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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

Freedom Of Speech

No one believes that freedom of speech is not abridged in the military; and it seems that many accept this restriction as no less than necessary to the services’ effective functioning. But is it? Why have we tolerated this direct violation of the United States Constitution? Is the efficiency of a serviceman in his assigned duties truly diminished by the provisions of the FIRST AMENDMENT? Or is it not impossible, to the contrary, that the bare, unshaven face of personal opinion, propelled by the strong body of public expression, may lead the military services to more cooperative and effective accomplishment of their purpose? What are our military obligations? Are they incompatible with the freedom of speech guaranteed us as citizens?

In all activities the purpose of each dictates the obligations of those involved in it. In that great activity called social living there are, in the beginning and the end, only two purposes: the safeguarding of individual freedom and the increase of individual safety. So, by our entrance into a social-contract we are obligated to serve others as well as ourselves. And if for any reason we fear our contracts, we form standing armies to protect ourselves and our countrymen. And since, obviously, the mind of a free and educated man needs no protection from differing views, the only purpose of an army in a republic is to protect that nation from physical attack, physical; from club, bullet, bomb! Thus the serviceman has only two military obligations : to prepare to defend and to defend. HE HAS NO OBLIGATION TO CHOKE BACK HIS PERSONAL OPINIONS.

Then why are our generals so damned afraid of our dissenting voices? The reason we hear most often cited is something vague to the effect that our varied voices would muddy the image of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as tools of Congress, and destroy the disciplining of the serviceman as a tool of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Yet, the openly stated opinions of our legislators have only served to ensure that they are and continue to be tools of the citizenry; and the public statements of one Billy Mitchell, far from decreasing his worth as a soldier, enabled this country to become the foremost airpower of the Second World War.

However, there is a second reason, the real reason, and it is much less palatable. The military in this country is an oligarchy incompletely evolved from the day of rule by right of birth - a gentleman, and therefore an officer, and therefore a gentlemen. WE HAVE NO SAY ABOUT WHO IS CHOSEN TO LEAD US. . .

Are we to trust a man implicitely [sic] simply because he or his daddy had the money to allow him to be graduated from college? Simply because he enrolled in ROTC so that there would be at least one place (the drill pad) where people would listen to him? Certainly, many of our officers and their NCO's are intelligent, well-meaning, hardworking men; but, by and large, they are neither effective as leaders nor fully qualified to oversee our labors, And we do not approve of such exalted power's resting in these less-than-capable hands. Certainly as long as our superiors in rank are chosen by arbitrary appointment free speech can be used as a devastating weapon against them.

Although most of us approve the need for discipline in defense activities, we do not approve of discipline enforced (as it must be under poor leadership) by arbitrary ruling, by punishment, by fear. Each salute to a privileged but not usually superior officer, each illegal order we obey in order to avoid punishment, each statement of opinion that dies in our throats from fear of lifer backlash is an affront to our manhood and fuel to our banked and smoldering anger. And the top brass must know this.

So again they would see us silenced; not, perhaps, because they are particularly insensitive or ignorant, but because they have been indoctrinated to believe in a fallacy: that the present system is the only practical system. They live it, this system of rank and privilege so alien in a democracy. They fear the changes our unstifled voices could induce. Even, it would seem, some of then have treated us so long as inferiors they have come to believe we are, truly, inferiors. These last have come to feel we are not capable of intelligently exercising our rights and, therefore, do not deserve them.

But, who are they to pass such judgment? And who are these others to perpetuate a system which binds and gags us? WE ARE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES, GUARANTEED FREEDOM OF SPEECH BY THE HIGHEST LAW OF THE LAND. If free speech is incompatible with the present system, and it is, the answer is not that we must be foully censored. The answer is that the system must be changed.

Anchorage Troop, no. 4

 

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