Socialist Worker

Military gags anti-war soldier

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2178

Joe Glenton, the British soldier who has refused to return to fight in Afghanistan, is to face a military hearing this week after being arrested and detained for speaking out against the war.

The ministry of defence has brought charges against Joe for almost every media appearance he has made in his campaign.

It added another seven charges last week—carrying a total prison sentence of up to ten years.

This is in addition to the original charge of desertion after Joe refused orders to go to Afghanistan.

The hearing this week will decide if Joe has “re-offended” while in custody and if he will continue to be detained.

The army has previously tried to suggest that public statements by Joe’s legal team or family can also count against Joe.

But this has not deterred those close to Joe from speaking out.

Sue Glenton, Joe’s mum, told Socialist Worker, “We were expecting Joe to be arrested as he has continued to speak out against the war.

“All the troops should come home. There are no grey areas here—this is black and white. The more coffins that come back the worse it gets.”

The strength of public opinion against the war has meant that the army is in a difficult position.

On the one hand it wants to gag Joe and stop him from publicising the disastrous reality of the Afghan war.

It also knows that arresting him and putting him in military prison will not silence him or the movement he is part of.

Joe, like millions of other people in Britain, believes that the war in Afghanistan is futile, immoral and wrong.

By conservative estimates, at least 32,000 Afghans have been killed since the war started in 2001.

Unpopular

Hundreds of thousands more have been driven from their homes. And every day brings news of more British soldiers killed or injured. The war is increasingly unpopular—the latest poll, released last Sunday, showed that 71 percent of people in Britain want the troops out of Afghanistan within a year.

Joe first went to Afghanistan in February 2006 thinking he was going to help support and rebuild the country.

He was told, like everyone else, that the war would improve the lives of ordinary Afghans.

But the reality of the war came as a shock to him.

He saw morale falling and many soldiers starting to question why they were there.

There is growing discontent in the army over Afghanistan.

One symptom of this is the dramatic increase in the number of soldiers going, and staying, Awol (absent without leave) in the years since the start of the “war on terror”.

Recent documents reveal that a total of 1,013 soldiers were Awol at the start of October last year, with more than 60 registered as absent since 2002.

Support for Joe’s stand is growing both in and outside the army.

More than 100 people gathered to protest outside the ministry of defence building in London on Thursday of last week to demand Joe’s release.

And hundreds of people in Joe’s hometown of York signed a petition at the weekend calling for his release.

Joe stands in a tradition of soldiers who refuse to fight wars they believe are wrong.

It is the job of all those against the war to campaign for justice for Joe, for all the troops to come home and an end to the occupation of the Afghan people so that they can run their own lives.

Send letters of support to Lance

Corporal Joe Glenton, Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC), Berechurch Hall Camp, Colchester, Essex CO2 9NU


Join the Stop the War Coalition national day of action against the war in Afghanistan on 25 November. Activities involve a mass “die-in” in central London.

Go to » www.stopwar.org.uk for more details.


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