Bring the troops home, says Lance Corporal Joe Glenton

It’s not easy to speak out on your own – let’s hope that more members of our armed forces will join Joe Glenton and return home safely to their loved ones.

John Millington reports in the Morning Star:

A British soldier who is refusing to return to Afghanistan has handed in a letter to Downing Street calling for the withdrawal of all British troops.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, from the Royal Logistics Corps, says he will not return to Afghanistan on combat duty to fight “an unjust war.”

Mr Glenton, who joined the British army in 2004 and has already done a tour of duty in Afghanistan, believes that politicians should not put British soldiers’ lives in danger unnecessarily.

In a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr Glenton acknowledged the suffering of British soldiers and their families but also the damage done 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,” he states in the letter.

“Qualities of robustness, humour, utter determination and unwillingness to take a step backwards.”

Continuing this war, Mr Glenton’s letter adds, “will only lead to more heartbreak within both our societies.”

Mr Glenton, who is married to trainee lawyer Clare, will face a court martial on Monday, with further proceedings to follow.

If found guilty on charges of desertion, he faces up to two years in prison and a permanent record.

As the soldier from York delivered his letter to Downing Street, a huge scrum of photographers and journalists was lying in wait.

Running the media gauntlet with calm and composure, Mr Glenton articulated his reasons for not returning to Afghanistan.

With senior military figures in full desert camouflage looking on disgruntledly, Mr Glenton stood defiantly for pictures outside the Ministry of Defence with his wife and anti-war supporters.

Speaking to the Morning Star afterwards, Mr Glenton said that he had been “amazed” at the amount of support he had received even from people “he did not know.”

Revealing how his opinion of the war had changed, Mr Glenton said: “I thought I was going over there to help the people of Afghanistan.

“But we are not helping them by splattering them all over the place.”

Mr Glenton added that he believed the aim of the occupation was to “dominate a strategically important country so oil could be extracted from the Caspian Sea.

“That is not why I signed up,” added an emphatic Mr Glenton.

Bring them home

The Guardian is trying to spin that the public support the war in Afghanistan. I don’t know anyone who understands why the troops are there – the reasons keep changing. First it was to get Bin Laden, then to help kids go to school – now what?

The Morning Star isn’t spinning anything – which is probably why the newspaper reviews on Sky or BBC News don’t feature the country’s socialist daily.

Here’s their editorial:

Put a stop to blood-letting

Sunday 12 July 2009

We make no apologies for returning to the subject of Afghanistan for two days in quick succession in this column.

For, hard on the heels of Saturday’s editorial came one of the most ludicrous statements ever made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, closely followed by yet more drivel from Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth.

This was supplemented by a contribution from US President Barack Obama which purported to be an expression of sympathy to the families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan but was clearly an attempt to back up his faithful British lapdog Brown.

A total of 184 British servicemen and women have now been killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001 – surpassing the death toll of 179 in Iraq.

And for what? Messrs Brown, Ainsworth and Obama assure us that it is to prevent al-Qaida attacks in London, New York and points west.

But quite how this is to be done is always conveniently glossed over, and to claim a developing success on the back of the bloodiest week of the entire campaign is as cynical as it is unworthy.

The identification of the Taliban with al-Qaida exists only in the imagination of Western politicians.

For, if al-Qaida is anything at all, it is an organisation that exists across borders with no direct national links to any one country.

Its mobility, flexibility and lack of a national identity mean that, quite simply, it cannot be defeated by conventional military action and any attempt to do so is doomed to failure.

It is undoubtedly in political, not military, actions that any resolution to the problem exists.

And it is not the British army’s task to deliver civilian aid and economic development, the objectives that first John Reid and latterly Mr Ainsworth have identified.

One wonders at the lack of ability to learn from earlier mistakes of our political figureheads.

