Anti-war update: Glenton, Chilcot, Tomlinson

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Joe Glenton released

Many of our readers will already have heard that Joe Glenton, the British Army Lance Corporal who was sent to military prison earlier this year on account of his vocal and public opposition to the war in Afghanistan, has been released.

We join with the entire anti-war movement in welcoming Joe back and congratulating him on his steadfastness, which clearly hasn’t been affected by his stay in prison.

On being released, Joe stated: “I stand by what I did. I’d do another four months just to show them up. The other prisoners didn’t have a bad word to say to me.” (‘Anti-war soldier Joe Glenton is released from military prison’, Socialist Worker, 17 July 2010)

Joe said that he was heartened to see the changing mood of the British public in relation to the war in Afghanistan. “It’s got to the point where people who previously weren’t that interested have come to the conclusion that there’s something fundamentally wrong and excuses aren’t good enough any more.”

He also had a word of caution for those considering joining the army:

“In the economic crisis it may seem a tempting option to join the army. But I’d say don’t do it because we’re involved in something very sordid in Afghanistan …

“Soldiers are from low-income families, working-class backgrounds. They’re given glossy brochures about the army and it doesn’t work out like that. It soon becomes clear that they’re lubricating the ambitions of the people in power with their own blood. If the politicians are so keen to get out there and drum up jingoism then they should put their own lives on the line.” (Ibid)

Chilcot inquiry: the lies fall apart

Most people assumed that the Chilcot inquiry would be a total whitewash, and this assumption was certainly reinforced by Tony Blair’s lavishly dishonest appearance in January of this year.

However, the statements made at the inquiry by former MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller provide a great deal more insight into what was really being said in the corridors of power in the months leading up to the Iraq war.

Asked whether she felt it likely that Saddam Hussein could have linked terrorists to weapons of mass destruction, facilitating their use against Britain, she replied: “It certainly wasn’t of concern in either the short term or the medium term to me or my colleagues.”

Manningham-Buller said there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement in the September 11 attacks on the US, a view she said was shared by the CIA and which prompted the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to set up an alternative intelligence unit.” (‘Iraq inquiry: Saddam posed very limited threat to UK, ex-MI5 chief says’, The Guardian, 20 July 2010)

In a newly-declassified letter written to John Gieve, at the time a permanent secretary at the Home Office, she wrote that there was no credible evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the 11 September twin tower attacks, and that Saddam was unlikely to order terrorist strikes.

Manningham-Buller drove the knife in by stating that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan had served to radicalise a generation of muslims. “Arguably, we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad,” she said.

Manningham-Buller’s testimony confirms what we in the anti-war movement have been saying all along – that the invasion had absolutely nothing to do with ‘weapons of mass destruction’ or any perceived threat represented by the Iraqi government; rather it was purely to do with potential economic and geo-strategic gain.

Tom Hurndall’s killer to be released early

A military court in southern Israel has ruled that Taysir Hayb, the Israeli soldier who shot peace activist Tom Hurndall in the head as he tried to help a Palestinian woman and her children flee Israeli gunfire, will be freed this August, having served just six years of his eight-year sentence.

The ruling will no doubt anger friends of Palestine across the globe. Israel certainly does not exercise leniency towards Palestinian political prisoners – Marwan Barghouti, for example, has been held in prison on trumped-up charges for eight years – and yet it is willing to act generously towards a soldier who shot an unarmed aid worker in the head.

Hurndall’s family have of course been saddened by the ruling, but have been very clear that they lay the blame for Tom’s death not with any individual but with the Israeli state. His sister, Sophie, said: “It’s about the system, not the man himself … This man who shot Tom was the same age as him. He is both the victim and the killer. He is part of a system that proactively encourages soldiers to target civilians.” (‘Family of Briton killed by Israeli soldier demand meeting with ministers’, The Guardian, 20 July 2010)

Ian Tomlinson’s murderers will not be charged

Shockingly, 15 months after the brutal police assault that led to the death of Ian Tomlinson, director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer has ruled that the evidence in the case is “contradictory” and that “there is no realistic prospect of a conviction” against PC Simon Harwood (the police officer who attacked Tomlinson from behind).

This decision speaks volumes about the British justice system. First, the “contradictory” nature of the evidence consists solely of the fact that the original autopsy, conducted by Dr Freddy Patel, was inconsistent with the subsequent two autopsies: Patel ruled that Tomlinson had died naturally; the other two autopsies found that he had died as a result of the blow inflicted by PC Harwood.

However, the quality of Patel’s autopsy has been severely criticised, and, given his astonishingly poor record (he is facing a disciplinary hearing before the General Medical Council for alleged incompetence in 26 cases), it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that he simply did the stitch-up job he was asked to do. Now that stitch-up job is being endorsed. Even though it has been comprehensively discredited, it has done enough to keep the case out of the courts.

For the Director of Public Prosecutions to have taken such a decision in a case of such overwhelming evidence of there being a case to answer – a case where it is to a jury that the issue of the supposedly conflicting evidence should be referred – underlines the bias in favour of the police that pervades the whole of the judicial system.

As George Monbiot wrote recently: “Now picture the opposite case: a civilian launching an unprovoked attack on a policeman, captured on film, which is immediately followed by the policeman’s death. The Crown Prosecution Service ponders and dithers before deciding that the assailant should get away scot free. Implausible? You have just understood that in the United Kingdom equality before the law exists only in textbooks.” (‘Ian Tomlinson ruling: we must all fight this whitewash’, The Guardian, 23 July 2010)

As with the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, Roger Sylvester and so many others that have died at the hands of British police, it seems that no police officer will be held accountable. As Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, put it:

“This decision is a shameful indictment of the way police criminality is investigated and demonstrates a culture of impunity when police officers break the law. It follows a pattern of cases that reveal an unwillingness to treat deaths arising from the use of force by police as potential homicides. It demonstrates yet again the flawed procedures that follow contentious deaths involving the police and stands as testament to their unaccountability.”

The Tomlinson family and their supporters are now raising money in order to bring a private prosecution against the police. Readers can follow the campaign at Donations toward the legal fund can be sent by cheque to: Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign, c/o Newham Monitoring Project, 170 Harold Rd, London, E13 0SE.