Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Direct Work With GIs
Direct work with GIs is very exhausting since more and more GIs, both on and off-base, are resisting the Vietnam War and the system responsible for it, more and more civilians are being involved in this direct work. We have there fore thought it a propitious time to summarize some of the given factors in a situation which may be, both for some of the GI s and for some of the civilians helping them, entirely new.
The GI’s in the anti-war movement can be classed in four general categories:
l) FUFAS – (fed up with the fucking army) deserters. These have always been a standard annex to any standing army.
2) POLITICAL DESERTERS – fed up with the system, with the war, they quit the army to make a life outside on a permanent or at least long term basis (few GIs think in terms of permanence). Their political development is often very rapid and continuous. They may work either with other GIs or in local political situations in the country where they are living.
3) OFF-BASE RITAS (resisters inside the army) – GIs who have temporarily gone AWOL (absent without leave) to work against the war, against the system. They do not consider themselves deserters and often return to “on-base” work, even when this may entail prison sentences.
4)ON-BASE RITAS – who work inside their units.
FRITAS (friends of RITAS) are civilians supporting GIs in any of the above categories.
This work is often very difficult for the middle and occasionally upper class civilians, usually Americans, who have provided most, although certainly not all, of the backing for off-base GIs in Europe. It is hardest with FUFAS, and, in descending order, easiest with on-base RITAS.
The GI work in Paris became bogged down on several fronts, due to the following circumstance:
A) Normal incidents, such as some GIs, usually of category l and 2, quitting work, getting busted, potting, etc.
B) General “combat fatigue” of some of the young FRITAS (friends of resisters inside the army, both on and off base) –a standard phenomenon that sets in even with the most dedicated people after a period of continuous direct GI work.
C) Acceptance of the political viewpoint that on–base RITA work is very effective, escalated into “work with on-base ritas” is the only solution; just as, among some FRITAS, there had been an earlier period of “desertion is the only solution”.
D) The absence of many FRITA cadres during this period, both for political reasons, and for summer vacation.
All of this took place within one single period, i.e. summer `69, and culminated in the absence of most of the young middle class frita cadres. These - mostly draft resisters – had, in the past, screened the middle age FRITAS from most of the problems of direct GI work. Their absence caused a minor crisis. A considerable amount of direct GI work fell onto the older middle class FRITAS who, with a few exceptions, were totally unused to such intensive saturation. They soon panicked and predictably came up with the “move them somewhere else” syndrome. Large individual subsidies were given to some FUFA GIs to get them out of the Paris area (normal FUFA reaction was mild pleasure at unexpected free vacation). After this attempt to solve the problem failed, more or less predictably, with some GIs coming back and others coming in, some middle class FRITAS came to the conclusion that France could no longer support deserters. However, past experience has shown that, while there are “ups and downs” in GI work, no country, once opened to desertion or off-base rita, has become “impossible”. To generalize from the experience of a small part of the frita movement to apply to all of France is utterly unreasonable. There is no single solution.
The many GIs who have come to France have been helped by many different groups and individuals, both French and American. But since the ones who adapt successfully' to their new milieus do not pose problems, they are rarely included in the evaluation of the situation at any given time. It is evident, given the increasing number of arrivals over the past summer that, despite Nixon's peace talks, the levies for Vietnam among the 7th Army in Germany are growing. A new phenomenon has become apparent which is that many Gis who have already been to Vietnam are being called back for a second tour. Many among them are considering AWOL and desertion as methods of resistance. In general, those GIs include a good proportion of “lifers” (men enlisting for six years and more) and NCOs (non-commissioned officers), of high military value to the American war machine. It is of prime importance for the cause of peace that these GIs, including men with Vietnam combat experience, have the largest number of alternatives to being sent to “Nam. Medium range alternatives must include medium term AWOL/ desertion in as many European countries as possible.
At the same time, many politically conscious GIs, who earlier would have become off-base ritas in France, now no longer go AWOL, but stay on in German bases as on-base ritas, where their effectively continually increases. It is significant that army intelligence now has begun systematically discharging ritas from the army. As this becomes more widely known, it may increase the number of rita GIs in the army.
It must be borne in mind that communal “pads” have had, and will always have, severe drawbacks. So does any one solution. However, they also present considerable advantages of providing short term residence bases for new arrivals. Given the present military situation, GIs will continue to arrive. Mass transport farther on is not a very practical solution. As many solutions && possible must be kept open, both locally and abroad, so that what is, after all, a many-faceted problem can benefit from the many—faceted solutions required by its very essence.
RITA Bulletin, no. 39