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From: The Socialist issue 611, 10 February 2010: Fight University Cuts

Search site for keywords: War - Afghanistan - Stress - Anti-war

Release Joe Glenton

Sue Glenton explains why she is campaigning

JOE GLENTON, a Lance-Corporal in the logistics corps, was always described by his superiors as a model soldier. Then, in 2007, he went absent without leave, refusing to start his second tour in Afghanistan. In 2009 he reappeared.

Christian Bunke

The military charged him with being absent without leave (AWOL) on his return but they changed that once they realised Joe didn't want to stay in the army. Joe has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder by a civilian psychiatrist.

But then Joe decided to go public about his views on the war in Afghanistan.

He published an open letter calling on the government to bring the troops home and led an anti-war demonstration in October 2009. Suddenly, army chiefs labelled him a 'deserter', hurled him into a military detention centre and charged him with crimes that could have led to ten years in jail.

Eventually it turned out that Joe had been unlawfully arrested because he was not a deserter, just absent without leave and some charges were dropped.

Joe's mother Sue Glenton, and others, launched a public campaign demanding his release. Sue told me that when he was originally detained, he was offered bail if he agreed to keep his mouth shut. He refused and Sue challenged defence minister Bob Ainsworth to a public debate about the Afghan war instead. Ainsworth recently replied but refused to take up the offer to debate the issue.

Sue Glenton feels strongly that this issue directly affects the democratic rights of ordinary soldiers: "High ranking generals speak to the press about their support for the war every day. Why can ordinary soldiers like my son not do the same?

"Bob Ainsworth claims the war in Afghanistan is losing public support because Obama dragged his feet over raising troop levels. This is rubbish. The government lied to us from the start. I was at the first anti-war demo. The politicians weren't listening then and they aren't listening now. I think the union between soldiers like my son and the anti-war movement might get people to listen.

"During training, soldiers are taught to object to and report unethical behaviour, no matter if carried out by colleagues, superiors or others. But this case shows that the government and the military do not care about what they're preaching.

"We need to demand that post traumatic stress disorder among soldiers is fully recognised. Joe went AWOL because he suffered from post traumatic stress. When he went to Afghanistan, he was told he would help the people there and rebuild things.

"He found out that the opposite was true, loading his fallen comrades' coffins onto trucks with a forklift instead. The doctors did not take his condition seriously. They said: 'You can run, you are OK!' It is just as it was during the first world war. If you can walk, you can fight.

"The military have to recognise their duty of care towards their employees. Conditions have to be improved. Pen pushers get massive bonuses whilst the welfare of ordinary soldiers is neglected.

"Soldiers need trade union rights. Why have we not got it? Because the government would be terrified. If soldiers had a union they would just tell the truth as it is!"






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