Saturday, 6 March 2010

Letter to LCpl Joe Glenton

LCpl Joe Glenton was jailed, by a military court, for 6 months yesterday. He pleaded guilty to a charge of going absent without leave during a court marshall hearing in Colchester, Essex. He was also demoted to the rank of private.

The following letter, written to him by a colleague, was sent to me this week. I understand it was written around 6 months ago and was offered to the media, but I never read it myself at the time. Although some of you may not agree with its content, it is an exceptional insight into the thoughts of a soldier.

The honourable action this man should have taken was to have resigned from the army after his first tour to Afghanistan. Then he could have protested against the war as a civilian. Instead he spent his AWOL days in Thailand and Australia but realised he would face charges when he returned to the UK.

Dear Joe,

As you are a Lance Corporal in the Royal Logistic Corps and I was Sapper in the Royal Engineers, I thought I would write to you, junior soldier to junior soldier and let you know my thoughts on the actions you are currently taking. I have no idea why you originally decided to go AWOL from the army but I went AWOL once as well – for no particularly dramatic reason – and, like you, I have also deployed on operations (in my case, to Bosnia and Iraq). I like to think that I am reasonably well informed and as you are obviously an intelligent man, I hope that you will listen to what I have to say with an open mind.

You have said on many occasions that the war in Afghanistan is illegal, and some of the people you have chosen to side with on this issue have supported and applauded your stance, whilst likening the arguments of those members of the armed forces who have concerns about the campaign in Afghanistan but who continue to serve to the infamous Nuremburg Defence – ‘I was only following orders’. This issue is worth examining in some detail as it highlights a number of points that I believe fatally weaken the position that you have taken.

All soldiers are bound by the Law of Armed Conflict and, as you will know, all members of the British armed forces receive training in this area, both during normal annual training and immediately prior to an operational deployment. As junior soldiers, we have a clear obligation to refuse to carry out illegal orders, be they those that may break the Geneva Convention or those that conflict with theatre-specific rules of engagement. Professional soldiers have both a moral and legal responsibility to recognise when an order is illegal and an absolute obligation to refuse such orders; no one in the armed forces from the Chief of the General Staff to the most junior teenage Private could argue against that point and, indeed, all share a responsibility to be familiar with the Law of Armed Conflict as in applies ‘on the ground’. However, as ordinary soldiers, our competence in the matter only goes so far.

As far as questions of the legality of any particular conflict are concerned, we must rely on the decisions of those who are qualified to judge, meaning the legal establishment headed by the Attorney General and the democratically-elected Government of the day. To take an example from the ‘Nuremburg era’, individual junior soldiers and officers cannot be held accountable for joining the German army or for their Government’s decision to invade the Soviet Union. That was – as the army saying has it – far above their pay scale. However, if that soldier, whilst taking part in Operation Barbarossa, obeyed an order to shoot a Soviet civilian, he would make himself a war criminal, entirely responsible for his actions. The distinction between the two is clear.

This leads us on, Joe, to personal conscience and how that applies to us as junior soldiers. Whatever those that you currently choose to associate with may tell you, we live in a democratic country and, furthermore, one that does not practice conscription. Everyone who serves in the armed forces does so on a voluntary basis, without compulsion, and with a clear understanding of what they signed-up for. I did, you did and the nine thousand British troops currently in Afghanistan did as well. Anyone who decides that they disagree with the direction the country’s foreign policy is taking or, in light of their personal experiences decides that they no longer wish to be part of the profession of arms, can give one year’s notice and leave. They do not, however, gain the right to pick and choose which operations they deploy on whilst still serving – and for a very good reason. A military coup is unimaginable in Britain precisely because the army does not question its orders except at a level where people are qualified to do so. Your friends in the Stop the War movement would do well to think about where having an army of free-thinkers could lead – there would be some soldiers like yourself who’s views they would applaud to the rooftops but plenty of others who would enjoy nothing so much as to put them on the point of a bayonet. Societies with such armies do exist but thankfully Britain is not one of them. Were every soldier to follow your example, however, it would swiftly become one and under such circumstances we could all kiss our freedom goodbye. Be careful what you wish for.

