jeudi 12 novembre 2009

“I do not believe that our cause in Afghanistan is just or right. I implore you, Sir, to bring our soldiers home"

Protest at arrest of Lance Corporal Joe Glenton

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton addresses thousands of people at a Stop the War demonstration in London, Britain, 24 October, 2009. Lance Corporal Joe Glenton faces a court martial after refusing to fight in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Glenton denies the charge of desertion because he believes the conflict is unlawful. Thousands of people marched through London calling for an end the war in Afghanistan. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Protest called at arrest of Joe Glenton, the soldier who has spoken out against Afghan war
The Stop the War Coalition has called an emergency demonstration against the arrest of Joe Glenton from 5pm to 6pm on Thursday 12 November at Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, London SW1A 2HB.
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton faces desertion charges for refusing to return to Afghanistan. He has been arrested and charged with five further offences for speaking against the war.
He is charged with leading the Stop the War demonstration in London on 24 October and speaking to the media in defiance of orders. The new charges carry a maximum of ten years imprisonment. In addition, he faces three to four years if the desertion charge is upheld.
Army commanders are clearly worried by Joe’s determination to explain his opposition to the war. Following his presence on the demonstration many of his fellow soldiers told him they agreed with what he was doing.

Army arrests anti-war soldier Joe Glenton

by Siân Ruddick, Socialist Worker, 10 November 2009
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton—a soldier who is refusing to fight in Afghanistan—was arrested and held on Monday of this week after the British army brought new charges against him.
The charges are connected to Joe speaking out against the war.
Joe will be held in custody until 18 November when his case will be reviewed.
The army arrested Joe, charged him with five new offences in front of his legal team, and then released him.
But when Joe’s legal team left the barracks, Joe was rearrested on two further charges and remanded in custody.
The new charges carry a maximum of ten years imprisonment, along with the threat of three to four years for desertion.
The new charges relate to Joe helping to lead the Stop the War demonstration on 24 October and speaking at the protest after being told this would be breaking orders.
Joe’s legal caseworker John Tipple told Socialist Worker, “They’re trying to use draconian laws of ‘disobeying lawful command’ to keep Joe quiet. But this isn’t going to happen.”
Army top brass are trying scare soldiers into silence with the threat of prison sentences. But this will not change public opinion that this brutal war must end.

UK soldier to Gordon Brown: why I won't return to Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, from the Royal Logistics Corps, is the first British soldier to speak out publicly against the war in Afghanistan.
He explains in the letter below, delivered to Gordon Brown at Downing Street on Thursday 30 July, why he will not return to fight in Afghanistan because he believes politicians must stop wasting soldiers' lives in an unjustified war.
Court martial proceedings for desertion against Joe, for his refusal to return to Afghanistan, begin on Monday 3 August.
Email messages of support to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Download the Defend Corporal Joe Glenton petition

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you as a serving soldier in the British army to express my views and concerns on the current conflict in Afghanistan.
It is my primary concern that the courage and tenacity of my fellow soldiers has become a tool of American foreign policy. I believe this unethical short-changing of such proud men and women has caused immeasurable suffering not only to families of British service personnel who have been killed and injured, but also to the noble people of Afghanistan.
I have seen qualities in the Afghan people which have also been for so long apparent and admired in the British soldier. Qualities of robustness, humour, utter determination and unwillingness to take a step backwards. However it is these qualities, on both sides, which I fear will continue to cause a state of attrition. These will only lead to more heartbreak within both our societies.
I am not a general nor am I a politician and I cannot claim any mastery of strategy. However, I am a soldier who has served in Afghanistan, which has given me some small insight.
I believe that when British military personnel submit themselves to the service of the nation and put their bodies into harm’s way, the government that sends them into battle is obliged to ensure that the cause is just and right, i.e. for the protection of life and liberty.
The war in Afghanistan is not reducing the terrorist risk, far from improving Afghan lives it is bringing death and devastation to their country. Britain has no business there.
I do not believe that our cause in Afghanistan is just or right. I implore you, Sir, to bring our soldiers home.

Yours sincerely,
Joe Glenton Lance/Corporal, Royal Logistics Corps

• Email messages of support to

Thousands of demonstrators march through London during a Stop the War demonstration in London, Britain, 24 October, 2009. Thousands of people called for an end to the war in Afghanistan and for the British government to bring British troops home. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Millions more turn against Gordon Brown's war
As Gordon Brown's Afghan strategy lies in tatters, millions more people want the troops brought home now, writes Siân Ruddick
Something has changed in British politics. Gordon Brown and Labour ministers now appear almost entirely isolated in their support for the brutal war in Afghanistan.
A growing number of military families are adding their voices to the anti-war movement and casualties are continuing to rise.
Brown’s strategy appears more threadbare than ever. Some 232 British soldiers have now been killed in Afghanistan, 95 this year alone. Public support for the war is at an all-time low.
The war has brought death, destruction and misery to Afghans and led to greater destabilisation in the region.
People are not convinced that the war is worth the blood of British forces or the Afghan people.
A recent BBC poll showed that 63 percent of British people want the troops brought home as quickly as possible.
And more and more people within the military are raising their doubts too. The chief of defence staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, described the situation in Afghanistan as “painful, slow and halting” last week.
Gordon Brown is desperately trying to argue that we need more troops and more years of bloody war to turn the situation around.
But since 2001 the war has lurched from one disaster to another. Meanwhile the stated aims of the war—to fight the “war on terror” and bring “democracy” to Afghanistan—have been lies.
On Tuesday of this week the bodies of five British soldiers killed by an Afghan police officer were flown home. The killings have added to the sense of chaos and lawlessness in Afghanistan.
Brown should listen to the majority of people in Britain and bring all the troops home now before more British and Afghan people die in this endless and futile conflict.

