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Anti-war soldier’s supporters call for justice - and end to occupation of Afghanistan

The picket of Joe Glenton’s court martial took place on a sunny Friday morning outside the Merville Barracks, Colchester.

Representatives from Colchester Stop the War and other Stop the War groups were there, East Anglia being particularly well represented by Norwich, Cambridge and King’s Lynn. There were a number of trade unionists and Colchester people, including Alex who had never before been on a demonstration. He took a leaflet, realised he did not agree with war, and decided he would stand up for what he believed in.

Kate Connelly, for Colchester Stop the War, said, ‘Colchester Stop the War group started in November 2009 because Colchester is the biggest garrison town in the country. People in the town have given us a very good and friendly response. We have had no hostility. Serving soldiers, wives and girlfriends are eager to sign petitions against the war in Afghanistan. The hypocrisy over the Chilcot Inquiry gave us motivation. We have very widespread support and lots of the military families think we are doing the right thing by being here today.’

Other demonstrators explained why they felt it important to show their support for Joe Glenton. Wun Hang, from London, told Counterfire: ‘Gordon Brown has used the soldiers to build up his power. Gordon Brown threatens human existence. He is also waging a war by his financial and climate change policies. He should not be Prime Minister any more.’

John Whitfield said, ‘Mordechai Vanunu had people waiting for him when he got out of prison after 14 years. We should picket once a week until Joe is released.’ Bob Lambert from Colchester Trades Council added, ‘The war is creating a problem, not solving it by exporting terrorism into Pakistan.’

Unison member Mike Fletcher told us, ‘I am here to stop the war in Afghanistan by complete withdrawal of British troops and a diplomatic solution should be found. I consider Joe Glenton a very brave man, a man of principle, integrity and insight. Before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there was no terrorism in Britain. The occupation has escalated Al Qaeda.’

Judith Orr, from Stop the War, said, ‘Brown is appearing at the Chilcot inquiry today and when Joe last appeared at his court-martial it was the same day that Blair appeared. Stop the War has organised a protest outside the Chilcot inquiry. There is an international anti-war movement which goes back to the Vietnam war. The best way to support our troops is to bring them home’. She added that the young people who were arrested last January at the Gaza protest have received heavy sentences and they are mostly Muslim.

Dan Swain, a student at the University of Essex said, ‘Stop the War has always been an anti-racist organisation and stands side by side with Muslims.’ Dennis O’Malley from Cambridge said, ‘It is important that the connection should be made between the unlimited money spent on the war and the cutbacks everywhere else in this country.’

Frank Stone from Norwich remarked, ‘Joe represents many other soldiers who disagree with the war. That is why the Government is worried, since the war in Vietnam crumbled because the GI’s turned against it. This war is hugely unpopular - 65-70% want the troops home. We are coming up to a general election and the three main parties want the war to continue. They do not speak for the many people who keep protesting against it.’

William Alderson from King‘s Lynn told Counterfire: ‘Stop the War has always supported soldiers - we are against those who led us into the war. We are given different reason after different reason for the war in Afghanistan. One of our supporters took part in a televised ‘debate’ but his question was ignored. He asked why when the Taliban offered to extradite Osama Bin Laden their offer was disregarded and Bush and Blair went to war. There is no defence for this war. British troops have been fighting for nine years a war we should never have been in. Stop the War has actually given the strength to the military to stand up to their superiors. I am proud to be part of a small group in a military area where we can support soldiers.’

Joe has shown real courage

Richard Allday, of Unite Union Regional Committee, spoke at the protest: ‘In any conflict in any country in the world heroism is rewarded. There are two sorts of courage. There is the raw physical courage which gets awarded medals. There is also moral courage. A cold clinical conscientious decision to do an act that puts you out of the society you have hitherto shared when something is wrong and you stand and say it is. Cpl. Glenton completed his first tour of Afghanistan and came back with all the turmoil that every soldier knows. Most hit the bottle when they get out of it. The streets are full of damaged British soldiers who have no support.

Cpl. Glenton initially took that route, and then realised how it could not be a solution. He could have taken the easy option of serving in Colchester or another part of the UK, but he decided to make a stand. Joe is a hero if anyone is. Every squaddie has parents, siblings, working in civilian life and the chances are that they will be a member of Unite, since 1 in 5 are. There will also be a number of Afghans and Iraqis living and working in this country. When we stand by the workers in this country, we are standing by the workers in Iraq and Afghanistan.’

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