Unfortunately suspected swine flu laid me low all week, and although I was beginning to recover it would probably have been unwise to speak to an audience of 300 people.

That meant I also missed the British soldier Joe Glenton, who has refused to return to fight in Afghanistan and who faces a court martial in August for going absent without leave. We at Stop the War get the feeling there are many people like him in the army or related to soldiers, who actually oppose the war. In fact, we know there are because so often people come up to stalls or places where people are petititoning and tell them just that.

I think one of the most sickening things about any war is the way that the pundits and politicians adopt a gung ho and patriotic attitude, cheering on fighting that they will never be involved in at close range, ignoring any facts or opinions which inconveniently get in their way. The First World War poet Wilfred Owen spoke for his comrades when he wrote his series of poems not just describing the horrors of war but also the cynicism and ignorance of those who sent them to fight.

The Sun used one of his lines for their headline to salute the dead soldiers coming back from Afghanistan: ‘These men are worth your tears.’ Owen added another, bitter line (which was not quoted): ‘You are not worth their merriment’ – by which he meant that the warmongers should not take comfort from any humanity or humour the troops expressed while fighting a monstrous war.

The socialist and suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst described a weekend visit to raise funds for a good cause at the stately home of Lady Astor where the lady screeched ‘why aren’t you in khaki?’ at a young man she overtook in her car.

The politicians and their supporters casually take us into these wars and just as casually defend them until eventually they casually concede that maybe the war will have to end. ‘We have to finish the job’, ‘we can’t criticise our troops’, ‘things would be worse if we left’ are the stock phrases which substitute for rigorous thinking. No wonder the politicians’ stock is so low.

But let’s also consider the military, which tends to get a much better press than the politicians – partly because I reckon 80% of those interviewed on this subject are military not politicians. The general view is that they only follow orders. Not true. We now have near daily pronouncements by top brass – the latest being Sir Jock Stirrup – about how we need more troops, helicopters, public spending for the war.

That shouldn’t be their job in a democracy where the army is supposed to serve the elected government. There is of course a long history of how that doesn’t happen, especially when there’s a Labour government.

Labour is truly caught here – banging the drum for war but still despised by the Tory Sandhurst crowd.

If we’re not careful it will end in even more tears, which is why we have to keep reiterating that majority opinion wants the troops out (last week’s Independent on Sunday showed 64% in favour). There is no surge of opinion in favour of this war as far as I can see, and we shouldn’t allow the military the chance to create one.

Lindsey German’s Blog

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.