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy," he said. He expected to be labelled a coward and to face a court martial and imprisonment after making what "the most difficult decision of my life" last March.

Instead, he was discharged with a testimonial describing him as a "balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions".

Last night Patrick Mercer, the shadow minister for homeland security, said: "Trooper Griffin is a highly experienced soldier. This makes his decision particularly disturbing and his views and opinions must be listened to by the Government."

The MoD declined to comment.

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