Is the British Army an apolitical institution, or a breeding ground for xenophobic nationalism and militarism? Joe Glenton was the first British soldier to publicly refuse redeployment to Afghanistan for opposing the war on moral grounds – but he isn’t alone among veterans who have rejected the military and become activists against war and racism.
Among reports of growing support for far-right movements in the military, Joe went on a journey across England and Northern Ireland to investigate the politics and practices of the armed forces.
Tim Collins, who served as a colonel in the Iraq War, denies that the army is a political institution. But when asked about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and a video that surfaced of soldiers using his face for target practice he said: “Corbyn doesn’t stand for mildly social democratic, he’s an out and out Marxist, he abhors the army. He’s an IRA sympathizer I’m very clear about that.”
In Belfast, veterans gathered to remember the 50th anniversary of Operation Banner, when the British government sent troops to Northern Ireland. Many of these veterans appeared disillusioned, with one saying, “I’m not sure that that message gets out to the civilian population that, how we worked here, wasn’t our doing, we were told what to do. I think it was the government’s dirty war.” Another simply said, “I spent 23 years in the British Army and keep asking myself ‘what for?’, ‘what for?'”
Recounting the racist training he received after signing up for the army, veteran Inoke Momonakaya said, “As soon as the training goes on, there is an element of dehumanisation going on. They dehumanise the Iraqi people…they told me that the reason why I went to Iraq is to go and bring peace to the people of Iraq. But then later I found out that I was the terrorist that I was fighting against.”