Can Mr Brown, not a fool by anyone’s standards, really not see that al-Qaida was not a problem in Iraq until the war began? Why can’t he draw the obvious conclusion that a similar intervention in Afghanistan will result in a similar outcome?

And can he really believe that, in the highly unlikely event of any great military success by Britain and the US, al-Qaida will vanish from the scene entirely?

No-one involved in international politics can surely be that foolish or that naive.

And what happens if the Western allies drive al-Qaida elements from Afghanistan into Pakistan?

Neither Mr Brown nor Mr Obama can surely be reckless enough to believe that their war without end can be extended into that country.

No, the answer to the growing problem of Islamist terrorism does not lie in the military might of the West, but in international politics.

It lies in justice for the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state, in controlling Israel and guaranteeing the integrity of Palestinian borders.

Islamist terrorism arose from a sense of massive injustice at the maltreatment of the Palestinians and from the growing habit of the West of using Islamic countries as the site of its wars of acquisition and political control.

And it is in remedying those injustices that a solution to this problem lies.

Not in importing ever more soldiers and ever-heavier armour into a country which they cannot subdue.

And not in continuing to spill the blood of the sons and daughters of Britain onto the ground of Afghanistan, a country which is not guilty of any acts of aggression against Britain, any more than Iraq was of having weapons of mass destruction.

War without end is an unworthy means of achieving an unworthy goal. Both our own soldiers and the Afghan people deserve better of this unworthy leadership.

Guns before butter

From Socialist Appeal, the priorities of our ruling class:

Afghanistan: Guns Before Butter Print E-mail
By Ewan Gibbs
Wednesday, 08 July 2009
As the Pakistani army continued to be bogged down in a ferocious battle against the Taliban inside its own borders and yet another British soldier is killed in Afghanistan, to date the one hundred and seventy-sixth since 2001, it is evident that the British military is engaged in a war it cannot win. Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth has outlined desperate measures which entail a wholesale reform of the Territorial Army. Gone forever will be the image of a glorified Dad’s Army as the TA is to be integrated with the rest of the army and better prepared for wars abroad.afghan_map.gifThe plans will see the TA trained more quickly for deployment abroad, and will come alongside an attempt to bolster the TA’s numbers which have halved to just 330,000 in recent years. Unsurprisingly when presented with the prospect of having to risk their lives in a deployment to either  Iraq or Afghanistan fewer people have signed up to the TA or the military as a whole during the last few years. Under the conditions of the recession this is starting to change. Faced with either the dole queue or the army many young people, in particular male sixteen year old school leaver opt for the latter. The military knows this and in recent months has upped its recruiters’ presence in areas with a high rate of unemployment, disgustingly exploiting the situation that the capitalist crisis has put many working class people in.

False Hopes For The Imperialists

However, even the increasing numbers of economic conscripts that are signing up for the US and British militaries are not enough. The US and its junior partners thought they were on to a winner when they started their predatory wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These imperialist adventures aimed to establish political hegemony and secure control over natural resources, including oil and gas for the Americans and their allies. Initially all seemed to be going well. Who could forget Bush’s  Iraq War victory speech delivered on board an aircraft carrier, complete with his very own presidential action man uniform? The period since has seen the American’s success turn into its opposite. Iraq and Afghanistan have become death traps for the military forces trying to contain the insurgency and suck up billions upon billions of dollars that even the world’s biggest military and economic power cannot sustain indefinitely. Next to no resources, aside from Afghan opium which comes alongside a flight of skilled labour, are being reaped from either country whilst this whole area of the world has been destabilised. The departure from Iraq seems to be well under way following Obama’s inauguration, and an undignified retreat from Afghanistan will have to follow at some point. Yet it is clear we have entered a new period of global instability that will lead to more so called ‘small wars’ as the recent episodes in Georgia and the Gaza strip have demonstrated.

