Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article was posted to SocialistWorkerOnline, August 18, 2009
Clare Glenton’s husband, Joe, is a British soldier who has refused to return to fight in Afghanistan and is being charged with desertion. Clare spoke to Socialist Worker:
‘Joe’s stand is relevant to what is happening now—to what things are really like for troops in Afghanistan.
The recent deaths in Afghanistan show that the situation isn’t getting any better. I am not only referring to our soldiers. Many innocent Afghans are being killed too.
I was against this war from the start, but meeting Joe and going through this with him has made me read more into the situation and gain a deeper understanding of what is happening. All the troops should come home—there is no reason to keep them there.
I used to think the army could be helpful. Joe went out to Afghanistan with the intention of helping the people. But the soldiers there aren’t helping people.
When you look at the real situation in the country, the poverty, the appalling conditions people live in, and little access to healthcare,
I don’t believe we’re doing what the government said they set out to do.
There is no reconstruction happening. It is just young lads dying, which is tragic.
And the soldiers coming back now have had a really tough time. I think people need to look at what’s happening in Afghanistan and do what they think is right according to their conscience.
Joe is in barracks now during the week. He will have another preliminary hearing in two weeks, and then his trial will start.
All the support he’s been getting means so much to him. I hope people will keep that going.’
This article, by Dahr Jamail, was posted to Truthout, August 12, 2009.
Sgt. Travis Bishop, who served 14 months in Baghdad with the 3rd Signal Brigade, faces a court-martial this Friday for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan.
Bishop is the second soldier from Fort Hood in as may weeks to be tried by the military for his stand against an occupation he believes is "illegal." He insists that it would be unethical for him to deploy to support an occupation he opposes on both moral and legal grounds and he has filed for conscientious objector (CO) status.
Spc. Victor Agosto was court-martialed last week for his refusal to deploy to Afghanistan. Agosto's lawyer, James Branum, who is also Bishop's lawyer, is the legal adviser to the GI Rights Hotline of Oklahoma and co-chair of the Military Law Task Force. Branum told Truthout during a phone interview on July 10 that, contrary to mainstream opinion that believes Afghanistan to be a "justified" war, the invasion and ongoing occupation are actually in violation of the US Constitution and international law.
"Victor is approaching this from the standpoint of law and ethics," Branum explained, "It's his own personal ethics and principles of the Nuremberg Principles, that the war in Afghanistan does not meet the criteria for lawful war under the UN Charter, which says that member nations who joined the UN, as did the US, should give up war forever, aside from two exceptions: that the war is in self-defense and that the use of force was authorized by the UN Security Council. The nation of Afghanistan did not attack the United States. The Taliban may have, but the nation and people of Afghanistan did not. And under US law, the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, any treaty enacted by the US is now the 'supreme law of the land.' So when the United States signed the UN Charter, we made that our law as well."
Bishop told Truthout he was inspired by Agosto's stand and had chosen to follow Specialist Agosto's example of refusal. Both his time in Iraq, the illegality of the occupation and a moral awakening led to his decision to refuse to deploy.
"I started to see a big difference between our reality there and what was in the news," Bishop explained to Truthout about his experience in Iraq, but went on to add that morality and religion played a role as well.
When he received orders to deploy to Afghanistan, Bishop said, "I started reading my Bible to get right with my creator before going. Through my reading I realized all this goes against what Jesus taught and what all true Christians should believe. I had a religious transformation, and realized that all war is wrong."
Bishop received his orders to deploy to Afghanistan in February, but at the time "didn't know there was a support network or a way out at all. I thought GI resistance was something archaic from Vietnam."
As his deployment date approached, he met with other soldiers at a GI resistance cafe, "Under the Hood", in Killeen, Texas.
"They told me not only do I have a choice, but I have a support network backing me up," Bishop explained, "I told them my thinking, and they said that I sounded like a CO. They put me in touch with (James) Branum and when I learned from him what a CO was, I knew I couldn't go."
Bishop went absent without leave (AWOL) for one week the day his unit deployed, "because I didn't have time to prepare to file for CO status. So while AWOL I prepared a statement and filled out my application for CO (status). Then I went back (to Fort Hood) with Branum and turned myself in. I never planned on staying AWOL. They gave me a barracks room and assigned me to a platoon and told me to show up to work the next day. That was it. They started the CO process, but they also started the Uniform Code of Military Justice process, and that's where it gets shifty."
Shortly thereafter, the military charged him with two counts of missing movement and disobeying a direct order.
Bishop, Agosto, and other resisters are not alone. In November 2007, the Pentagon revealed that between 2003 and 2007 there had been an 80 percent increase in overall desertion rates in the Army (desertion refers to soldiers who go AWOL and never intend to return to service), and Army AWOL rates from 2003 to 2006 were the highest since 1980. Between 2000 and 2006, more than 40,000 troops from all branches of the military deserted, more than half from the Army. Army desertion rates jumped by 42 percent from 2006 to 2007 alone.