Thousands surge against the war

by Siân Ruddick, Socialist Worker, 27 October 2009
“Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation”
So went the cry on the streets of London last Saturday as over 10,000 people turned out to protest against the bloody and illegal conflict in Afghanistan.
“Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!”
So went the cry on the streets of London last Saturday as over 10,000 people turned out to protest against the bloody and illegal conflict in Afghanistan.
The mood was defiant, as soldiers and their families, including serving soldier Joe Glenton—who was breaking orders by being on the march—led the demonstration.
Long-standing campaigners and first time demonstrators gathered in Hyde Park to begin the march.
Support for the war in Afghanistan is wearing thin.
A Channel 4/YouGov poll at the weekend showed that
62 percent of people in Britain want the troops home from Afghanistan within a year.
An overwhelming 84 percent of people think British troops are losing the war.
Rozina Ashraf and her daughter Haseena are from Shirley, Solihull. They came to the protest on the Birmingham Stop the War coach.
“We have to make a stand against this pointless war,” Rozina told Socialist Worker.
“It’s good to know that some soldiers are now speaking out—they are realising that the problem is not Muslims but the British government.
“These wars in the Middle East are all about oil.”
Haseena said that it was her first ever demonstration. “If I had one message for the government, it would be to stop following the US into these wars,” she said.
There were over 65 banners on the demonstration, many of them from local Stop the War and peace groups from across the country.
Some had travelled many miles. Kate Rutherford came overnight on a coach from Glasgow. She said, “Our leaders are drunk with power. It breaks my heart to see so many men, women and children killed in Afghanistan.
“Those who led us into this war should be brought to book. They are war criminals. It makes me ashamed to be British.
“I left school at the age of 15, but I know the difference between right and wrong.”
The presence of military families boosted people’s confidence.
Jayme from Brighton said, “People say that the anti-war movement is demoralising the troops, but today shows that that is a load of rubbish.
“We don’t want any more deaths from these wars.
“The more soldiers speak out, the more we see how let down and manipulated they are by the army.”
For many, the anti-war protest was the latest of several days of activity.
Lewie Morris and Alistair Holmes were part of a group of Sheffield students who had been at anti-fascist protests at the BBC on Thursday and post, bus and fire picket lines on the Friday.
They then came to London on the Saturday.
Lewie told Socialist Worker, “As time goes on, this war becomes more untenable.
“The idea that it was for liberation was always false.
“Now they are saying it could be going on another five years and that the government could send thousands more troops.”
Alistair added, “The idea that Western troops can bring liberation is patronising and racist. The only way is for people to liberate themselves.”

Troops give anti-war soldier Joe Glenton a 'fantastic' response

by Siân Ruddick, Socialist Worker, 27 October 2009
Joe Glenton, a British soldier who is refusing to return to fight in Afghanistan, received the backing of his fellow troops after he led more than 10,000 protesters on last Saturday’s Stop the War demonstration in London.
Joe hit the news last week after it was revealed that he was refusing to follow military orders not to attend the march.
Him coming could add to the case that the army is bringing against him for speaking out about the horror and illegality of the war.
But Joe told Socialist Worker, “It felt empowering to be on the demonstration. I was surrounded by like-minded people—from the military and ordinary walks of life.”
Joe is still stationed in barracks, and he lives with other soldiers during the week.
“I was slightly worried on Sunday night about going back in, but I thought I’ll just see what they thought.
“The response was fantastic. Soldiers shook my hand and patted me on the back.
“One guy said, ‘You’re saying what everyone else is thinking.’
“I think there has always been support for people speaking out, and it has raised a debate inside the army.”
Discontent over the intensifying war in Afghanistan has spread in the army over recent months—and it has had a deep effect in the ranks.
Joe said, “I feel like I’m strutting round, not tip-toeing, after hearing what the guys think.
“Talking to soldiers in other units, you get the impression that people are questioning why we’re in Afghanistan.”
In September, in addition to the original charge of desertion and intent to avoid active duty, the army wanted to charge Joe with bringing the army into disrepute by speaking out.
Joe and his legal team fought for this charge to be dropped—and they won.
Joe said, “I feel like we are in the ascendancy now. We’ve taken the initiative.
“We’ll have to see what happens in the coming weeks—if they bring more trumped up charges we’ll take them on.”
Joe is continuing to speak out and encourages others to do the same. “We have to start talking and demanding the details,” he said.
“Write to your MP for answers, get out on the streets, demonstrate and debate. Whatever people can do to stop this war, they should do it.”

