Army chief hits out at protesters

A TOP Army commander yesterday hit out at peace protesters and claimed they were marching in support of Saddam Hussein's regime.Colonel Tony Barton, commander of Colchester Garrison, said: “In a democracy it's very easy to protest about something you don't like.

By Juliette Maxam

A TOP Army commander yesterday hit out at peace protesters and claimed they were marching in support of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Colonel Tony Barton, commander of Colchester Garrison, said: “In a democracy it's very easy to protest about something you don't like.

“To my mind they're (Stop the War protesters) out there marching for the continued mutilation, torture, killing and murder of Iraqi men, women and children and the maintenance of a horrific regime.”

Col Barton said he had warned wives of soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade who are fighting in the war that another peace protest is taking place in Colchester this weekend.

“Wives have been hurt by the marches. I spent a lot of time trying to persuade them that was a temporary thing, something we go through before any major conflict but support would grow once we were committed.”

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He said the soldiers themselves were more “robust”.

But Andy Abbott, from the Colchester Peace Campaign, said: “We can only be contemptuous of a comment like that.

“We support our troops in the best way possible by saying get them out of the Gulf and bring them home.”

Col Barton, who was speaking at a media briefing, also denied that any of his troops had expressed a wish to be conscientious objectors.

Solicitors said two members of 16 Air Assault Brigade had been returned from the Gulf after refusing to fight in a war involving the death of civilians.

But Col Barton said: "As far as I am aware, there is no one in 16 Brigade who has requested to be considered a conscientious objector and removed from theatre."

Col Barton said this had also been confirmed to him by garrison staff who deal with disciplinary issues.

He added: "We have had a number of soldiers here in 16 Brigade that have been sent back for a variety of reasons, some of those medical, some compassionate.”

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