Bishop informed Truthout that morale is low among his peers in the military, whether they are pro-war or opposed to the occupations.
"Hard Corps folks, as soon as they hear about my sentence being capped at a year, they are changing their minds already," he said, "There's a lot of soldiers that go just because they feel they have to go. They are driven by money and legal obligation, not patriotism. They go because they don't want to lose their job and get in trouble. A lot of the people I talk to that are in, they feel as I do, but they say things like 'I only have four more months, so I'll ride it out and hope not to get stop-lossed.'"
Spc. Michael Kern, an active duty veteran of the occupation of Iraq (where he served from March 2007 to March 2008), is also based at Fort Hood. He is currently getting treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Kern turned against both occupations, as he told Truthout, "Once I realized it wasn't a war and was an occupation, and once I realized I was a terrorist to people in Iraq. It wasn't a hard decision. My whole unit feels as I do, but are afraid to speak out because they don't know there is support for those of us who speak out against the war."
Kern, like Bishop, says that troop morale is very low.
"I'd say it's at an all-time low - mostly because of Afghanistan now. Nobody knows why we are at either place, and I believe the troops need to know why they are there, or we should pull out, and this is a unanimous feeling, even for folks who are pro-war."
Kern feels that the decisions of Agosto and Bishop to refuse to deploy to Afghanistan is worthy of admiration and support.
"I admire these guys," he told Truthout, "They are truly amazing. I wish I would have done that, but when I deployed I didn't know what I was getting into, or my options. I look up to these guys. They are standing up for what they believe in, and that's the greatest thing any of us can do, and they are doing it despite what the Army is doing to them."
Kern suggests that soldiers "do your research before you willingly follow orders, because this is an unjust war, and according to Army regulations, you are entitled to question an illegal order, such as deploying to an illegal war not sanctioned by the UN. And that there is a large community of support for those who are standing up. And it's all over the world, not just the US, wherever you are, there are people who feel the same way you do."
In England, Lance Cpl. Joe Glenton, from the Royal Logistics Corps, has become the first British soldier to speak out publicly against the war in Afghanistan.
Glenton delivered a letter to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 30 July stating why he is refusing to return to Afghanistan.
Glenton wrote: "The war in Afghanistan is not reducing the terrorist risk, far from improving Afghan lives it is bringing death and devastation to their country. Britain has no business there. I do not believe that our cause in Afghanistan is just or right. I implore you, Sir, to bring our soldiers home."
Glenton, like Agosto, and soon for Bishop, began his court-martial proceedings on 3 August.
US commanders recently announced that US and NATO troop deaths from Afghan bombings spiked six-fold in July, compared to the same month last year. In July, resistance fighters detonated the highest number of bombs against occupation forces in the eight-year occupation, according to figures released Tuesday. More US troops were killed in July in Afghanistan than any other month of the entire occupation, and violence continues.
Meanwhile, Anthony Cordesman, a senior adviser to the US military commander in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, told The Times of London that an additional 45,000 US troops are needed in Afghanistan.
Bishop hopes his refusal to deploy will inspire soldiers to search their consciences.
"My hope is that people who feel like me, that they don't have a voice and are having doubts, I hope that this shows them that not only can you talk to someone about this, but that you actually have a choice," he said.
"Choice is the first thing they take away from you in the military," Bishop added, "You're taught that you don't have a choice. That's not true. And not wanting to kill someone or get killed does not make you a coward. I hope my actions show this to more people."
The following letter, from Joe Glkenton to Gordon Brown, was posted to the Stop the War Coalition website, July 30, 2009
Joe Glenton outside Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you as a serving soldier in the British army to express my views and concerns on the current conflict in Afghanistan.
It is my primary concern that the courage and tenacity of my fellow soldiers has become a tool of American foreign policy. I believe this unethical short-changing of such proud men and women has caused immeasurable suffering not only to families of British service personnel who have been killed and injured, but also 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. Qualities of robustness, humour, utter determination and unwillingness to take a step backwards. However it is these qualities, on both sides, which I fear will continue to cause a state of attrition. These will only lead to more heartbreak within both our societies.
I am not a general nor am I a politician and I cannot claim any mastery of strategy. However, I am a soldier who has served in Afghanistan, which has given me some small insight.
I believe that when British military personnel submit themselves to the service of the nation and put their bodies into harms way, the government that sends them into battle is obliged to ensure that the cause is just and right, i.e. for the protection of life and liberty.
The war in Afghanistan is not reducing the terrorist risk, far from improving Afghan lives it is bringing death and devastation to their country. Britain has no business there.
I do not believe that our cause in Afghanistan is just or right. I implore you, Sir, to bring our soldiers home.
