Posts Tagged ‘Stop the War Coalition’

Joe Glenton sent to prison but war criminals walk free

March 6, 2010

Morning Star Online, March 5,  2010

by Lizzie Cocker
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton has been  sentenced to nine months in prison

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton has been sentenced to nine months in prison

A hero of the anti-war movement has been jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan – while his boss boasted of writing a blank cheque for the illegal Iraq invasion.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton was sentenced to nine months in prison and had his rank reduced after admitting going absent without leave (awol) from the army.

But even as he was being handed his jail time an unrepentant Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the Chilcott inquiry that the war in Iraq “was the right decision and for the right reasons.”

A Stop the War Coalition spokesman hit out at the sentence saying: “Joe Glenton is not the person who should be facing a jail sentence – it should be the politicians who have led us into disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The fact that they are not brings shame to justice in this country.”

L/Cpl Glenton was detained in November after he led a Stop the War demonstration in London where he went against orders and publicly denounced the war.

He originally believed that the troops would bring democracy to Afghanistan and improve women’s rights.

But after serving there his views changed quickly. His lawyer Nick Wrack said: “He began to see that the conflict in Afghanistan was wrong. He spoke out about it, perhaps in a bold fashion.”

Serving in Afghanistan in 2006, L/Cpl Glenton had begun to voice concerns to his superiors about the devastation being caused by Nato forces.

Back in England, he was soon ordered back to the war zone for nine months – despite guidelines saying soldiers should not be redeployed within 18 months.

The court heard that his reluctance to return led to him being bullied by his commanding officer.

L/Cpl Glenton fled for Australia and Asia and did not return until July 2009 when he was accused of desertion – a charge reduced following immense pressure from the anti-war movement.

In Australia he met his wife Clare, who cried yesterday as Mr Wrack read aloud her letter begging the court not to jail her husband.

She was comforted by L/Cpl Glenton’s mother Sue, who said later: “The court barely paid lip service to justice.

“The judge clearly didn’t listen to the arguments or if she did she ignored them. The lawyers are considering an appeal. The Ministry of Defence will be hearing a lot more from me.”

Mr Wrack told the court: “Instead of being dealt with in a sensible way it resulted in the sergeant at the time bullying and intimidating Lance Corporal Glenton.”

Psychiatrist Lars Davidsson told the military court that L/Cpl Glenton may have gone awol because he had post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He told me of how he supplied coffins for the dead servicemen. He had dreams of coffins being lined up.

“He was drinking heavily and having sleeping problems. Sometimes he would have bad dreams and wake up screaming,” Dr Davidsson said.

The MoD refused to comment.

Storm of protest as Blair slinks into Iraq inquiry

January 30, 2010
Morning Star Online,  January 29, 2010
by Paddy McGuffin
A sea of placards filled Parliament Square on Friday morning

A sea of placards filled Parliament Square on Friday morning

“Blair lied, thousands died.” That was the chant which reverberated around Parliament Square on Friday as former prime minister Tony Blair gave evidence to the Iraq inquiry.

Even from the safety of the Queen Elizabeth II centre, where he had been spirited by his security detail hours before the inquiry was due to start, Mr Blair could not have failed to hear the fury of the hundreds of protesters who thronged the square throughout the morning.

Continues >>

TRUE HERO: British soldier faces 10 years for decision to speak out against war

November 12, 2009
Morning Star Online, Wednesday 11 November 2009
by Lizzie Cocker
DISASTER ZONE: Joe Glenton has been arrested after speaking out against injustice and illegality of the war in Afghanistan

DISASTER ZONE: Joe Glenton has been arrested after speaking out against injustice and illegality of the war in Afghanistan

Anti-war Lance Corporal Joe Glenton has been arrested and faces 10 years in jail for bravely honouring his moral responsibility to speak out against the illegal occupation of Afghanistan.

The serving soldier faces up to seven charges after he defied orders to address 10,000 demonstrators last month in Trafalgar Square and told the media that he did not believe the war was legitimate or in the nation’s interest.

Continues >>

In a war for democracy, why worry about public opinion?

October 15, 2009

Escalation in Afghanistan is aimed at rescuing the credibility of western power, whatever Afghans or westerners might want

Whoever is in charge, it seems, the war on terror has truly become a war without end. Eight years after George Bush and Tony Blair launched it, with an attack on Afghanistan under the preposterous title of “operation enduring freedom” and without any explicit UN mandate, Gordon Brown has agreed to send yet more British troops to die for a cause neither they nor the public any longer believe in.

Granted we are only talking about an extra 500 troops on top of the 9,000 already there, and the decision is hedged with qualifications. Brown has nevertheless bowed to pressure from the US administration, the British military establishment and the warmongering wing of the media, anxious to exploit the government’s Afghan failures in the runup to the general election.

