Socialist Worker

Military families are set to lobby parliament

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 1996

Military Families Against the War protested outside Downing Street in October Pic: Guy Smallman

Military Families Against the War protested outside Downing Street in October Pic: Guy Smallman


Three years into the war in Iraq, Tony Blair has yet to meet the families of the 103 British soldiers whose deaths he is responsible for.

On Wednesday 26 April Military Families Against the War are holding a lobby of parliament to demand that Blair meet with the families of those killed—and that British troops are withdrawn from Iraq.

Rose Gentle’s son Gordon was killed in June 2004 while serving in Iraq. She told Socialist Worker, “We’ll be lobbying MPs and laying a wreath at 10 Downing Street. It’s disgusting that we have to fight to try and get Tony Blair to even meet with us.

“There are now 63 military families involved in the campaign. There’s been a real surge in the number of people getting involved, including those who have family serving in Iraq.

“This is a significant shift. Of course people are concerned for the lives of their loved ones—but they also believe that this war is wrong and that our troops have no place in Iraq.”

Dave Corrigan, a former member of the Territorial Army, was sent to Iraq in February 2003 as a paramedic. He says that even though he went there to save lives rather than take them, the things he saw in Iraq will stay with him forever.

“It’s incredibly important that we get as many military families involved as we can,” Dave told Socialist Worker. “This lobby is a chance for people who are directly affected by this illegal war to come face to face with those who sanctioned it.

“The anti-war movement has been absolutely brilliant. But there is a specific role for those of us who have served in the armed services, or whose sons, daughters, husbands or wives have done so.

“We need to let them know that we hold Bush and Blair responsible for the deaths of these soldiers and for the deaths of the Iraqi people.”

One mother whose son recently returned from his first tour in Iraq said, “My son signed up when he was 16. I was there when he pledged allegiance to ‘queen and country’—instead he was sent to Iraq to further Bush and Blair’s control of oil.

“I got involved with Military Families Against the War because I was trying to find out what was happening in Iraq. There was no point looking at what the BBC had to say—they don’t seem to bother with news any more.

“I will be at the lobby because this war is wrong. When we first invaded I believed Blair’s lies about weapons of mass destruction, and I accepted that my son might have to fight. But since Saddam fell Iraq has gone from ridiculous to disastrous.

“Now they talk about regime change. That’s not why they invaded. Democracy comes from the people taking power from their leaders, not because we decide to impose it on them.

“And the troops aren’t helping. From what my son has told me all the troops do is protect their bases and clear roads of bombs—bombs that have been put there to kill troops.

“We’re the majority against the war, yet Blair refuses to represent our will. Perhaps we need regime change. If we’re lucky we can topple Blair’s statue.”


Attacks on those unwilling to fight

The government has reacted to the embarrassment of people in the armed forces refusing to take part in the illegal war in Iraq by persecuting them.

Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, an RAF doctor, faces a court martial this week after refusing to return for a third tour in Iraq. He has doubly embarrassed the government by refusing to become a conscientious objector—arguing instead that the war in Iraq is illegal. His court martial was underway as Socialist Worker went to press.

Former SAS serviceman Ben Griffin is also facing legal action after describing the Iraq war as “illegal” in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The government’s solicitors say that Griffin has broken an agreement not to disclose any events from his time with special forces without the ministry of defence’s prior agreement.

He left the SAS in June of last year after three months in Baghdad, and is the first member of the SAS to refuse to fight alongside US troops because of his moral convictions.

His lawyer Simon McKay said, “The truth is that this is an attempt to gag Mr Griffin, not because he disclosed details about SAS operations but because he embarrassed the government.”

New Labour now plans to crack down even on soldiers who speak out. Its latest Armed Forces Bill includes a clause threatening life imprisonment for those who refuse to serve in a “military occupation of a foreign country or territory”.

For more on Military Families Against the War, go to the website


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News
Sat 15 Apr 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1996
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