Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
GI Rights Upheld
The struggle for the right of GIs to distribute antiwar papers on post was brought before Federal district court in North Carolina last Wednesday when attorneys Leonard Boudin and David Rosenberg of New York and Laughlin McDonald of Chapel Hill, NC, argued that First Amendment rights cannot be restricted by the military. The particular case being argued refers to the right of members of GIs United Against the War in Viet Nam at Fort Bragg to distribute their paper, Bragg Briefs. The decision, which will probably not be known for several weeks, will affect distribution of papers on many posts, however.
The GIs have submitted four requests to distribute Bragg Briefs since last July. Their requests have been turned down without explanation. The government claims, in an affidavit by Commanding General Tolson that the content of Bragg Briefs “. . .presented a clear danger to the loyalty, discipline and morale of (my) command.” Government attorneys attempted to prove to the court that the cartoons and language of the newspaper were “contemptuous” and would undermine respect for authority. They also argued that the Federal government did not have jurisdiction to rule on an internal military matter, such as distribution of literature on post.
Attorney Boudin made several points in favor of granting distribution rights. Firstly, he argued that if there is any “criminality” in Bragg Briefs, that is, anything that would lead to refusal of duty or disobeying orders, the Army has a courts martial procedure through which such “criminality” can be judged, and that to attempt to stop it by not allowing the distribution of the paper is a form of prior censorship which violates the GIs First Amendment rights. He further stated that he did not believe there was anything in Bragg Briefs which implied “criminality.”
Against the charge of undermining morale by use of alleged “contemptuous” language and cartoons, Boudin pointed out that the paper, while admittedly satirical, did not direct itself at any individuals, and the right to attack a whole institution in such a manner is protected by the First Amendment. While the government, in its brief, argued thet “free speech depends on the survival of government,” Boudin pointed out that, on the contrary, the survival of democratic government depends on the survival of free speech
A Four Year Bummer, vol. 2, no. 2