TAs In Trouble

bobainsworthinbasra.jpgAinsworth has said in words that the proposed changes will leave intact the TA’s ability to come to the country’s aid in the event of a national catastrophe, whilst the plans presented suggest otherwise. Actions speak louder than words. Reservists already account for 9% of British troops deployed in Afghanistan and over 17000 TA troops have been deployed abroad since 2003. (BBC News 28/4/09) It is clear the government wishes to see these figures rise. It must be noted that these measures have more than just an immediate military purpose. The expansion of the TA and the increasing presence of the Officer Training Corps and Cadets in universities and schools represent attempts to build an auxiliary state military apparatus outside of the army itself. Perhaps the layer of ‘economic conscripts’ to the regular army, recruited because they had nowhere else to go, are unreliable? Could they be trusted to fire upon working class people in this country? Better perhaps to rely on some gung-ho volunteers who were not forced into the ranks of the military outside of economic necessity alone. The Officer Training Corps and Cadets are invariably dominated by middle-class youth who are much more likely to be sympathetic to the reactionary role they will be asked to play. The same applies to the TA.

Armed Bodies Of Men

Engels famously explained that the capitalist state could ultimately be reduced to armed bodies of men standing in defence of private property. The actions of the police at the G20 protests in London brutally revealed the true nature of the British state. The reservists being trained and sent to oppress and kill workers and peasants in Iraq and Afghanistan today could well be deployed on the streets of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow or London tomorrow if Britain were ever to face a revolutionary situation.

ta.jpgAfter spending so long telling us the money was not available for even the most basic reforms, government found the money to bail out the bankers at the drop of a hat and is continuing to fight and fund their wars. The resources have been found for this whole sale rejuvenation of the TA that will see infrastructure, training and structure renewed, whilst billions are being poured into the Trident nuclear weapons programme. All this leaves working people asking where their bail out is as they face unemployment and repossessions. Clearly the only form of Keynesianism boost to the economy this government is interested in is the same kind Ronny Reagan was: military Keynesianism! That shows where their priorities really lie and who they serve.

Alice Mahon quits Labour

A former MP and Labour Party member for half a century, she just couldn’t take it anymore:

Alice Mahon, a Halifax MP for 18 years and a party member for more than 50 years, has resigned her membership of the party saying she can no longer stomach how it operates.

In her letter to the Halifax Constituency Labour Party she criticises the Prime Minister saying he has shown zero contrition over privatising public services and failed to tackle the excesses of the bankers.

And she heaps scorn on the Welfare Reform Bill saying: “This Labour Government should hang its head in shame for inflicting this on the British public just as we face the most severe recession any of us have experienced in a lifetime.”

Mrs Mahon, 71, a trenchant critic of Tony Blair’s government, says she had hoped that under Mr Brown’s stewardship “we might go back to being a really progressive and caring party” but “in the event I could not have been more wrong”.

And she says the recent scandal over emails sent by Mr Brown’s special adviser, Damian McBride, proposing a blogging site smearing top Tories left her feeling “sickened”.

She told the Yorkshire Post: “My stepdaughter Rachel said to me: ‘How could they do that to people like David Cameron and his wife Samantha when they had recently lost their son Ivan? What kind of people think it would be a good idea to smear them?’

“I was sickened by that – that is not the Labour Party that I joined all those years ago.”

In the letter she said: “This has been a difficult decision to take as I feel I was almost born into the Labour Party. However, I can no longer be a member of a party that at the leadership level has betrayed many of the values and principles that inspired me as a teenager to join.”

Other targets include the Government’s alleged co-operation with the George Bush regime.

And she adds: “Our ministers shame us in front of the world when they give their support to the Israeli Government as they commit war crimes in Palestine and Lebanon.

“Brown has just announced plans to send another 900 troops to Afghanistan, billions to be spent on an unwinnable war and pensioners dare not turn on their heating because this Government will not tackle the energy fat cats.”

