Socialist Worker

Opposition to war grows among military families

Issue No. 1992

Military families gather outside Downing Street on 1 March to hand in a letter to Tony Blair. From left: Pauline Hickey, mother of Christian Hickey; Peter Brierley, father of Shaun Brierley; Rose Gentle, mother of Gordon Gentle; and Roger Bacon, father of

Military families gather outside Downing Street on 1 March to hand in a letter to Tony Blair. From left: Pauline Hickey, mother of Christian Hickey; Peter Brierley, father of Shaun Brierley; Rose Gentle, mother of Gordon Gentle; and Roger Bacon, father of


Military families, including those with loved ones serving in Iraq, were set to lead Saturday’s Stop the War demonstration.

Chris Nineham, one of the coordinators of Military Families Against the War (MFAW), said, “Many new families are coming on board. People are going to the website, e-mailing or phoning the office.

“It’s turning into a mini mass movement. Previously it was those who had lost loved ones who spoke out against the war. Now it is people with relatives serving in Iraq as well.”

Linda Holmes is one of those who has joined the MFAW campaign in recent weeks. Her son is set to be sent out to Iraq. She told Socialist Worker, “I didn’t mind my son joining the army. I thought he would protect people, not kill.

“But I don’t agree with this war. We should get the troops out of Iraq now. We weren’t invited, we invaded and now we are occupying. And it all comes down to oil.”

Linda is angry that Tony Blair has refused to meet families who have lost loved ones in Iraq. “It’s like these deaths are nothing more than collateral to Blair,” she said.

For Linda, Blair’s actions have discredited the Labour Party. “I always voted Labour,” she said. “They came to my door for the last election, but I said ‘never again’. Soon Gordon Brown will replace Blair but it won’t make any difference. He won’t bring the troops home any quicker.”

Political

Janet Lowrie has a son and someone who is “as close to her as a son” serving in Iraq. She met anti-war activists leafleting in Glasgow and, through them, got in touch with MFAW. “I’m one of the first with kids out there to speak out.

“We know that our children are told to shut us up, but hopefully we won’t get them into too much trouble.

“I’m not into the political side of the campaign, but I know it’s wrong for them to be out there. I say that, but then everything is political.”

Janet has sent a flurry of increasingly angry letters to Downing Street. “One letter responded to Blair when he said that he would be judged by god,” she said. “I told him that I’d had a call from the devil on the same night, and he said he would be doing the judging.

“I don’t think he liked that. I used to get proper replies, but then I just started getting letters saying that I shouldn’t call our prime minister names, and postcards saying that ‘my comments had been acknowledged’.

“I think Blair should have the nerve to meet with the families of those who have been killed.”

Janet said her son is due back in a few weeks, but “there’s talk about Afghanistan and Iran, although that might just be talk”. She would rather her children “worked in McDonald’s, but you can’t rule their lives”.

Recruiters

There are signs that army recruiters in Scotland are becoming increasingly desperate to fill the ranks as opposition grows to serving in Iraq.

They are dangling inducements in front of younger and younger people in an effort to snare them into joining up.

While politicians, quite rightly, point to the horror of child soldiers in Africa, the British state is quite happy to pull vulnerable young people into the army.

Lisa McCormick is the mother of a 16 year old boy who wants to join the army. She said, “For the past two years my son has been working really hard to become an apprentice plumber. He never mentioned the army once.

“On the advice of a careers adviser he’s been attending a Scottish Training Foundation 26-week course to gain pre-employment skills.

“During three weeks on this course he’s been visited by an army recruitment officer twice, and been taken to Dreghorn army barracks for a day where the boys were dressed up in army uniforms.”

Lisa is desperate to prevent her son signing up. “He came home asking me to sign a consent form to join the army,” she said. “I told him that I won’t sign it.

“I am disgusted that the army is resorting to such desperate measures to recruit impressionable boys and young men.

“You also hear about them going into schools and targeting people at the job centres—young boys and men desperate for a job and some money.

“They don’t tell people what life in the army is really like. They promised my son that he’d be an engineer and get to travel around the world, that he’d get a good salary and education.

“I would never have wanted my son to join the army anyway but I was terrified at the thought that he might have to go to Iraq.

“The war is illegal and young boys are being sent unprepared and without the proper equipment and being killed there.

“I was lucky because I could stop my son joining the army by refusing to sign the consent form, two years later and there wouldn’t have been anything I could have done about it.”


‘It is your duty to serve the people’

Rose Gentle lost her son, the Scottish fusilier Gordon Gentle, in Iraq. He was just 19 years old when he was killed. She has become one of the most prominent anti-war campaigners linked to MFAW.

Last week she launched a public petition calling on the Scottish parliament to look at the issue of recruiting the young. She also wrote to Jack McConnell, Scottish first minister.

“We have reached a crucial moment and I would like to meet with you to discuss the implications of the armed forces recruiting young people in schools, further education colleges and on courses organised by Careers Scotland,” wrote Rose.

“This year, more soldiers have been deployed to Iraq, including 600 from the Royal Scots, and Britain is committed to sending 6,000 troops to Afghanistan.

“The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland are against this war. As first minister, it is your duty, first and foremost, to represent and serve the people.

“If our first minister is unable to prevent more lives being lost then this parliament has clearly failed.

“We call on you to join us in our demand to get all British troops returned home. We also call on you to prevent any more troops from Scottish regiments being deployed in Iraq.

“We want the parliament to debate the deployment of more troops as a matter of urgency.

“We also want to stop the armed forces recruiting young people in schools, further education colleges and on courses organised by Careers Scotland.”

For more from MFAW go to www.mfaw.org.uk


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Sat 18 Mar 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1992
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