Book review: Soldier Box: Why I Won't Return to the War on Terror

A review of 'Soldier Box: Why I Won't Return to the War on Terror' by Joe Glenton

Derek Wall
Fri 3 Oct 2014

Verson, 184pp, £12.99

Soldier Box is the story of Joe Glenton, who became a soldier, served in Afghanistan, suffered post-traumatic stress and refused to fight a second 'tour of duty' after realising the war was futile and destructive. It is a very moving and engaging book. Glenton is a brilliant writer, and his autobiographical book soon draws the reader in. He drifted into the army thinking he could do good, but found the reality very different. The passages on his experiences of meeting the US military in Afghanistan are particularly damning, as he learns of troops racially abusing Afghans, disrupted local communities and corporations making a quick profit from the war. Glenton notes on page 35, after discovering a US Pizza Hut and Burger King on a base shared with American troops: 'We knew then we were at McWar.' He refused to fight again in Afghanistan, went AWOL but returned to the UK and voluntarily gave himself up to the army. He was court-martialled and sent to jail. He has been and continues to be a supporter of the peace movement.

The book shows that while routine racism, sexism and brutal behaviour can exist in the British Army, soldiers are often thoughtful and often reject war. There are numerous examples in the book of other soldiers telling Glenton that they thought war was more about oil and political power than tackling terrorism or humanitarian missions. Others have left the army and spoken out - for example, he describes an ex-SAS member who resigned because he refused to track down and send Iraqis to US rendition camps.

Glenton is also clear in his feeling that charities that support soldiers too often provide a messagethat war is heroic and part?of a British tradition. He argues that peace campaigners must be pro-soldier, and that individual soldiers suffer in war and deserve support, but notes: 'Being pro-soldier is not the same as being pro-war.' From resistance to apartheid to the struggle against Hitler, war may sometimes be justified. However, war is generally brutal, unnecessary and profitable. This book is a call to respect individual soldiers and a challenge to make policies that promote peace. Please read it: it has a powerful message, delivered in sharp prose, with much inspiration, and even occasional humour.