Benjamin Griffin (born 1977) is a former British SAS soldier who refused to return to Iraq and left the Army, citing not only the “illegal” tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces but also that the invasion itself was illegal, being contrary to international law. He expected to be court-martialled, but was instead let go with a glowing testimonial from his commanding officer.He had previously served a three month tour in Baghdad alongside American forces, including Delta force personnel.
In an interview for the Sunday Telegraph, he told Defence Correspondent Sean Rayment:
The Americans had this catch-all approach to lifting suspects. The tactics were draconian and completely ineffective. The Americans were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured.
The Americans had a well-deserved reputation for being trigger happy. In the three months that I was in Iraq, the soldiers I served with never shot anybody. When you asked the Americans why they killed people, they would say ‘we were up against the tough foreign fighters’. I didn’t see any foreign fighters in the time I was over there.
I can remember coming in off one operation which took place outside Baghdad, where we had detained some civilians who were clearly not insurgents, they were innocent people. I couldn’t understand why we had done this, so I said to my troop commander ‘would we have behaved in the same way in the Balkans or Northern Ireland?’ He shrugged his shoulders and said ‘this is Iraq’, and I thought ‘and that makes it all right?’
As far as I was concerned that meant that because these people were a different colour or a different religion, they didn’t count as much. You cannot invade a country pretending to promote democracy and behave like that.
Commenting in similar vein to another former British SAS soldier, Griffin also gives his account of how the Americans view Iraqis:
As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees. They had no understanding or interest in the Arab culture. The Americans would talk to the Iraqis as if they were stupid and these weren’t isolated cases, this was from the top down. There might be one or two enlightened officers who understood the situation a bit better, but on the whole that was their general attitude. Their attitude fuelled the insurgency. I think the Iraqis detested them.
He is quoted in an article in The Scotsman as saying:
“I saw a lot of things in Baghdad that were illegal or just wrong. I knew, so others must have known, that this was not the way to conduct operations if you wanted to win the hearts and minds of the local population. . . and if you can’t win the hearts and minds of the people, you can’t win the war.”
For the avoidance of doubt, it needs to be made clear that at no stage did Ben Griffin apply for discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector, and has always stated that he does not regard himself, nor does he wish to be regarded, as a conscientious objector. He is happy to be described as an Iraq War resister.