Panic as 17 year old British soldier refuses to fight in Iraq
Generals fear army revolt
Socialist Worker, 11 September 2004

Mother and former servicemen join growing campaign to bring the troops home

"I THINK what's happening in Iraq is terrible. I don't think any of the young ones should be there."

So says Yvonne McBride, the mother of 17 year old British soldier David McBride, who is refusing to fight in Iraq. He has gone absent without leave (AWOL).

Britain's top brass are so worried about the growing feeling among soldiers and their families against the war in Iraq that they moved quickly to placate the family and take David off the AWOL list.

Salman Mirza, a reservist who refused to fight in the 1991 Gulf War, says, "This is unprecedented. I've never heard of anything like it before.

"When I was there you had to go through a system. You faced imprisonment. This is the effect of the anti-war movement and things like Rose Gentle's campaign to bring the troops home."

This comes as five ex-servicemen in Portsmouth have written a public statement calling for all British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

Almost all the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq have denounced the war on Iraq, and Tony Blair for sending their children to be killed.

Rose Gentle's son Gordon was killed in Iraq in June. Her campaign is winning wide support. Yvonne McBride said she would join it. David McBride was told that he would be sent to Iraq with his unit in November when he turns 18.

When her son went AWOL Yvonne spoke about his case in a number of Scottish newspapers.

David McBride from Glasgow committed himself to four years in the army in April, after he finished his training with the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

But when he returned to the Milton area of Glasgow in July he was diagnosed with depression. He realised that the army was not for him and refused to return to his unit.

Yvonne McBride, who is a support worker at Yorkhill hospital, said, "My boy is not in a fit state to go back. He has been told that as soon as he turns 18 in November he will be sent to Iraq.

"He has worried himself sick, and I am scared about his mental health.

"He has been bullied by his comrades because he has decided the army life is not for him.

"He decided in July. He wanted to quit the army and became very depressed.

"He was home on leave that month and was signed off for three weeks by his GP because he was suffering stress and depression."

Yvonne told Socialist Worker, "David doesn't want to be in the army.

"Major James from Edinburgh phoned me and said that he'd been in touch with David's unit in Cyprus, taken him off the AWOL list and wants to talk to him.

"I think me writing something in the newspapers has moved them."

Salman Mirza says, "It is extremely difficult to get out of the army.

"Even if you want to leave on medical grounds they still usually put you in prison.

"When Vic Williams, who was a serving soldier, refused to fight in the 1991 Gulf War and went AWOL, the army went after him."

Vic Williams was jailed for 14 months for desertion and conduct prejudicial to the good order of discipline.

Mohsin Khan, who was a medic in the RAF, went AWOL in February of last year because he saw the war on Iraq as "an attack on innocent people".

He was arrested, charged and given punishment-docked pay and "loss of privileges".

Dunkan Tickner was a navy cook who served in the Falklands. He is also one of the Portsmouth ex-servicemen whose statement is printed on this page.

Dunkan Tickner told Socialist Worker, "I think the army are realising that the war is totally unpopular. I have never heard of anything like the way the army is treating David McBride. When they've got you they try to keep hold of you.

"I'm sure that in army towns and cities like Plymouth and Aldershot there are people who have had enough and want to do something. The best thing would be that tomorrow all the guys are back home."


'We must act to stop this sacrifice for oil'

FIVE FORMER members of the armed forces in Portsmouth have joined Rose Gentle's campaign to bring the troops back from Iraq. They have written this open letter:

ROSE GENTLE, the mother of 19 year old Gordon Gentle who was killed in Basra in June of this year, was pictured outside 10 Downing Street having just left a meeting with the deputy prime minister in disgust.

She and her 14 year old daughter Maxine are disgusted at the illegal war in Iraq.

They are disgusted by the fact that Gordon was the latest casualty due to the lack of basic training equipment.

They are disgusted that Tony Blair, whose own sons sleep safely at home each night, took so long to send a simple letter of condolence. And they were disgusted that Gordon was killed for someone else's gain.

They aren't the only ones. Reg Keys, whose son Thomas was killed in June 2003, has written, "Mr Blair owes me the life of one son, a debt he can't repay."

Margaret Evans, aunt of 20 year old Lee O'Callaghan, also killed in Basra, says, "My message to Tony Blair is that we should not be in Iraq. Why are we there? They should get the rest of the kids home."

Christine Morgan, mother of Marc Ferns, 21, killed last month, asks, "How many more? It's 64 just now. I do not want that number to get any higher. Get them home."

As ex-servicemen we have "served our country". We have seen conflict.

We have seen the effects of conflict and we totally agree with these distressed families.

Why should their sons have been sacrificed for George W Bush and his oil companies?

Their lives were squandered, and unless our troops are brought back now more lives will be wasted. More families will be grieving.

We are currently searching for similar UK-based ex-servicemen groups, and are planning to contact US and Australia based groups of veterans.

The actions of the Gentle family finally took us, as a group, from talking to "doing".

We offer our support in their struggle.

As well as signing the Gentle family's national petition calling for the return of British troops, we ask any ex or serving members of the armed services, and/or their families, who have had enough of the slaughter and would like more information about our campaign to get in touch.

Ed Cherrie, Lance Corporal, Royal Military Police
Richard Lines, Chief Petty Officer, Royal Navy
John Snape, Petty Officer Weapons Electrical Mechanic
Dunkan Tickner, cook, Royal Navy
Rob Waterfield, private

Get in touch by phoning Dunkan on 07870 943 519 or e-mail