The militant mothers who are taking on Tony Blair

Famous names join the fight to bring British soldiers back home from Iraq
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Indy Politics

The anger has strengthened the resolve of mothers and wives who yesterday launched their campaign to bring British troops back home from the Gulf. They also called for a nation-wide picket of Army recruiting offices .

In a letter to Military Families Against the War, seen by The Independent on Sunday, the Prime Minister denies lying to take Britain into war, and concludes: "I hope you will believe me when I say that I am sure all those... killed in Iraq died defending their country and making the world safer for all of us."

In reply, Rose Gentle and Reg Keys, co-founders of the campaign, write: "This is not the case - we are immensely proud of our sons and husbands but they died serving their country. Iraq posed no military threat to this country whatsoever."

Mrs Gentle, whose 19-year-old son Gordon was killed by a bomb in Basra in 2004, says Army recruiting offices in her home city of Glasgow had to close for the day when she leafleted potential recruits on Iraq.

Yesterday, she called on others to take the same action. "Young boys are being told they will see the world," she said. "But after 24 weeks' training, they are being sent to Iraq as cannon fodder."

She was speaking as the families launched their petition calling for military withdrawal from Iraq at the Stop the War Coalition's annual conference in London yesterday. As the IoS revealed last week, it is being backed by the families of dozens of servicemen still serving there

Linda King, from St Austell, Cornwall, whose 21-year-old son Chris is on his second tour of duty in Iraq, said: "I speak to my son regularly. He says morale is low. They know the Iraqis don't want them there and they don't want to be there. They should be brought home."

The families are awaiting the outcome of their appeal against a High Court decision to turn down their call for an inquiry into the war.

Peter Brierley, whose 28-year-old son Shaun was killed in a road accident during the war in 2003, is funding £11,000 of the legal costs from his own pocket.

Mr Blair will face more pressure from a host of famous names due to appear at a concert on 28 June in support of Malcolm Kendall-Smith, the RAF doctor jailed for refusing to go Iraq.

Playwright David Edgar said he thought the war had been illegal and that British troops should be brought home. Others appearing include the composer Michael Nyman, Ken Loach and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

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