Wikileaks founder
is ‘hero’

Former soldier Joe Glenton says Britain and US have lost the moral war

Hero image

Joe Glenton, the soldier drummed out of the army for refusing to return to Afghanistan, has praised WikiLeaks for releasing thousands of US files revealing the truth behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Part of the new intake of students at Leeds Met University, where he is studying global development and peace studies, Glenton nevertheless believes the alleged military, government and corporate misconduct revealed will not be enough to prevent coalition forces being deployed in Iran.

Glenton joined up in 2004 after seeing the army’s adverts about its peacekeeping role. When he was posted to Helmand province he hoped to help build up the country’s infrastructure. He returned home disappointed, having seen “very little being spent on economic development”.

Yet plenty was being spent on prosecuting the war, according to Glenton, an ammunition man. “Weapons were being doled out indiscriminately, such that at one point we ran out of shells because so many had been used,” he said.

Despite his misgivings Glenton may have stayed in the army. But five months after returning home, and having had treatment requests for post-traumatic stress disorder ignored, he went absent without leave when he found the rule under which there should be a gap of 18 months between tours was to be flouted.

On his return two years later he was charged with desertion, which can carry a ten-year prison sentence. With the support of his wife Clare and his mother Sue he decided to speak out, and regular platform appearances at Stop the War events followed.

Pleading guilty to a lesser charge of going absent without leave, he was sentenced to nine months. On his release from Colchester Prison, where he spent much of his time “trying to reply to the hundreds of support letters I got every day”, Glenton left behind the army to study for a degree.

“It’s a very different way of life,” he said. “But I am enjoying it and I’d like to think that I bring something different to the debates that take place on the course. I am not the only ex-military person and there are also students intending to go into the military afterwards, which is fine as I am not anti-military, simply anti-establishment.”

Glenton dismisses arguments that WikiLeaks has placed those still serving in additional danger. “They’re in danger by being there unnecessarily, supporting foreign policy objectives that are flawed,” he said. “America and Britain had lost the moral war even before the conflict started in 2001.

“It isn’t about liberation, the aim being to exploit the oil resources in former Soviet Bloc countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan by using Afghanistan to transport it through. Also, by being in both Iraq and Afghanistan it means that in military terms Iran is ‘bracketed’ – surrounded on both sides and vulnerable to attack. I fear it’s only a matter of when, not if this will happen.”

Glenton is sympathetic to the plight of another imprisoned soldier, US private Bradley Manning, who is facing a sentence of up to 52 years for allegedly leaking military documents. The 33 year old also faces accusations of passing on a video showing US forces shooting civilians, including two Reuters news agency employees, from a helicopter in Iraq three years ago.

We must help him,” said Glenton. “I regard Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as heroes as what they’ve done is one of the redeeming acts of the reign of terror, the truth of which has been hidden by the mainstream media that generally toes the government line.”

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