Finally, Joe, let us forget for a moment that you are a serving soldier and treat your case as simply that of a citizen exercising his freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. Take a look, if you would, at some of the people that are currently shouting themselves hoarse in support of your stance. Whilst there are many good and sincere people in the Stop the War movement, there are also those who represent the left-wing equivalent of the British National Party; tendencies, factions and Parties who would soak the country in blood as surely as would any fascist party, were they to gain power. How much freedom of conscience or freedom of speech do you think the Socialist Worker’s Party would be willing to grant you on any issue where you find yourself at odds with their point of view? In choosing to align yourself with such people for short term exposure, you have sided with the kind of totalitarian militant who uses peace as the basis of glib placard slogan and as a means to an end that I would hope you do not share. What do you imagine the fate of a Cuban soldier would be, were he to do what you have done?

Joe, by your recent actions you have crossed from fulfilling your own moral code to giving comfort and succour to the enemy. You have gone from being someone that I could not agree with but certainly sympathise with, to someone who has betrayed his former colleagues, some of whom share your doubts and many of whom are currently numb with fear in the place you refused to go. Stop whilst you can. I share your liberal mind-set in many ways and, having witnessed the results of war at first hand, share your disgust at what conflict can mean in reality. But despite what those around you may say, you are not a hero. You are close to becoming a traitor – not to any abstract notion like the State, but to those who wear the same uniform as you and who you claim to care about.

Joe: not in my name.



Quiet_Man said...

Yes, I think that pretty much nailed him and his beliefs. Soldiers don't get any choice as to where they are sent to fight, nor do they get a say on whether the war is illegal or not. What they can do is refuse illegal orders, as for the rest, they can resign and protest, they cannot be allowed to go awol and protest, at least not without facing the consequences when they are caught.

subrosa said...

I had a certain sympathy with this chap until I read he went on a two year holiday abroad, marrying in Australia too.

He could easily have resigned QM. In fact they may have let him go quickly.

The letter is excellent.

Jess The Dog said...

The bloke isn't worth taking the effort over. An attention-seeker now that he is in trouble.

Plenty did the time and then resigned, some in silence and some who spoke out afterwards.

I put my papers in at the end of Hutton, did a year, kept my mouth (mostly) shut and handed my uniform in.....closest I got to either theatre was the United States anyway!

subrosa said...

Sadly Jess, as the letter writer says, this bloke feeds those who are in the Stop the War Campaign.

I wouldn't have given him blog space I hadn't thought the letter of value to those who may not understand military thinking.

CrazyDaisy said...


I understand the conscience issue, however, Im not certain this letter is by a private in the Army....but I could be wrong.

Been to both locations and plenty more and further danger yet to come. It's a head fuck at times especially if you're cerebral and politicised!

Viet "fuckin" nam as they say in Forrest Gump - much truth found there!


subrosa said...

Hi CD, since I posted it I've found out it was posted on the ARRSE forums back in October. In that case I would think it's reasonably authentic as other members would have sussed it out.

Aye Forrest Gump. One of the best films of the 90s.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't fail to disagree less with that letter.

Here's the post to ARRSE:

One response:

You could have done a shorten version, something along the lines of:

You are a cowardly knob, I hope you die slowly.


Most of the British army

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link Alec. I did have a look when I first heard about it but didn't have time to read the comments.

Must admit, that one would possibly be what I think most of his colleagues think.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Well, the ARRSE thread now has over three hundred replies and a range of opinions, and the "is the sentence fair" thread and poll has a three way split between "far too little time inside", "too little" and "yup, seems right". Wedge35, the letter's author, is ex-serving, although is now a Labour-party activist and (IIRC) council worker.

Some of those opinions are rather robust - others more understanding.

