It is of course easy to switch on the righteous indignation about "conchies" when brave men and women are dying for their country but it struck me there were two parts to the debate that warranted thinking about.
Whilst not all wars are just, and Joe certainly offers an opinion on Afghanistan that "It was conducted in a climate of racism and indifference to the Afghan people, completely at odds with how it’s sold at home", servicemen and women have laid down their lives for the cause of freedom and the right of individuals to safely express their own opinions, after all that is what democracy is about.
Of course this is balanced by the need for people to protect that freedom but in some way, that we allow for people to object on the reason of conscience reinforces the difference between countries where one is allowed to express their opinion and those that don't.
The second part of the debate was around whether soldiers should "pick and choose" the wars they want to fight. Of course this way leads to anarchy and as such should not be the case, but on the flip side it is established in international law that soldiers cannot use the "I was only obeying orders" defence and that they have the right to not obey illegal orders. The question is whether this extends to illegal wars and thus the relationship between the politician who starts the war and the soldier that fights it. SAS veteran Ben Griffin, who served in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, refused to serve in Iraq as he believed the role he was being asked (by the Government who led the country into the war) to undertake was contrary to that which he believed British soldiers should be undertaking.
The old fashioned simple view that a conscientious objector is just a fancy name for a coward is clearly false and many who object for reasons of conscience are clearly brave to stand up and cite their beliefs, especially when the outcome can be imprisonment (or in some countries worse).
I'm not sure what I think but Conscientious Objectors Day has given me food for thought and made me ponder the subject.
There probably is not a definitive right answer to the subject other than that war should only be undertaken as a last resort when all other measures have failed and it is the moral duty of all free people to question the necessity of sending their troops into harms way and ensuring politicians are always fully accountable and held to task if and when they fail their country and its armed forces by leading them into illegal or unjust wars.