On Saturday, the Independent Magazine featured this excellent article on conscientious objectors. From the Second World War refusenik to the 19-year-old Israeli, Holly Williams spoke with five people who risked shame and suffering to take a stand as conscientious objector. Joe Glenton was one of those conscientious objectors - here is his interview:
There’s a 99-year history of objectors - Joe Glenton, Afghanistan
Joining the British Army is, obviously, voluntary; but leaving before you've served your time – even if you've undergone a complete change of moral conviction – is not so simple.
There is an established process for coming forward as a CO, but many soldiers may be unaware it is their right.
Joe Glenton joined the Army in 2004, and was on tour in Afghanistan for seven months, from early 2006. During that time, he began questioning what exactly they were doing there. "We knew civilians were being bombed, we knew this operation that had started under the banner of peace-keeping, peace-building, providing security, just drifted straight into war-fighting," he explains, adding wryly that "we ran out of ammunition at one point during this 'peace-keeping' operation…".
On his return to the UK, and after further reading, research and reflection, he became increasingly concerned that Afghanistan was "part of a much broader project in the Middle East and central Asia.
I pillory people who go 'It's all about oil', but there is that: obviously Afghanistan is geo-politically important, and there are 90 billion barrels of oil in the Caspian Basin…"
Glenton was also suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after a mortar strike hit near his camp. "So there was that emotional, traumatic stuff, but fundamentally I was opposed to the war. Later, I had more of a politically-informed objection, but initially it was, 'I have a sense that what is going on here is wrong and I don't want to be in it'." He is, however, clear that his objection was specifically against that war; he doesn't consider himself a pacifist: "I still think force, even armed force, has a place, potentially – but that's not it".
From the 7 May 2013 print edition of Le Monde
Pierre Rosanvallon is a French center-left thinker, previously involved with François Furer in the Fondation Saint-Simon. His books in English include, amongst others, Democratic Legitimacy: Impartiality, Reflexivity, Proximity; Democracy Past and Future; and The Demands of Liberty. In 2002 he founded the République des Idées.
How did you make democracy and equality the central axes of your political concerns, inquiries and research ?
Pierre Rosanvallon: I became a full timer for the CFDT [union federation] when I finished at the HEC [business school] just after May ’68. At that time I began to read an enormous amount on the history of the workers’ movement. I had made contact with a publisher, Léon Centner, who had issued an impressive collection of hundreds of pamphlets on the building of the workers’ movement, Les Révolutions du XIXe siècle [‘The Revolutions of the Nineteenth Century’] in 48 volumes. Having got the CFDT to buy the lot, I dived into reading them. From that point on, I knew well that it is impossible to understand the tasks of the present – the project of self-management then being central – without a long-term perspective on the questions in hand. I wanted, besides, to understand the disorderly phenomena of democracy. To know why the structures of collective organisation did not work as well as expected. All these questions on the organisation of democratic life made for my first field of studies.