It's a complicated scenario - he claims to have PTSD (but was never 'in the thick of it'); his AWOL until thrown out of Australia doesn't win him any friends; nor did his "Wolfie Smith" 'power to the Peoples' Soviet' salute. It is an interesting war to claim was illegal too - of the three recent ones (Balkans & Iraq), it is the one pretty much taken in direct and immediate response to the refusal of the Taliban to hand over AQ leaders. And ISAF, which he would have joined, has a direct Security Council mandate.

If he had a moral problem with it, he should have marched smartly up to his troopy and refused to soldier on, as a matter of conscience. He'd have been let go - I don't think the politicians have enough guts - and he'd have probably had to do less time at MCTC.

But then, as a reservist, I actually volunteer for each and every tour so, under 'intelligent mobilisation', I actually do get to pick and choose my wars, strange as it seems.

WV - "bootuort" - Boot You Out?

subrosa said...

I'll go and read your link SE. Yes thought the author was ex-serving by his letter but did realise he support Gordoom.

PTSD, as we know, can be used in many situations - rather like backache used to be. As far as I know this chap was a forklift driver and never saw 'action' along he would perhaps have seen the result of it.

The army (and the other services I'm sure) don't want those who have problems and he would have been let go without question. They have enough to do without worrying about someone who isn't 'on message'.

As for the TA, it's only right they can pick and choose their deployment. I've never heard a regular ever complain about that.

Billy Carlin said...

I agree with the comments re the guy should have left the army and done his protesting via civvy street.

With regard to this war being illegal - it is!

The UN mandate was based on the lies that it was terrorists based in Afghanistan that did 911. Since Dr Judy Wood and Dr Morgan Reynolds have proved that 911 was nothing to do with planes but were turned to dust with Direct Energy Weapons and are suing the US government and over twenty US companies with regard to this then we should all be "Stop the War" campaigners.

subrosa said...

I've yet to decide if Afghanistan is illegal as per international law Billy but thanks for the link and info.

It's certainly unwinnable.

Strathturret said...

It was legitimised by UN I think.

We may have told some lies of course to get the vote through,as you do.

Personally I wish more soldiers would refuse to serve. The fact that more don't suggests that the common soldiers are not too well endowed with brain cells.

subrosa said...

Anyone joining the armed services is told the rules Strathturret. If they don't like them then they don't join.

Would you like your local services to say 'I refuse to do my job' and still be paid?

There are people of all abilities in the forces. They know if they don't like something they can resign.

Surreptitious Evil said...


We are lucky, in the UK, that we have only had one successful military coup in our recorded history. Soldiers, sailors and airmen deciding that their preferences are above those of the elected government of the country is the first step towards a military dictatorship. We don't want to go there ...

Most senior military officers, all Warrant Officers and most NCOs (and, it has to be said, our generous host) are pretty much convinced that they military could run the country better than the politicians. It has to be said that I am fairly convinced that most primary school reception classes would do a better job - as would simply rolling dice. That there is no realistic chance of it even being discussed (outside of the paranoid minds of the SWP and their splitters) is because of the loyalty to the unwritten constitution that has been such an important part of the British military tradition. And, as we saw in the English Civil War, where it is completely unclear, you have horridly mixed opinions. Major General Fairfax, for example.

Did we tell lies to get the vote in the Security Council - I don't know and legally it doesn't matter. Self-defence, allowed under the UN Charter, permitted the initial response (despite Billy's absurd fantasy) and the UN Security Council authorised ISAF. That's it. Under 'international law". You might think it was wrong, immoral or whatever - and you may very well be right. It wasn't 'illegal'.

Many soldiers put their notice in after operational tours. That they don't when warned off is down to many factors - they are in it, not for the demos, not for the Queen - not even for the Regiment - but for their friends. Who they do not want to let down. Are some of them a wee bit thick - definitely. There are plenty of jobs in the Army especially that don't require a PhD in Modern Political Analysis. On the other hand, many of them are surprisingly bright. I have oodles of qualifications. I'm a Fellow of professional Institutes. And over 20-odd years 'under the colours', I have some really interesting and intellectual discussions with privates, Lance Corporals and all sorts of mixed bods who you seem to have written off.