But if any more proof were needed that foreign wars are not regarded as any business of the voters, this is surely it. Yesterday’s batch of polls confirm public opposition to the Afghan imbroglio is becoming ever more entrenched. There has been a 7% increase since last month in support for immediate withdrawal, according to a Populus poll for the Times, with 68% wanting troops out within the year and strongest backing for a pullout among Labour voters.

That is feeding the growing disaffection among serving soldiers towards what many see as a futile sacrifice, supposedly on behalf of a hostile population in Helmand province. The public opposition of Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, scheduled to face a court martial next month after refusing to fight what he regards as an illegal war in Afghanistan, clearly reflects a wider sentiment in the army. Stop the War Coalition activists drumming up support for next week’s national demonstration have reported sympathetic approaches from off-duty squaddies and their families across the country. It’s the kind of climate that saw parents of soldiers killed in Iraq tell the official inquiry on Tuesday they want to see Blair indicted as a war criminal.

Reports are multiplying of a similar mood among American soldiers in Afghanistan, as US opposition to the war has also hardened. As in Britain, the rampant rigging in August’s presidential election was a tipping point: dying for Afghans’ right to take part in a fraudulent sham is scarcely the noble cause for which Nato forces were assured they were the standard-bearers.

But the signs are that Barack Obama is once again preparing to send more troops – even if not the 40,000 demanded by his senior commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal. Last week, the US president explicitly ruled out any significant reduction in troop numbers or switch from a “counter-insurgency” to “counter-terrorist” remit (targeting al-Qaida, rather than the Taliban), let alone military withdrawal.

Instead, the hints are of schemes to buy off Taliban footsoldiers in an attempt to repeat the trick that created US-sponsored Sunni militias out of elements of the Iraqi resistance during the 2007 US surge. The Iraq analogy is not a happy one, however. Those Iraqi “awakening councils” are already falling apart, notably in what was supposed to be their showcase of Anbar province, where a string of deadly attacks has taken place in recent days.

Add to that the fact that there is no equivalent Shia or Iranian-style threat to the Taliban in the Pashtun areas where they are strongest, and the new wheeze’s potential looks a good deal less impressive. As Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Institute puts it: “You cannot break an insurgency that strong with money. It’s not a mercenary force.” In fact, the Taliban now effectively controls up to 70% of the country, according to Pakistan government estimates, its support fuelled by nationalist anger and the thousands of Afghan civilian casualties inflicted by Nato forces.

Meanwhile, years of occupation and intervention in Afghanistan are yielding ever more bitter fruit in Pakistan. The war with the local Taliban is expected to escalate next week into a full-scale US-sponsored assault on South Waziristan, retaliatory attacks are spreading in the cities, US drone attacks have exacted a relentless civilian death toll and two million have already been made homeless by the spillover war.

Yet one after another, the official aims and justifications of the war in Afghanistan have failed or been discredited. It was a war fought to kill or capture Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but both are still at large. It was a war fought to destroy al-Qaida, whose leadership simply decamped and set up new bases from Pakistan to Iraq. It was a war for democracy, women’s rights, development and opium eradication – all successively demonstrated to be a hollow joke.

Now we are told it is a war to prevent al-Qaida-inspired terrorism on the streets of London, which shamelessly turns reality on its head. There were no such attacks before 2001, and both bombers and intelligence agencies have repeatedly identified the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as a central motivation for those who try to launch them. Last week, General Richards, new chief of the general staff, conjured up an even more lurid justification: if Nato pulled out of Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaida would seize Pakistan and its nuclear weapons.

The opposite is the case. It is the Afghan war that is destabilising Pakistan and driving the Pashtun rebellion there. The last remaining argument, that withdrawal from Afghanistan would risk “undermining the credibility of Nato” and the “international community”, used by Brown last month, is the closest to the truth. In the wake of its strategic defeat in Iraq, it would certainly signal that the US and its allies can no longer impose military solutions on recalcitrant states at will, as they have done since the end of the cold war.

Which is why US, British and other Nato soldiers are likely to go on dying in Afghanistan, along with thousands of mostly unreported Afghans. The alternative is not to “walk away” from the country, as often claimed by supporters of the occupation, but the negotiated withdrawal and political settlement, including the Taliban and regional powers, that will eventually end the war. That’s what most Afghans, Britons and Americans want. But political pressure will have to grow stronger – including, grimly, from a rising soldiers’ death toll – if it’s going to be achieved any time soon.

