Defend Joe Glenton

IssueSeptember 2009
News by Gabriel Carlyle , Elise Desiderio

This month, lance corporal Joe Glenton of the Royal Logistic Corps faces court martial for refusing to return to combat in Afghanistan. Glenton joined the army in 2004, and in 2007 went absent without leave after serving his first tour in Afghanistan. He is thought to be the first British soldier to openly resist government policy.

In a speech on 23 July organised by the Stop The War Coalition, lance corporal Glenton described his experience on the ground in the Middle East.

“I came back [from Afghanistan] feeling quite ashamed,” Glenton said. “I felt I couldn’t see what we’d achieved by being there.”

On 30 July, Glenton delivered a letter directly to Downing Street, detailing to Gordon Brown the reasons he would not fight. In the letter, Glenton argued that it is the responsibility of the British government to ensure that all military engagements are “just and right”, and that the conflict in Afghanistan does not meet those requirements.

“The war in Afghanistan is not reducing the terrorist risk,” he wrote. “Far from improving Afghan lives it is bringing death and devastation to their country.”

Glenton and his counsel, Hugh O’Donoghue, have denied the charge of desertion, arguing that British military involvement in Afghanistan is unlawful. Another preliminary hearing is set for 4 September, and Glenton’s formal court martial is scheduled to take place later this year.

More soldiers
A second UK soldier – a captain in the Welsh Guards – is also being brought back from Afghanistan to face disciplinary action and a possible court martial, following the publication of an anonymous unauthorised dispatch by him in the Independent. There he noted that: “It seems increasingly true that a stable Afghanistan will only be possible with some sort of agreement, involvement or power-sharing deal with the Taliban.” Such negotiations have the backing of the majority of Afghans (PN 2511).

Two US soldiers have also been jailed for refusing to serve in Afghanistan. Army specialist Victor Agosto was sentenced to 30 days on 5 August, and sergeant Travis Bishop was given a year-long sentence on 14 August. Bishop says that he is “opposed to all war”, based on his religious beliefs that “as a real Christian, I must be opposed to all violence, no matter what, because that is what Jesus taught.”