Eyewitness from Kabul—disillusionment is growing
by Guy Smallman, Socialist Worker, 10 November 2009
Guy Smallman reports from outside Kabul’s secure ‘ring of steel’ on what’s really happening in Afghanistan—and what the Afghan people think about it

The deeply polarised city of Kabul has recently been unified by a new addition to Afghan life—the surgical mask.
It is being sported by everyone from the children selling phone cards by the roadside to government ministers being driven past in their bulletproof 4x4s.
The H1N1 virus—known here as “Mexican” rather than “swine” flu—has many people fearing for their lives.
But many Afghans are more than a bit suspicious that the government has hyped the threat of the virus since United Nation (UN) election monitors demanded a second poll.
The “outbreak” has been used as an excuse to close all the universities, schools and other large buildings, just as incumbent president Hamid Karzai is declared leader for another term.
His rival, former foreign affairs minister Abdullah Abdullah, had predicted Iran-style protests if Karzai was re-elected.
Now, with the colleges and public buildings all but empty and everyone scared of moving in large crowds, the chances of any post-election insurrection have all but vanished.
Abdullah has yet to explain why he pulled out of the run-off, though most people in Kabul seem way past caring.
Their disillusionment with the government has been festering for many years.
The other thing that has united all factions in Afghanistan is the belief that the first run of elections were riddled with corruption.
The UN reported that around one third of all votes cast were almost certainly fraudulent.
The cancellation of the second round has plunged the entire process into farce. Outside the “ring of steel” that surrounds the ruling elite, ordinary Afghans are becoming increasingly separated from their government.
Maryam Quadir is highly educated and works in Kabul as an administrator for a specialised team of social workers.
She went to university in Pakistan, when her family fled the civil war, and she returned after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 with high hopes.
She is far from happy with the choices presented to the Afghan people. Like many, she believes the elections were little more than a meaningless Nato-sponsored PR exercise, designed to create an illusion of democracy.
She believes that Abdullah Abdullah should be banned from standing for public office due to his past connection to the civil war faction led by General Ahmad Shah Masoud.
“Abdullah’s hands are stained with the blood of the people,” she says. “He was the spokesman for Masoud in 1992 when a massacre took place in Kabul.
“It is painful for people to see the face of this man every­where—65,000 people died in Kabul during the civil war. Thousands of women and girls were raped.
“How would you feel if the killers of your children were in your government?”
The presence of so many former warlords in government positions remains a thorny issue for Afghans trying to draw a line under the past.
Maryam has also been unimpressed with Karzai since he was installed by the US after the 2001 invasion.
“He promised that no one would be above the law. Yet he gave power to the gangsters of the Northern Alliance.
“The crimes committed by them from 1992-96, including mass rape and murder, have been forgotten by no one except Karzai himself.
“We were promised reconstruction. Yet if you walk around Kabul the only reconstruction you will see is luxury high rise buildings and wedding halls.
“Nothing is being done for the ordinary people. Look at the state of the roads. Look at the five year old children who are working ten hours a day.
“We have the highest percentage of child labour in South Asia yet billions have been sent here in aid and donations. Where has all this money gone?
“Karzai has not helped the Afghan people at all. He is like a US puppet and cannot do anything without its permission. Our president is elected in the White House.”
By contrast, Aziz Khan, who runs a nearby internet cafe, is a staunch Karzai supporter.
However, he is equally disillusioned with recent events—despite his candidate being declared the winner.
He believes that, corruption aside, Karzai won the first round and the second election would have legitimised his return to office.
He now fears that his position has been weakened to being almost untenable.
“To cancel the second election was a big mistake,” he says.
“This I think was a decision made by the Americans and not the Afghan government. It undermines both our democracy and our independence.
“How can the president rule when everyone believes that the election was stolen?”
One person who is delighted by the cancellation is local police sergeant Mohammed.
His patch includes the notorious Kowtasangey district, where the local black market thrives and unemployed labourers are forced to rub shoulders with drug dealers and pickpockets.
The middle-aged, world-weary officer was a Communist activist in his youth.
But any hope or idealism he once fostered has all but drained away and he now has little but contempt for politics.
For him, another election would have meant another hellish day of seeing his men run the gauntlet of insurgent attacks while being tasked with running an event way beyond their capabilities.
This is something few Afghans can see the point of in the present circumstances.
“My constables do not receive enough equipment and training to do their basic job let alone tackle electoral corruption,” he says.
“Everywhere there were reports of ballot boxes arriving at polling stations already stuffed with papers. What are we supposed to do about this?
“This neighbourhood is notorious for the trafficking of children,” he says, indicating towards the sprawl of run down dwellings behind him.
“Such issues are a national disgrace. But we don’t even have the ability to control the traffic on the roads.”
Sources: Stop the War Coalition & Socialist Worker

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