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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

Zapping A Sailor

by Murray Polner-- Prof. at Suffolk County

These may be trying days for the Pentagon but let it never be said that it is incapable of counter-attacking its critics, especially if one of them happens to be an obscure sailor, the editor of an off - base newsletter. His name is Roger Priest, a Texan, whose life insurance policy has as its beneficiary the War Resisters League. He is also the editor of “OM The Liberation Newsletter”, a sometimes amateurish, occasionally acute but increasingly crude and harsh commentary on the men and strategies that brought us into Vietnam. On June 20th the Navy filed charges against Priest and unless he is offered a “deal”, that is an undersirable [sic] discharge or the like, he will have the dubious distrinction [sic] of becoming the first underground press service editor to be prosecuted for what he wrote.

His “crimes” include alleged solicitation of fellow servicemen to desert and refusal to print a desclaimer [sic] that “OM” was not an official publication. More significantly; Priest is charged with “disrespect for General Earle Wheeler, Melvin Laird, and the inveterate hawk and non-veteran, Mendel Rivers. His characterizations of them are sophomoric; he is far better when he dredges up juicy, better - to - be - forgotten quotations such as this one supposedly uttered by a famous American general: “I bet that the Russian is jealous as hell. Our troops are getting all this experience...... Any true professional wants to march to the sound of gunfire.” Now that's satire.

In its past several issues “OM” has become even more insolent. To more traditional observers Priest's ad hominem [sic] arguments are usually the weakest, a fact that he seems to recognize but which he nonetheless waves away. He recently apologized for using obscenities such as “army, brass, lifer, war, kill, gun, Vietnam, stockade or brig, duty and capitalism,” terms he says he has to use so as to describe the obscene situation he finds himself in.

Nothing in his past suggests the rebel. His father clerks in a Houston post office and it was only the interminable drift of the war that led him to the edge of resentment. “I was anti-Vietnam before the sevice [sic],” he told a Washington Post reporter not long ago, “but when I was reclassified in my senior year at the University of Houston I said to my Dad, ‘What do you think of my cutting out for Canada?’ My Dad answered, "I'd put that in the same category as being a queer’.” Still, he did move for a time to Luxemburg [sic], but soon returned home and joined the Navy.

“When discipline goes, men die needlessly,” was said recently by General Lewis Walt. But whose discipline and whose war? Roger Priest is stationed in Washington, D.C. behind a desk. It may be understandable for old-timers to equate minor-league criticism with battlefield insubordination but their response is too often chaotic escalation. Priest is expected to be charged under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (or the Uniform Code of Marsupial Justice to one GI “because the entire system is a kangaroo court”), the latitude of which is indicated by its claim as violations “.....all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, shall be punished as a courtmartial shall direct”. Hardly raw mateial [sic] for the Bill of Rights.

With all his severe expletives and angry epithets Roger Priest is only a mirror of our times. What shall we do with all those bitter young men whose lives and fortunes are at stake and who see in this miseralbe [sic] war not one single idea which they can grasp and be ready to die for? Shall we continue to drag them into the service? Shanghai them into infantry platoons in the Ashau Valley? Put them into prison? Drive them into exile? Has any American government ever treated its young so shamelessly?

Duck Power, vol. 1, no. 4

 

 

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