TA soldier quits over 'immoral' war in Iraq

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The Independent Online

A Territorial Army soldier announced his resignation publicly yesterday to highlight discontent about Iraq in the ranks.

A Territorial Army soldier announced his resignation publicly yesterday to highlight discontent about Iraq in the ranks.

Lance Corporal George Solomou believes as many as half of TA soldiers do not agree with, or are uncomfortable about, the conflict. He said he would rather face imprisonment than be forced to serve in a war he described as "bank-rupt, unjust and immoral". A quarter of the Army is TA soldiers and 11,000 have served in Iraq since February 2003, making up a sixth of the force.

L/Cpl Solomou, 38, who is in the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to the London Irish Rifles, made his statement at a Military Families Against the War conference.

He said many of his comrades felt uneasy. "The majority resign in the traditional way," he said. "They go quietly, saying they have got family problems. I want to act as a beacon, a rallying point for other soldiers. We don't have to go quietly. This war is wrong. I call upon other soldiers to conscientiously object to this war."

The emergency services worker, who has been what is often referred to as a weekend warrior for five years, says as many as a quarter of his comrades disagree with the conflict. "Twenty to 25 per cent are on the line. They don't believe in it but they are not going to do anything about it. They just hope they don't get called up."

He said he joined the TA for the experience, discipline and adventurous life. Of joint British and Cypriot nationality, he had already done six months' national service in his parents' home country. "If it was a moral war, I would go, but it is not," he said. "We have to know what we do is right so we can face our grandchildren, our spouses, our partners, look them in the eye and said, 'What I did was morally just'. I believe my job, as a medic, is to look after my mates after they get injured. In a way, I am betraying them because I am not going to be with them the next time. But the bigger picture is, if we stop soldiers going to war, we will save people that way."

The London Irish Rifles has already served in Iraq. L/Cpl Solomou's tour of duty was deferred last May because he was studying at university. He said: "If they call me up then I will take my papers and burn them outside Downing Street. I will go to prison rather than go to war in Iraq."

He said he was among six TA soldiers who took part in the anti-war march in London.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said TA soldiers could seek exemption and each case was judged on its merits.