She also fulminates against the “despicable” treatment of Janet Oosthuysen, a mother-of-three who won a close contest to stand as a prospective Parliamentary candidate in Calder Valley last year only to be deselected by the National Executive Committee, over a police caution after her former partner’s car was damaged. She contrasted the NEC’s actions with its silence over the Home Secretary’s expenses row.

She said: “My final reason for leaving the party is because it is no longer democratic. The personally vindictive, dishonest, campaign played out on the pages of the tabloids by certain Labour Party members to deselect Janet Oosthuysen was despicable…

“Quite simply I have had it with New Labour.”

The threat of good deeds: why did the police arrest aid convoy men?

The state broadcaster bans a charitable appeal on behalf of charities raising funds to help Gaza residents rebuild after Israel’s attack – for fear of being associated with criticism of the “good terrorism” carried out by the UK’s ally.

Now those travelling to Gaza to deliver aid to people who have been bombed are targeted by police as though they were about to bomb people! (If only there was the same readiness to seize weapons destined for Israel!)

All of the men arrested have been released without charge. The action taken by police looks suspiciously like an Islamophobic media stunt designed to smear the Viva Palestina convoy and feed into the hysteria about Muslims that the corporate media are drumming up.

Preston’s socialist councillor Michael Lavalette wants answers:

The three Burnley men arrested on Friday night under anti-terror legislation were today (Thursday) released without charge. The men had been held for six days in a secure detention centre in Manchester. The men were arrested on Friday as they drove to join the ‘Viva Palestina’ convoy taking humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Also arrested, as part of the same operation, were six men from Blackburn. They were kept isolated in police vans for 7 hours before being released without charge. Some of those from Blackburn were religious scholars.

The arrests and the treatment of the men in question raise serious questions about policing in Lancashire and about the ‘targeting’ of both the Gaza Convoy and Muslim men in the region. There are serious questions that now need to be answered from Lancashire constabulary. Questions like:

1. Who ordered the stop and arrest of the 9 men?

2. What evidence of ‘wrong-doing’ did the police have?

3. Why (given the fact that the convoy organisers submitted all the names, passport and visa details of those on the convoy) did the police not act sooner if they had ‘real’ or ’significant’ concerns?

4. Who provided the police with the (now obviously flawed) ‘evidence’ that suggested the men were involved in wrong-doing?

5. This was clearly a national police operation. Who led the operation? Did it have Government clearance?

The suspicion is that this was a politically motivated operation to disrupt the convoy. Where are the Labour Ministers on television or in the press defending their operation and explaining the actions that were taken?

The Gaza Convoy is a humanitarian mission and the men travelling from Lancashire had vehicles that were laden with gifts from children in our area for the children of Gaza. The disruption of this trip is nothing short of a disgrace.

George Galloway condemned the timing of the arrests, the arrests themselves and the deliberate efforts of the police to create a story in the press the purposes of which appears to have been to discredit the aid convoy to Gaza. Viva Palestina reports that there was a drop of 80% in donations following the broadcast of the arrests and the police allegations on the BBC on Saturday afternoon.

“Nine innocent people were prevented by the police from joining our convoy with vital aid to meet the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” said George Galloway this afternoon.

“The follow up action by the police, which has apparently included the strip-searching of an Imam and his wife in their own home in Blackburn, has gravely damaged their relations with the community whose trust they need to win.

“Anyone with any sense can see that it is in everyone’s interest to encourage Britain’s Muslim community to engage themselves in democratic politics. That is precisely what this convoy – and the huge political, and humanitarian effort throughout Britain’s often alienated Muslim communities which lies behind it – is about.

“To arrest innocent men in such a provocative and hyped operation will achieve precisely the opposite of that engagement. The timing of the operation is seen locally as an attempt to smear and intimidate the
Muslim community and I must say they seem to be right.

“The arrests were clearly deliberately timed for the eve of the departure of the convoy. Photographs of the high-profile snatch on the M65 were immediately fed to the press to maximise the newsworthiness
of the smear that was being perpetrated on the convoy” said Galloway.

