Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
The Concerned Officers' Movement was formed by a group of active duty and reserve officers who could no longer continue to be passive, unquestioning agents of military and national policies they found untenable. Realizing that silence implies consent and cooperation, the members of COM are resolved to speak out on issues that concern them as officers and American citizens.
Paramount in the program of COM is a fervent opposition to the continuing military effort in Vietnam. COM decries the military policies that turned an internal political struggle into a nation-destroying bloodbath. The application of American military power in Vietnam was as unnecessary as it was unworkable. There is no need to prolong the mistake. COM supports a cease-fire and the rapid disengagement of American troops from Southeast Asia.
COM further abhors the military mentality that promotes absurd measures like the body count; that leads to the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians; that destroys land and villages and calls it victory.
COM is opposed to the preponderant share of national resources devoted to the military, While Americans go hungry, while cities decay, while our natural resources become more despoiled, the Pentagon is able to get billions of dollars for an ARM system that may not even work. National defense is important, but so are poverty, education, and the environment. It is time to reexamine our priorities.
Within the military structure itself, COM supports the free expression of dissenting opinion. GI movements with legitimate grievances have too long been suppressed by a military hierarchy that considers honest questioning a threat to its power. The military can no longer consider itself a closed, private sector of society; the constitutional rights of free speech must be guaranteed for all servicemen.
COM advocates a full airing of questions concerning the quality of life in the military. There are many points that should be considered, from haircut regulations to enlisted-officer class differentiation, from low pay to the harassment of new recruits. COM does not question the need for discipline within the military, rather it seeks out areas that can be improved to make military order more humane and reasonable. The worsening problem of low retention rates in the service proves that something is wrong. A full inquiry into all aspects of military regulations and customs should not be avoided.
The members of the Concerned Officers' Movement are loyal, responsible military officers. Many have served in Vietnam, an experience that forced them into the realization that unquestioning acceptance of national and military goals could only further war and injustice. Officers, as part of the military power structure and as enforcers of military policies, have an obligation to express themselves on some of these important issues. The members of COM refuse to be classified as part of a manipulated "Silent Majority"; they will speak out. To do less would be to betray their commissions and duties as American citizens.
THE HISTORY, BEING THE ACCOUNT OF THE TRIBULATIONS AND REWARDS OF AN AMBIGUOUSLY
UNSPECIFIED NUMBER OF CONCERNED COMMISSIONED OFFICERS
Last November 15, the Washington Post ran an article on Marine Captain Bob Brugger. Bob, a Vietnam veteran, was acting as a marshal for the March on Washington and he detailed his antiwar views for the Post. There were two results, Bob received an unsatisfactory mark for loyalty on his fitness report and two other officers called to support him and get together. Telephone conversations led to rap sessions throughout November, December and January for a small group of servicemen, mainly commissioned officers who were Vietnam veterans,
Experiences, disappointments, joys and tragedies were exchanged. Composition of the group and proposed actions were discussed. It was eventually decided that the group would focus on military officers, especially those on active duty although reservists and retirees were also welcome. The platform was to be reasoned activity to end the war and promote civil liberties in the service.
The first action of the group was to participate as "Officers' Resistance" in a March 14 G.I. Rally for Peace and Justice' in Washington, D. C, Leaflets were passed out, and a short speech made. The group and the member's speech were mentioned in the Washington Post and slight tremors were felt throughout the Washington military establishment. People just weren't used to the idea of active duty officers participating in protest activities. The Post article was followed by this published letter to the editor clarifying our position:
Your article of March 15 on the GI Rally for Peace And Justice mentioned the participation of an officers' group. As members of this group, we find it necessary to expand our position as reported. We are loyal officers and Vietnam veterans who feel a professional and moral obligation to express our concern on national policies and military issues. The Vietnam war continues today because of the pervasive influence of the military over society and its repression of dissenting opinion within its ranks. For too long, the informed officer has been unwilling to speak out because of extra-legal harassment in the absence of clearly defined rights. The result has been leaders who equate silence with loyalty and dissent with disloyalty. This we resist.
The letter resulted in several of the authors explaining their political and social views to their Commanding Officers.
In late March, the name of the group was changed to the Concerned Officers' Movement. Since then, activities have included a telegram to LT Louis Font commending his public expression of his objection to the Vietnam war and a letter to Senator Charles Goodell supporting his proposals to end the war. Participation in the April 15 Moratorium demonstrations is also planned. This newsletter represents the most significant attempt to date to publicize our views.
Concerned Officers Movement Newsletter, no. 1