Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Problems Of GI Organizing
Many GIs are lost when they are systematically stripped of their civilian identities during basic training. The military seems all powerful. It tells an individual GI when to sit up, when to go to sleep, to eat, to shit and governs the length of his hair and the clothes he wears. Above all else, the GI is taught to be obedient to and unquestioning of military authority. Those who object are crushed.
Basic training, however, is far from perfect and those GIs who oppose the Vietnam War, militarism or are simply human beings caught up in the inhuman military system soon begin to act defiantly towards the military. For some it takes a trip across the water to Vietnam to see what the fight for truth, justicve and the American way is all about to realize that they have been had. So great still is the fear of the oppressive powers of the military, that acts of defiance take on a secretive and individual aspect.
For many the solution to their oppression is dope. Others, even with the comfort of a few joints, can no longer take it and go AWOL. Those who chose to stay mess up paperwork, rip off government property, ghost about as much as they can, and the vast majority go into a deep sleep until their hitch is up. The same “three more weeks and I’ll be through” psychology of basic training now takes the form of short timer calendars with 200 days to go. Lately there have been isolated acts of terrorism against the military. Examples of this range from the painting of “WAR” underneath all of the stop signs at Fort Bragg to the burning of a theter at Camp Pendelton, to the shooting of officers in Nam, or pouring sugar in gas tanks.
What is common to all these types of protests is that they are individual. They strike at the form of military oppression and hit nowhere near the substance. Individually very little can be done to strike at the source of the miluitary system’s power. The military knows this and pits brother against brother and comes down on all who overtly defy it, quickly and silently.
There are hundreds of thousands of fedup GIs who feel the same way. All are living in the same paranoid fear that their brother, or the CID spy in their company will turn them in. What has happened during the past year and a half is that the forces of dissent have achieved a critical mass and that the military no longer has the ability to contain it. At every major post individual paranoia is breaking down and GIs are getting together to do such things as publishing newspapers, participating in peace marches, filing federal court actions against commanding generals, demanding immediate withdrawl from Vietnam and moving to restructure the entire military economic system.
It is the very idea that GIs are capable of organizing a movement that has rocked the Brass. The brass has always been capable of court martialling individual soldiers, but massive court martials are something new to them and worst of all they attract publicity (Presidio 27, Fort Dix 38). As far as the brass is concerned, GIs acting individually are non-persons, but acting together they equate to power and power is what the whole fight is about. Alone a GI has no power to change things, collectively he is the people’s army.
Out Now, vol. 1, no. 2