Luckily, they haven't written you off and will do, the vast majority of them, and die, far too many of them, as they are ordered by the government you, and I, elect.

subrosa said...

Thank you SE.

Billy Carlin said...

Surreptitious Evil

What absurd fantasy would that be?

That Dr Judy Wood and Dr Morgan Reynolds have proved that it was Direct Energy Weapons that turned the Twin Towers to dust - True.

Maybe you can enlighten everyone as to how Dr Wood an expert in this field so wrong in her evidence that she is using to sue the US government and over 20 US companies, some of whom are Direct Energy Weapons manufacturing companies.

They have proved that there were no planes, hence highjackers, at 911 as it is impossible for aluminium planes to penetrate steel girders or reinforced concrete - it is against the laws of physics. No matter how fast a fly goes it will never go through your windscreen. It is impossible for a Magnum bullet to penetrate a steel girder and it is at least four times faster than an airliner.

It is all to do with physics and nothing to do with conspiracy or fantasy. There were no planes, no terrorists, especially ones with Direct Energy Weapons thus the UN was lied to resulting in Afganistan being invaded under false pretences.

Surreptitious Evil said...


Thanks - you really are whacked, aren't you?

That Dr Judy Wood and Dr Morgan Reynolds have proved that it was Direct Energy Weapons that turned the Twin Towers to dust - True.

No, complete bollocks. Have you any idea of the difference between "claim" and "prove"?

They have proved that there were no planes, hence highjackers, at 911 as it is impossible for aluminium planes to penetrate steel girders or reinforced concrete - it is against the laws of physics. No matter how fast a fly goes it will never go through your windscreen.

Please. Go and learn some physics first then come and pontificate to us. Yes, it is hard to get a fly to go fast enough to put it through your windscreen - I've never seen an aluminium one either - they don't go fast enough naturally but a stone will do it easily (and those have a natural velocity of 0). Hmmm, there's a company called Autoglass that make quite a good living from this, you know.

Have you actually had a look at pictures of Towers One and Two? See all the glass. Yes - surely even you would admit that you can put a 130 tonne aircraft through glass - and a bit of concrete in the screening is not going to stop it. Mind you, if you want the plane in one piece at the other end, you'll be disappointed :)

It is impossible for a Magnum bullet to penetrate a steel girder and it is at least four times faster than an airliner.

Arrgh! This is tripe. The main use of the .44 Magnum round by US police forces is to shoot into the steel engine blocks of US cars - the "Chevy V8" - causing them to seize. I've personally shot through steel with NATO .223 and 7.62 rounds - it's not difficult. Yes, range is an issue - especially with your handgun round. Lightly armoured vehicles - not just Snatch but the FV432 / M113 class of APC can be beaten up with .50cal - somewhat tougher than a girder.

Just to correct your basics, though - a 767 can do about 560mph. A light (240 grain) .44 magnum round has a muzzle velocity of just over 1000mph. Not actually even twice that of the particular airliner type involved. Just for you - the lighter the grain the bullet, the greater the muzzle velocity - same kinetic energy from the charge, you see. Physics.

Look, I'm going to give up now. But before I go, I'll grant you one thing. The terrorists did not have "Direct Energy Weapons".

To paraphrase you: "It is nothing to do with physics and all about conspiracy or fantasy."

"Don’t argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience"

The Last Of The Few said...


You have proven the age old point, "never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers".

Please do not go out in a large group of people.

A lot of people in the real world would get worried

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

The letter is very literate and reasonable in its response and analysis of the morality of those involved in armed conflict.

It fails only on one issue - why such conflict is initiated in the first place, by whom and for what.

Surely every soldier has the right to choose between being a soldier or a mercenary.

And Billy. Apart from the human tongue I cannot think of one weapon that doesn't in some way use 'Direct Energy'

Billy Carlin said...