Afghan MP Malalai Joya calls for the international anti-war movement to demonstrate against the war in Afghanistan

July 25, 2009

Report by Feyzi Ismail | Stop the War, July 24, 2009

On Thursday 23 July, the Stop the War Coalition held one of its most electrifying rallies in its eight year history. The inspirational anti-war Afghan MP Malalai Joya was joined on the platform by Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, a serving British soldier who was speaking in public for the first time against the horror caused by the war in Afghanistan.

Malalai Joya speaks

Photo: Guy Smallman

Malalai Joya has been called one of the bravest women in Afghanistan. She told the 300-strong audience that she’s survived five assassination attempts and is still not safe with personal security guards or by wearing a burkha to cover her identity. Yet she continues to campaign against foreign occupation and fundamentalist warlords, and for women’s rights and education. She believes all NATO troops must leave  Afghanistan immediately.

Elected to the Afghan parliament as its youngest MP in 2003, her first speech called on the Afghan government to prosecute the warlords and criminals also present in the assembly. But she had barely started her speech when her microphone was cut off, angry men were raising their fists towards her and she had to be escorted out by a human chain of supporters and UN officials around her.

In 2005 she told the assembled parliament that it was “worse than a zoo.” Two years ago she was suspended from the parliament.

Afghans against occupation

She told the audience of the suffering of Afghans, and in particular women, at the hands of both occupation forces and the warlords who benefit from the occupation. If the war was ever about eradicating opium, 93% of global opium production now comes from Afghanistan, and £500m goes into the pockets of the Taliban every year because of the drug trade. Afghans have lost almost everything, she said, except that they have gained political knowledge. And they are against the occupation.

She holds little hope for the upcoming elections in August. She said the ballot box is controlled by a mafia of warlords and criminals, and that even if the democrats in Afghanistan could put up a candidate, they would inevitably become puppets of the US and NATO, or they wouldn’t survive in office. NATO could not possibly provide a solution because the troops are despised for the carnage they have brought to the country.

As Malalai repeated a number of times in the meeting, no nation can liberate another nation, and only the oppressed can rise up against their oppressors. The only solution, she said, was for the anti-war movement internationally to speak out and demonstrate against the war in their own countries, “because our enemies are afraid of international solidarity.” It will be a prolonged and risky struggle, she continued, but the Afghans must liberate themselves.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton speaks against Afghan war

Soldier ashamed and disllusioned

The other highlight of the meeting was the testimony of a serving British soldier. While Malalai fights against the war in Afghanistan, more and more British troops – who equally risk their lives fighting in Afghanistan – are realising the futility of this project. Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who fought in Kandahar in 2006, told the audience that he came back ashamed and disillusioned. He said the army and the politicians never explained why they were there or what was going on, only that British troops were helping the Afghan people.

When he found that the Afghans were fighting against them, this came as a real shock. He spoke of the discontentment in the ranks, which he described as dangerous, and the need for Britain to withdraw its troops.

Two years ago when Glenton heard he was being posted back to Afghanistan, he decided the only sensible thing to do was to leave the army, even illegally, as he did not believe that Britain was doing anything constructive in Afghanistan. He now faces up to two years in a civilian prison. Stop the War Coalition declared it would support Glenton and any other soldier who faced the courts on account of being against the war.

Andrew Murray, Chair of Stop the War, opened the meeting by reminding us that the Stop the War Coalition was founded eight years ago in response to the threatened invasion of Afghanistan. Now that the British government has shifted its focus to Afghanistan – discussing the possibility of sending more troops, as the death toll rises past that in Iraq – so the anti-war movement will step up its campaign to mobilise public opinion to demand that all the troops are brought home as soon as possible.

Public opinion in Britain has indeed shifted against the war in Afghanistan. Whatever support the war had initially – for reducing opium production, for the reconstruction taking place, for keeping the Taliban in check, for defending women’s rights and bringing democracy – people are now cutting through the media spin. They know this is an unwinnable war, that there is no reconstruction taking place and that the longer we stay the more death and destruction we cause. As Malalai put it, the war being waged by the British government in Afghanistan not only causes untold suffering for the Afghans, but it takes away from our humanity too.

In the event of the 200th British soldier that is killed in Afghanistan, Stop the War will call on all its local groups across the country to organise street protests. The current death toll stands at 188 and is rising at an average of about one per day.

Stop the War will also be announcing shortly details of a major national demonstration in November to mark the anniversary of the Afghanistan invasion in 2001.

Malalai Joya’s new book Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dares to Speak Out has just been published by Rider Books.

Leading British Jews call on Israel to halt ‘horror’ of Gaza

January 11, 2009

A group of Britain’s most prominent Jews has called on Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately, warning that its actions, far from improving the country’s security, will “strengthen extremism, destabilise the region, and exacerbate tensions inside Israel”.

