Michael Lyons has got a fight on his hands—and he intends to win it. He is a 24 year old Navy medic, and a conscientious objector. He believes that the US and British occupation of Afghanistan is based on lies and greed.
But Michael has been refused recognition for his objection by the Navy, and is now involved in a stand off as to whether he will be forced to fight.
Michael, his mother Jill and his wife Lillian are confident and determined when interviewed.
One of the main reasons that Michael feels unable to serve in the Navy is the high rate of civilian deaths and injuries caused by the war.
He told Socialist Worker “Under the Geneva Convention you’re supposed to treat people indiscriminately. But I’ve been told in Navy training briefings that treating civilians is ‘wasting resources’ and that our side comes first.”
“As a medic you’re armed and on the ground,” Michael added. “There’s a good chance you’ll be in fire-fights.”
Michael’s objections have shaken the Navy hierarchy.
“There are very few conscientious objectors in the Navy. I was told by one officer that they couldn’t accept my objections because it would ‘open the floodgates’. They know how unpopular the war is.
“I haven’t had problems with people who hold my rank. All the problems have come from people in the hierarchy—I had a captain tell me that people like me are a cancer.
“The chaplain gave me a grilling for being an atheist.
“I want the procedure changed. I want my case to make it easier for servicemen and women when they disagree with what’s happening.
“There is no support for objectors and the procedures are hidden. This is political and they’re scared. It isn’t easy.”
Lillian said, “It’s clear they’re blocking Michael’s process to save face. We don’t agree with anything the military do any more, so it doesn’t make sense to have anything to do with it.”
Michael added, “Because my objection has a political basis, they don’t want to hear it. This war is not a just and noble cause like they say it is—I want nothing to do with it.
“People can’t come up with a valid reason to be in Afghanistan. Most people support the soldiers, but when you ask them they don’t support the war.
“I don’t want to go down in history as being over there and part of this.”
Michael has assembled a highly pro-active legal team. His caseworker John Tipple told Socialist Worker, “The process is being scrutinised and we will be taking the case forward decisively.”
Protest when Tony Blair appears back at the Chilcot inquiry: this Friday 21 January, 7.30am to 10.30am, QEII Conference Centre, London SW1P 3EE (Westminster or St James tube)