Surreptitious Evil

Absolute drivel - a stone is stronger than glass, glass is stronger than a fly, a 500000 ton steel and concrete building is far stronger than a 150 ton light aluminium plane.

When a plane and bird are in collision the bird tears holes in the plane.

Each window in the Twin Towers is only the width of a person so bits of the plane would go through the window and the rest would fall to the ground - fact is no bits of the plane or building fell to the ground on impact - the planes melted into the building then the building sealed up again after it was inside.

Planes cannot fly anywhere near their top speed at lower level. Amazing people like yourself claim that the planes were flying so fast that they penetrated the steel and concrete and yet they did not carry on right through the other side which is what would have happened if this was true. Still against Newtons laws though for an aluminium plane to go through a steel and concrete building.

Dr judy Wood and Dr Morgan Reynolds are experts who have put together their evidence and they and their lawyer are not so stupid as to sue the US government and over 20 US companies with fantasy or conspiracy.

Go to and download the pdf's of the cases and see the evidence for yourself and maybe you could help to get their message out against the real murderers instead of protecting them with your ignorance.

Surreptitious Evil said...


Poison gasses certainly - and biological weapons. You could possibly make a claim for incendiaries as well (energy, yes, but sort-of indirect).

Even the human voice could be considered (rather poorly) directed sound energy.

Billy Carlin said...

Surreptitious Evil

Carry on with being ignorant if you want to but if you go and google "direct energy weapons" you will see millions of entries for them.

They are even on Wikipedia, they have been used in Iraq, Reagan called them "Star Wars Weapons".

Dr Judy Wood is an expert on them and is suing three Direct Energy Weapons manufacturing companies, Science Applications International Corp, Applied Research Associates Inc and Boeing amongst the other 20or so companies with regard to 911.

Her site is at

Surreptitious Evil said...


I appreciate that you haven't quite got this reading and understanding thing down and prefer to rant instead. Still, once more unto the breach and all that ...

Another commentator - not you - wondered about weapons that do not use "direct energy". I suggested a couple that I thought were definitely not "direct energy", having nothing to do with delivery of energy from a weapon to a target and one where I could suggest a lack of 'direction". The comment was, and I really don't want to upset your delicate ego, nothing to do with you.

This may be the first time I have seen the number of Google hits claimed as 'proof' of anything. If you google "alien abduction" you get 945k hits. I don't believe in that. If you google "moon landing hoax" you get over three million hits - I believe that the Apollo programme resulted in 12 men walking on the moon. However, I am fully aware - enough so that I am in no position to discuss it here - of military research and limited use of lasers and research into charged particle weapons. You can see an article about the state of the art here, from an ex-military EOD officer, or the more boring press release here. 100kW - state of the art. If you are so sure that the World Trade Centre towers would have withstood a 130tonne aircraft (less say at about 300 knots) - that's around 70 Giga Joules of kinetic energy alone - how long is a 100kW weapon (laser or particle beam) going to take?

Iraq? Are you confusing DE with DU? Apart from Zeus, which is a mere 2kW and takes 30 seconds to ignite mines and other explosives, and first went operational in Dec 2002, there are no weaponised lasers in current operational deployment. And as the key is the power supply, you might want to read similar limitations in to charged particle beams. Interestingly, the most powerful charged particle beams in current use are the large particle accelerators - the LHC uses about 22MW for the beams, rather less than it uses for the cryogenics (but would be rather difficult to smuggle in to New York). JET, which uses microwave and charged particle beams to heat the plasma, uses 1000MW but needs two 775 ton flywheels for that (again, rather obvious if you tried to smuggle those in).

Dr Judy Wood is a materials scientist. Not a weapons researcher. Her published academic work is about failure of materials not about charged particle beams, lasers or anything similar. She is also a conspiracy nut, like you. And, let's be honest, if you can sue for coffee not being marked "may be hot" and bags of peanuts have to have "may contain nuts" on them, then it is pretty obvious that the US legal system is damaged if not broken. You can sue for anything - the trick is winning the case.

