Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Stop The Trial
By Roger Priest, U. S. Navy
Freedom of speech and of the press were established at the trial of John Peter Zenger two centuries ago. Yet, today the U. S. Navy backed by the fossil-like chairman of the House Armed Services committee, L. Mendel Rivers, (D. S. C.) are planning to court-martial the First Amendment of the Constitution and thereby be in a position to smash the GI anti-war press.
The oft-postponed trial of this reporter will probably take place in the latter part of January or early February. It will be in this trial that the military for the first time will challenge the right of a GI to put out a paper on his own time, off-base and with his own funds--a right supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution.
What started out on June 20, l969 as four-and-one-half single-spaced, typewritten pages listing 14 charges and specifications was reduced to eight charges and specifications when referred to trial August 28, 1969. After a hearing before Capt. B. Raymond Perkins, the military Judge, two more charges and specs were dropped--these alleging solicitation to commit sedition and desertion through statements in OM.
But the system struck back and the convening authority, Rear Adm. George P. Koch, Commandant Washington Naval District, ordered that the dismissed charges be reinstated.
My lawyers were not disturbed by this new interference into the trial proceedings. They carried the issue up to the Court of Military Appeals, which on Dec. 20, 1969 ordered Koch to answer our charge that he applied command influence on the military Judge in ordering that the charges be reinstated.
No matter what decision is finally reached by the Court, a trial will take place on the six counts under Article 134 Uniform Code of Military (In)Justice which have remained intact to this date. It is under this notorious catchall provision of the code that I'm being charged with the “crime” of “advising and urging insubordination and disloyalty with intent to interfere with, impair and influence the loyalty, morale and discipline of military and naval forces” through statements in OM “which said pamphlet which in its entirety contained statements disloyal to the United States.”
If found guilty of this “crime of speech” I could receive a dishonorable discharge and up to 39 years in Jail. The ridiculousness of the charges and its obvious repressive intent does not need expanding upon, except to say that as an American citizen I have been speaking and writing the truth as I see it to be. If that be a “crime” it is one I PROUDLY admit! And I might add that I am more than willing to measure my “crime” against those who have perpetrated the illegal and immoral war in Vietnam.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not liberties that are won easily- -and are not liberties to be given away easily. L. Mendel Rivers may well get the court-martial that he ordered and the Navy may get the conviction that it wants so desperately. But I tell it to you straight; it will be WE ––not THEY ––who will have the last word. Pray for the aged. We are the only damn younger generation they have got. Think about it. But meanwhile:
DARE TO STRUGGLE. DARE TO WIN!
OM, Winter Offensive Edition