Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
GIs Constitutional Rights
One of the questions I'm commonly asked is “Why Bother? Why do you take the chances you do? You've only got a few months left before you get out of the Navy, why not take it easy, get out, and than shoot off your mouth?” That's a lot of question and requires a lot of answer.
In the first place, I'm not really taking any chances. I violate no regulations, which would be a risk, or in any other way subject myself to disciplinary measures. I do my job and I do it as best I can. All I do is express my views on certain subjects, such as Vietnam and the military, by vocal, written and physical means. This is not taking chances, this is exercising my civil liberties.
These rights of expression, such as speaking, writing articles, attending meetings and demonstrations, etc., belong to all Americans; including those who are expected to die for their protection. Granted, there is a possibility of harassment from the part of military brass, but I don't consider this a risk any more than I would consider defending my life or property a risk. It just so happens that situations do exist that I don't approve of, I do have certain rights, and part of any privilege is standing up for them in the face of people who would take then away.
In the second place, the rights of free expression are not just rights, but responsibilities. If you see a man lying in the street with a knife in his back, it does no good to merely acknowledge the fact that he's there nor does it do any good to go over and tell him the type of knife that he has been stabbed with. You have a responsibility in such a case to aid the man in any way you can. It's the same with free expression. To acknowledge the fact that we are involved in an unjust, immoral war; to acknowledge the fact that servicemen are having their civil liberties violated and are being harassed for exercising them; to acknowledge any unjust situation does no good in itself, To gripe about these things with no attempt to change them is also useless, The only positive action that can be taken is to work to see that the situation is corrected.
Those are pretty general reasons, now I'll try to be a bit more specific,
The United States is involved in an unjust an immoral war There has been much propaganda about how right we are and about how we're fighting for freedom and helping the people. If you talk to Vietnam veterans, you will learn an entirelydifferent story. You will learn that we're fighting not for freedom and helping the people, but for prestige and economic reasons.
Now what can you do about it? It's easy to say “what can one person do?” and shrug your shoulders, but if you look at history, you can see what one person has done. The civil rights movement, the establishment of new nations in Africa and the east, the “Bring the Troops home” movement at the end of World War II, George Washington and his band declaring independence from a much more powerful nation; these are all examples of one person, multiplied. It's the same in the anti-war movement Although there are hundreds of thousands of us, we are all one person.
You could leave the country. But what does that accomplish? You run from one situation to another, how long are you going to run.
You could just say”the hell with it” and not care. It's your right to do this, but if you do, you have no right to complain about it-just keep quiet and accept whatever comes along.
The only thoroughly workable answer is to work to correct it and it's not all that hard to do. The massive marches on Easter weekend are a good example of a simple action having a major effect, If you're in the military, the first question that cones to mind is “what happens if I take part?” To start with, I want to clarify that & servicemen does have the right to take part in meetings and demonstrations etc. so long as he is not in uniform, does not use his connection with the service to lend weight to his own views, and the vent is non- violent, The only thing that can happen to him is illegal harassment. If you can accept someone riding roughshod over you, just because you don't agree on certain points, then that's your right. But the majority of today’s servicemen can't, or to he more exact, won't.
Granted, there is harassment; but only because military authority has never been challenged. For the first time, the serviceman is challenging this situation and is winning. There have been victories at Fort Dix, the Presidio, and Fort Jackson; there will be more victories. Servicemen are standing up for their rights; we are not being scared off by harassment or trumped up charges. Civilians are backing us up and are demanding that the brass cease their tactics and give us our rights. We can do nothing but win. The people of America still have an impact over its officials, and we are using that impact to effectively gain civil rights for servicemen and to end the war in Vietnam. It may sound like an impossible task to end the war, but remember two things: A war cannot continue when the people of that country don't want it, and, although an enlisted man doesn't really have a great deal of power, without him no war can be fought. If this were not true, the Pentagon wouldn't be so shook up about rising military dissent.
So, there are my views for what they're worth. Of course, these are only my own opinions; it's fairly evident that they're not shared by the military, but think about them-think about what you want to see come out of this movement. Think about the war and its effect on you; think about the 33,000 that are already dead and those that are dying everyday. If you're a serviceman, think about the injustices of the military, and you know that they exist; and finally, think of what you are going to do; in a very real way, it's entirely in your hands whether we go on the way we have or whether we pull ourselves out of the mess we're in. It's all up to you.
Top Secret , no. 3