And if being ignorant involves not believing as you do, it seems a nice place to be. I'll stick with my physics and engineering, university lecturing etc (yes, I do appreciate that is the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy but, hey, sue me!)

Billy Carlin said...

Surreptitious Evil

Sorry to disappoint you but I am no conspiracy nut and neither is Dr Judy Wood. I too believe Apollo landed on the moon as the proof is out there such as the mirrors still be used today left on the moon by Apollo 11 etc. I don't argue for any other conspiracy like these and neither does Dr Wood.

Amazing how planes can hit buildings then make them totally disappear into dust and burn big holes in other buildings and the roadside beside them and cause cars miles away to burst into flames and others to flip over. Amazing how the metal burns yet the paper does not. Amazing how firefghters, police and paramedics just vanished in front of others eyes etc.

It is amazing what planes flying into buildings against the laws of physics can do. If you are a lecturer then I pity your students.

Surreptitious Evil said...


I hate to correct you but yes, you are a conspiracy nut. Both 9/11 'truth' and 'the British Government did 7/7' are conspiracy theories - like DIana being murdered on the Duke of Edinburgh's orders - evidence-free madness.

Planes can hit buildings and, yes, they will penetrate inside. And neither the buildings nor the planes "totally disappear in to dust". Look at what damage a single engine 3000lb plane (1/95th of the weight of a laden 767) can do. Or is this more mysterious "direct energy weapons"?

You have no proof (no, neither your statements nor Dr Wood's are 'proof' - they are statements. Incorrect ones) of any of your allegations, and no understanding of basic physics, modern architecture or military weaponry. You have not addressed any of the points I have mentioned (except to say that the 767s probably weren't flying at their notional maximum velocity - but then a Magnum round won't be travelling at muzzle velocity, either so the point is completely moot.) Please go back to baiting Terry - it is a more productive use of your time.

I'm going to stop taking up our hostess's space here. I may put something up chez moi.

BTW - I sometimes pity my students too. Especially when I have to teach them law.

Billy Carlin said...

Surreptitious Evil

I have addressed your points - Everything you say is against Newtons Laws - an aluminium plane cannot do what you are claiming.

All videos of 911 show the planes melt into the buildings, with the builings sealing themselves up after the plane has entered, then exploding inside after coming to a sudden halt, then the building is supposed to have weakened and collapsed because of the fires from the plane fuel which burns at 816 Degrees Cent (in an enclosed space even though you see the fuel burn up in seconds on the videos) when in fact steel melts at 1482 Degrees Cent.

This amazing feat has also caused entire car parks of cars to burst into flames miles away from the Twin Towers and others to flip onto their roofs. It has also caused the steel concrete and people to turn into the dust seen blowing all over NY that day.

Two 110 floor 500000 ton buildings collapsing the way the US government has said would have left two massive piles of seel and concrete - there wasn't they disappeared.

Maybe you could explain to everyone then where the buildings went then, explain why the Earths magnetic field just happened to dip at the exact moment each tower and building 7 collapsed and why each building "hit" the ground with the same force as someone using a jack-hammer on the Richter Scale. All documented evidence in the court case against the US government and over 20 US companies.

Also hate to inform you that Dr Woods and Dr Reynolds evidence is being used by the insurance companies that have had to pay out billions in this scam in their investigations and also by the lawyers for the "terrorists" in Guantanamo who were supposed to be tried in NY. I know this because I have been in touch with these people and passed on all the details so hopefully there will be at least three legal cases against the US government soon.

I deal in facts, the difference between me and you is I have seen all the evidence by these Dr's, I don't do conspiracy, thousands of people have been murdered in NY and London and the governments of these two countries have put out lies that have led to innocent people being accused of these crimes and hundreds of thousands of innocent people being killed in two wars, including our troops.

You seem to be quite intelligent, unlike Terry Kelly, so you should go and look at the PDF's of the court cases at Dr Woods site as they are very interesting, very picture intensive, and you will see a lot of things not shown in the media.

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