“I am writing to the Chief Constable of Lancashire to demand an explanation and will consult Viva Palestina’s lawyers with a view to seeking compensation for the real financial and public relations damage we have suffered as a result. I will also be writing to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to demand action against those who seem to have abused their power and authority as a police officers to produce this really damaging outcome.”

But the events of the last week also raises another significant issue. For the last two years the Government has attempted to divide the Muslim community in this country by launching a programme called Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE). PVE has come with substantial sums of money that can be directed towards projects aimed at stopping ‘extremism’. The funded projects have been varied (and its certainly the case that there is a need for ‘good projects’ in our city and amongst the poorest communities). But PVE isn’t about providing services. Its about obtaining surveillance and criminalising sections of the Muslim community.

For example, how is an potential extremist defined? People who fall under suspicion include those who have an interest in global politics (so opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or opposition to the murderous regime in Israel could lead to someone being identified as a potential ’extremist’.) Of course that could include someone like me – but I’m not subject to PVE surveillance because I’m not Muslim, and this is the crux – its the combination of the political interest with the religious beliefs and style of dress of the individual that marks them out as ’suspicious’; and its one reason why converts to Islam are particularly targetted. Here is the Government’s own document PVE – A Strategy for Delivery (May 2008), which states that:

“The most severe terrorist threat currently comes from individuals and groups who distort Islam. … It is
not the role of Government to seek to change a religion. However, where theology is being distorted to justify violent extremist rhetoric or activity and threaten both Muslims and non-Muslims, Government should reinforce faith understanding and thereby build resilience.”

PVE is actually an extension of the ‘war on terror’. Its intention is to isolate the ‘enemy within’. In this form it is no different to other historic strategies of ‘divide and rule’ that the British state has used to isolate and intimidate minorities such as the Irish community in the 1970s or Communist Party members at the hieght of the Cold War.

PVE was piloted in a number of places across Britain – including Preston and Reading. Both these areas were included because police sources argued they were ‘hotbeds’ of extremism – though there is no evidence of this being the case in Preston at all (there have been no high profile ‘terror’ arrests in Preston and there is no network of ‘political islamists’ in the city.)

In Preston one of the major PVE interventions is called the Channel Project. Here is what the police have to say about it:

“The Channel Project is all about supporting vulnerable individuals. It is a local and community-based initiative between the police, local authority and the local community. The project takes referrals from a number of sources on individuals that may be vulnerable to becoming involved in violent extremism. A joint risk assessment of each individual case is then made by project members and any issues of concern are identified. A programme of intervention tailored to the needs of the individual is then developed and implemented. Involvement of community partners is key. They will have expertise and insight into the process of assessment, referral and intervention. This process will make the vulnerable person confident
in their rejection and condemnation of violence. If you would like to know more about this initiative.”

The language used makes it seem almost ’social workesque’! The ‘needs’ of ‘vulnerable individuals’; a ‘programme of intervention’ etc. You have to stop for a minute to realise that all of this is being done without the knowledge, input or consent of the ‘vulnerable individual’! (Their ‘vulnerability’ remember is opposition or hostility to the imperial policies of the British state combined with the fact that they are Muslim!)

But of greater concern is their claim that they take ‘referrals from a range of people’ (people with a grudge? spies in the community? the security services? who?) and that ‘involved community partners’ are key.

There is an old saying that ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. The ‘involvement of the key community players’ essentially means those that have taken funding for their projects – certainly that was the indication of what was happening in Derby and Reading (two PVE areas featured on Panorama on Monday evening): once the projects get their funding the police and security services come calling asking ’surveillance’ questions.

The PVE agenda brings a ‘dirty money’ reward to a few ‘community leaders’, but in the process it turns them into an outreach of the security services. The events of last week-end and the harassment faced by 9 innocent Muslim men in Lancashire should bring to an end this form of ‘engagement’.

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