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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Join The Anti-War Movement
(The following is & talk given by an active duty sailor at a meeting of GI-CAP at Brandeis University)
The point of my talk is going to be the importance of individual participation in the anti-war movement.
This is one of the big problems of any organization such as GI-CAP, people just don't take part, either because they don't feel that their presence at a demonstration or their voices at a meeting will make any difference, they've got other things on their minds, who knows how many other reasons.
The fact is, though, that individual participation is not only important, it's imperative.
In the case of the serviceman, I think the two main reasons that they haven't taken a more active role before this is (l) they don't know that they are permitted to do so and (2) those that do know their rights are afraid of being shafted.
Taking the first one, there's an old military saying that stripes or gold makes it right: When you're in the service, you have no rights. This is not true. A serviceman has the same rights as any other citizen so long as he “does not borrow the inherent dignity, prestige, and traditions represented by the uniforms of the military service”. What this means is simply “Don't wear your uniform”. A serviceman may attend meetings or demonstrations in civilian clothes or speak at a public meeting the same as any other citizen so long as he does not imply that his views are the vie: of the military or any other way use his connection with the service to lend weight to his own views.
Now for the second and major reason: A serviceman is afraid that, rights or no rights, he is going to get shafted if he expresses views othe than those held by the service. This is very true. There are many ways of getting back at a man who is lower in rank than you are. But the only reason that this exists is because it has been unchallenged for so long.
There are two things that shake up the most gung ho of military minds: Having the general public catch them in the wrong and having a congressman catch them in the wrong. This is why civilian backing is so important. The brass will think nothing of giving a man the shaft if they can get away with it, but if they know that, by even thinking along those lines they're going to get a flood of letters, telegrams and petitions, possibly with carbon copies to newspapers and congressmen, they won't try it. If they do, that same flood will force them to back down unless the man has actually broken some rule or regulation.
By the same token, the average serviceman will think nothing of expressing his views if he knows he can get away with it. If he knows that he is not alone when the old man calls him down on the carpet just because he knows they don't agree, if he knows that hell is going to break out should anyone tries to deny him his civil liberties, he'll take full advantage of it.
I've got only one more point to make, and this is aimed primarily to civilians who expect to enter the military. A hundred years ago, men were drafted into the Navy with the help of a club over the head, and non-judicial punishment included such things as flogging and keel-hauling. The general public finally decided that this was not very nice, so it was stopped. When I went through boot camp in 1965, we had a company commander who loved to slug the boots. Somebody's mother wrote to her congressman and the company commander was investigated for maltreatment of recruits. The rule at Great Lakes now is strictly hands off.
This movement now for servicemen to use their rights in opposition to the Vietnamese conflict is resulting in shafts for many GIs, but the ones that come to organizations like GI-CAP, and have broken no rules, the charges drummed up against them are either dropped or they are given a slap on the wrist.
With your help now, and by help I mean attendance and your voice at meetings and demonstrations and, when necessary, letters to military brass and congressmen, this form of tyranny, and that's the only word I can think of for it, will join the other unjust situations. And frankly, I don't think it will take very long.
Top Secret , no. 2