Describing themselves, as “profound and passionate supporters” of Israel – and supporting its right to defend itself against the “war crime” of Hamas rocket attacks – they added that the current tactics threatened to undermine international support for Israel.

The intervention, in a letter published in today’s Observer, came as fears grew that Israel was to launch a “new phase” of its military offensive inside the Gaza strip. Yesterday warplanes dropped leaflets warning Gazans “not to be close to terrorists, weapons warehouses and the places where the terrorists operate”. The two-week-old campaign has already killed more than 800 Palestinians, while 13 Israelis have died, three of them civilians killed by Hamas rockets.

Although individual Jewish writers and religious figures have expressed their opposition to the conduct of Operation Cast Lead, the letter represents the most significant break with Israel’s tactics from a group of UK Jews.

Prominent rabbis, academics and political figures are among the signatories, including Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield, head of the Movement for Reform Judaism; Sir Jeremy Beecham, former chair of the Labour party; Professor Shalom Lappin of the University of London; Baroness Julia Neuberger; Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism; Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein, principal of Leo Baeck rabbinical training college; and lawyer Michael Mitzman, who set up Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for the Home Office.

Their demand comes amid increasing pressure on Israel from the diplomatic community to halt its operations, and rising criticism of the humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians, including allegations of potentially serious breaches of international humanitarian law. Demonstrations around the world yesterday called for a ceasefire.

“We look upon the increasing loss of life on both sides of the Gaza conflict with horror,” reads the letter. “We have no doubt that rocket attacks into southern Israel, by Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups, are war crimes against Israel. No sovereign state should, or would, tolerate continued attacks and the deliberate targeting of civilians. Israel had a right to respond and we support the Israeli government’s decision to make stopping the rocket attacks an urgent priority.

“However, we believe that now only negotiations can secure long-term security for Israel and the region.”

The letter was written before the escalation of ground fighting in Gaza City itself signalled by Israel yesterday.

“There can be no alternative to a negotiated solution,” said Beecham. “Israel should be demonstrating, along with the Palestinian Authority, that there are economic and political benefits to be gained from peaceful engagement rather than violent confrontation.”

His sentiments were echoed by Lappin: “Relying on overwhelming military force to respond to terrorist provocations invariably imposes horrendous suffering on innocent Palestinian civilians while entrenching the agents of terror in their midst. We have no alternative but to pursue rational, long term political options that promote moderation and marginalise extremists.”

In London violent clashes broke out near the Israeli embassy as tens of thousands marched in protest. Helmeted riot police with batons and shields charged a group of demonstrators who hurled sticks, shoes and traffic cones back at them while chanting “Free Palestine!”

Protesters tried to force entry to the north gate of Kensington Palace Gardens and six climbed an adjoining wall, setting fire to an American flag. The windows of a Starbucks opposite the embassy were smashed.

The police charges created waves of panic. Protester Ahmed Mohammad, 23, claimed he saw women and children get hurt: “It was a peaceful protest until the riot police came. I’ve seen a mother and little girl pushed to the ground.”

Some protesters attempted to throw barriers and other missiles at police.

The Stop the War Coalition, which organised the event, claimed that “at least” 100,000 people had made it “the biggest demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the history of this country”. The Metropolitan Police estimated the total at 12,000.

Earlier, Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park was turned into a sea of Palestinian flags and banners condemning Israel. Speakers included human rights advocate Bianca Jagger, singer Annie Lennox and the Rev Garth Hewitt, canon at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.

UK: Thousands march at Labour conference against war

September 21, 2008

Socialist Worker online, Sep 20, 2008

by Ken Olende

More than 5,000 people marched through central Manchester today against the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the spread of war to other countries.

The demonstration was timed to coincide with the start of the Labour Party conference. As marchers passed the conference venue many held their palms up towards it, shouting “blood on your hands”.

Falak, a young woman from Liverpool, said, “If you don’t speak up nothing’s going to change. The threats to Iran and the trouble in Pakistan show this war isn’t over.”

At a rally at the demonstration’s end Tony Woodley, the joint general secretary of the Unite union, called on marchers to remember the “many thousands of innocent victims of the lunatics that have taken us to war”.

Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, said, “In the middle of this economic crisis Gordon Brown should be helping the people struggling to pay the bills, not spending £3 million a day on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Rose Gentle of Military Families Against the War said she was disgusted how the government treats its own soldiers. “They leave them to rot once they get back,” she said.

The demonstration was diverse and good spirited. There were banners from Stop the War groups from around the country and trade union banners from Bristol Health Service Unite to Kirklees Unison.

The march was called by Stop the War, CND and the British Muslim Initiative.


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