Joe Glenton Lance/Corporal, Royal Logistics Corps
This article, by Feyzi Ismail, was posted to Information Clearing House, July 24, 2009
On Thursday 23 July, the Stop the War Coalition held one of its most electrifying rallies in its eight year history. The inspirational anti-war Afghan MP Malalai Joya was joined on the platform by Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, a serving British soldier who was speaking in public for the first time against the horror caused by the war in Afghanistan. July 24, 2009 "Stop The War" -- Malalai Joya has been called one of the bravest women in Afghanistan. She told the 300-strong audience that she's survived five assassination attempts and is still not safe with personal security guards or by wearing a burkha to cover her identity. Yet she continues to campaign against foreign occupation and fundamentalist warlords, and for women's rights and education. She believes all NATO troops must leave Afghanistan immediately.
Elected to the Afghan parliament as its youngest MP in 2003, her first speech called on the Afghan government to prosecute the warlords and criminals also present in the assembly. But she had barely started her speech when her microphone was cut off, angry men were raising their fists towards her and she had to be escorted out by a human chain of supporters and UN officials around her.
In 2005 she told the assembled parliament that it was "worse than a zoo." Two years ago she was suspended from the parliament. Afghans against occupation She told the audience of the suffering of Afghans, and in particular women, at the hands of both occupation forces and the warlords who benefit from the occupation. If the war was ever about eradicating opium, 93% of global opium production now comes from Afghanistan, and £500m goes into the pockets of the Taliban every year because of the drug trade. Afghans have lost almost everything, she said, except that they have gained political knowledge. And they are against the occupation.
She holds little hope for the upcoming elections in August. She said the ballot box is controlled by a mafia of warlords and criminals, and that even if the democrats in Afghanistan could put up a candidate, they would inevitably become puppets of the US and NATO, or they wouldn't survive in office. NATO could not possibly provide a solution because the troops are despised for the carnage they have brought to the country.
As Malalai repeated a number of times in the meeting, no nation can liberate another nation, and only the oppressed can rise up against their oppressors. The only solution, she said, was for the anti-war movement internationally to speak out and demonstrate against the war in their own countries, "because our enemies are afraid of international solidarity." It will be a prolonged and risky struggle, she continued, but the Afghans must liberate themselves.
Soldier ashamed and disllusioned
other highlight of the meeting was the testimony of a serving British soldier. While Malalai fights against the war in Afghanistan, more and more British troops - who equally risk their lives fighting in Afghanistan - are realising the futility of this project. Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who fought in Kandahar in 2006, told the audience that he came back ashamed and disillusioned. He said the army and the politicians never explained why they were there or what was going on, only that British troops were helping the Afghan people.
When he found that the Afghans were fighting against them, this came as a real shock. He spoke of the discontentment in the ranks, which he described as dangerous, and the need for Britain to withdraw its troops.
Two years ago when Glenton heard he was being posted back to Afghanistan, he decided the only sensible thing to do was to leave the army, even illegally, as he did not believe that Britain was doing anything constructive in Afghanistan. He now faces up to two years in a civilian prison. Stop the War Coalition declared it would support Glenton and any other soldier who faced the courts on account of being against the war.
Andrew Murray, Chair of Stop the War, opened the meeting by reminding us that the Stop the War Coalition was founded eight years ago in response to the threatened invasion of Afghanistan. Now that the British government has shifted its focus to Afghanistan - discussing the possibility of sending more troops, as the death toll rises past that in Iraq - so the anti-war movement will step up its campaign to mobilise public opinion to demand that all the troops are brought home as soon as possible.
Public opinion in Britain has indeed shifted against the war in Afghanistan. Whatever support the war had initially - for reducing opium production, for the reconstruction taking place, for keeping the Taliban in check, for defending women's rights and bringing democracy - people are now cutting through the media spin. They know this is an unwinnable war, that there is no reconstruction taking place and that the longer we stay the more death and destruction we cause. As Malalai put it, the war being waged by the British government in Afghanistan not only causes untold suffering for the Afghans, but it takes away from our humanity too.
In the event of the 200th British soldier that is killed in Afghanistan, Stop the War will call on all its local groups across the country to organise street protests. The current death toll stands at 188 and is rising at an average of about one per day.
Stop the War will also be announcing shortly details of a major national demonstration in November to mark the anniversary of the Afghanistan invasion in 2001.
This article was published by Socialist Worker Online, July 14, 2009.
AS politicians vie with each other to express their sympathies for British soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan – soldiers that they all voted to send – a brave young man stands ready to be jailed for refusing to fight.
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton faces a possible two-year prison term after going on the run rather than return to Afghanistan and fight in a war he thinks is wrong.
Recalling his posting to Kandahar in 2006, Joe says that he gradually became aware that justifications for occupying Afghanistan were ringing hollow.
“The Afghan people were attacking us, even though our politicians said we were going in to help them. It came as a real shock,” he says.
“That’s when I became aware that there was something seriously wrong with the war.”
Today the truth about the war is dawning on millions of people in Britain.
Talk of the liberation of the Afghan people is proved false as poverty stricken villagers bury family members killed in the conflict.
Promises of reconstruction lie broken in the rubble.
And the grim roll call of young British soldiers who have lost their lives grows by the day.
Joe now believes the Afghan war is unwinnable, and that British troops should leave.
He is right. All those who want to see an end to the bloodshed should back his call