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NEW AF Regulation Is Nothing New

The Chanute Wings in an article on June 25 about & recently received regulation (AFR 35-15) covering “dissident and protest activities .” According to the Wings, a number of points were made by the reg: l) Commanders are cautioned against allowing conduct which, if unchecked could destroy the effectiveness of the unit; 2) action is called for in placing off-base establishments “off-limits” when, for example, GIs are counseled in the establishments to desert or disobey orders or when acts are involved which have a significant adverse effect on health, welfare, or morale, etc.
The new reg. doesn't specifically contradict the Department of Defense memorandum of May 27, l969, called “Guidance on Dissent.” This memorandum stated that the commanding officer should not use his off-limits power except in the cases mentioned above It provided for GIs publishing GI newspapers while off-duty. It confirmed the right of GIs to participate in demonstrations while off-duty and out of uniform.

On one point, the new reg. actually appears more “liberal” than a prior ruling. The DOD directive l325.6 had allowed commanders to impound publications or material if they held them to be objectionable for distribution and felt a GI might distribute them anyway. The new reg., however, states that mere possession of unauthorized printing materials for distribution or posting may not be prohibited.

In regard to what GIs can and cannot do there is not much difference. The emphasis of the new reg. is different, however. The old reg. states that the commander cannot declare an establishment off-limits except in certain cases. The new reg. says the commander should use his off limits power in these cases. The change of emphasis in most of the other points is similar.

So why the change? The DOD memo “Guidance on Dissent” apparently seemed too liberal for certain reactionaries in Congress. After a small, moderate on-base demonstration occurred at Ft. Meade, Maryland, Secretary of the Army, Stanley Resor was hauled up before the House Armed Services Committee. The memo was denounced as “most repugnant,” “nauseating,” and “one of the most damaging documents ever put out by the army.” Resor was told that instead of thinking up ways to permit “entirely unconstitutional demonstrations,” he should be plotting ways to catch spies who infiltrate military bases.

L. Mendel Rivers, Chairman of the committee, jeered at Resor for “making a great case for that First Amendment,” and warned that “the committee is going to spend a lot of time trying to find some constitutional amendment whereby we can assist you in stopping this kind of thing. We recognize the Supreme Court decision as a pretty sorry opinion.”
The result was a new set of guidelines which had a tougher sounding formulation.

So, AFR 35-15 changes nothing save rhetorical emphasis Airmen still have the right to possess any sort of literature they choose to, to meet in coffeehouses when off-duty and to demonstrate when off-duty and out of uniform.

These are our rights -- however, this has never stopped certain elements in the Brass from trying to deny them to us, and won't stop them in the future. The only answer to this is a strong, united struggle of airmen themselves against the oppression of the military machine.

A Four Year Bummer, vol. 2, no. 5

 

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