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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
An Answer to a "Non-Announcement."
The Feb/March newsletter of the New England Resistance contains a short article (appropriately titled a "non-announcement”) critical of the GI-Civilian Easter weekend demonstrations. We would like to take this opportunity to answer some of their criticisms and in doing so restate some of GICAP's ideas about organizing the military.
Contrary to what the Resistance article implies, GICAP was not alone in sponsoring or cailing the Easter demonstrations Broad coalitions acted as sponsors in each of the seven cities where the actions were held. GICAP was only one of seventeen organizationsin the Boston area which sponsored and built support for the Easter demonstrations in New York. New England Resistance was invited to join this coalition but refused.
Over 300,000 people demonstrated against the war and for immediate withdrawal this Easter, breaking the lethargy which had deadened the antiwar movement since the presidential canpaigns. Most important, this resurgence is accompanied by real opposition to the war from within the armed forces. In New York, a march of over 100,000 was led by a contingent of 200 GIs, and all estimates include hundreds more in the march itself. All over the country, active duty servicemen are approaching anti-war groups, both offering and requesting aid.
It is this issue, the development of the GI movement, which serves as the pivot point for the Resistance "Non-announcement." The Resistance which a year ago was extolling the virtues of individual resistance and sponsoring "sanctuaries", has had a change of heart. Now, they say, "...the fight for Constitutional rights seems to us to be a red herring to the real issueof the use of the military..." The Resistance fears the"repression, the lack of legal precedents, the difficulty of gaining admission to civil courts," and the extra-legal penalties and pressures exerted by the brass on dissident elements.
These fears, though a year late, are well founded; the problem which anti-war servicemen face should not be minimized. Obviously, organizing against the war in the military entails more risk than on any college campus. But those servicemen who do organize against the war need constant and close cooperation with lawyers and anti-war groups, and especially they need loud and sympathetic publicity aimed at winning over the American public to their cause.
On the other hand, we do not think that individual acts of resistance are a good idea. They have often ended with the imprisonment of the hapless serviceman, while his civilian advisors and "allies" melted into the woodwork. But there is a difference between individual disobedience and collective attempts by GIs to oppose the war, using their Constitutional rights of assembly and free speech. The Resistance article labels these rights as "so-called." Our view is that there is nothing "so-called" about these rights. It is true that First Amendment rights for servicemen have gradually been eroded. But they have never, up until this time been fought for. And no legal “rights” in the history of men have ever been won without a fight.
It was not so long ago that the “right” to organize a union was established after countless battles both within and without the “legal” apparatus of the government. Immediately after the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of GIs around the world staged sit-down strikes, forcing the military to abandon their plans of ertended war in China and occupation in Europe. Black people are currently establishing their rights through the same type of mass struggles. In none of these cases were those involved referring to their “so-called” rights. go-it was the bosses who used the term, the racists who used the term, and, today, it's the brass and the politicians who refer to the "so-called" rights of the American servicemen.
The United States has a rich history of struggles on the part of various sections of its people to acquire what they justly considered their natural rights as human beings. To assume, as the Resistance “non-announcement” does, that fear of harassment will stand in the way of the GI organizing is, to put it bluntly, condescending, and betrays but a shallow understanding of this history.
The Resistance article concludes with some fatherly advice to GIs-turn to"concrete organizing on the inside. .. Right now, their work must be conductly [sic] quietly. The payoff is less spectacular but more certain.” On this issue, the Resistance finds itself in complete agreement with the High Command, who wants nothing better than to keep the GI and civilian movements mutually exclusive. It is clear that had not the civilian movement developed to the extent that it did, the movement within the military would not even exist. Demonstrations like the ones held Easter weekend show servicemen that they are not alone, not forgotten, and not blamed for the war.
The public focus on the rights of servicemen has forced the Generals to assert that they are not trying to deprive any serviceman of his legal constitutional rights. Such baldfaced lies are not deserving of one iota of our trust, but do show that the military is in a quandary about how to handle servicemen who exercise their rights, and who have nassive civilian and legal support.
The “non-announcement” proposes to reduce the GI movement to secret behind the latrine conspiracies, and little understanding is shown in either the origin or the direction of the movement of the dissident GIs. The civilian movement cannot direct this movement, but it must reach it, aid it, and defend it.
Top Secret , no. 3