Critical Responses to Sir! No Sir!

Civilian Responsibility

Monica Benderman, Choice American Network Online

This weekend, we had the opportunity to participate in a forum at the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference. The centerpiece of this forum was GI Resistance, as documented by the film “Sir, No Sir.”

I have nothing but respect for the service of the men who created the force of action that “Sir, No Sir” documents. They have been on the frontlines of two battlefields, war and peace, and in doing so they have openly stood for what they believed, in spite of those who argued against them.

I appreciate what the movie represents – a tribute to past struggles and efforts to move away from unjust, immoral and potentially illegal actions – something that will benefit all of society, not only the veterans who say NO to war.

I do not believe that this is the movie that needed to be made, however.

I have had a unique opportunity – I live with a soldier who has been on both sides, and I watched him come full circle. My work was caring for veterans, ensuring that they received their benefits, received healthcare, and were given the right to die with the dignity and respect they had earned. I have heard countless stories of regret, hope, anger, and peace – all in the form of reconciliation for past deeds committed in wars they never really understood, including World War II. In the past three years I have heard soldiers talk of the same issues, the same ideals and with the same questions that I heard from those who were old enough to be their great-grandparents.

The movie that I believe needs to be made is not about GI Resistance – it is about Civilian Responsibility.

When conflicts start, when potential threats arise, soldiers answer the call and put themselves on the line to fulfill their responsibility to the American citizens – a responsibility they volunteered to accept. VOLUNTEERED – and yet American citizens expect that this is a defense of their freedoms; believing that the only responsibility they have is in raising funds for care packages, sending letters, cards, writing songs and waving flags from the sidelines as our soldiers sacrifice themselves for what they believe.

When conflicts become difficult, as this immoral, unjust action has once again proven wars do – American citizens step up to demand that soldiers once again defend them – this time by stepping off the battlefield into another kind of war – American citizens waving new banners from the sidelines, singing songs of rebellion, crying new tears – and promising support as long as the soldiers keep the interests of these American citizens safe from perceived tyranny by saying NO to war.

The American military has done enough – and American civilians need to step up to the plate.

What is GI Resistance all about??? Soldiers forced to break the laws – and civilians encouraging the same veterans and soldiers who committed to protecting and defending our laws to now violate them in our defense. Support for GI Resistance is just one more copout by American citizens.

These men and women who are our veterans deserve far better than that. Supporters actively cheer the resisters on, justifying their actions by claiming that laws must be broken to prove that laws have been broken.

I can tell you from firsthand experience --- the people who support this idea of GI Resistance have it wrong. The actions they demand do not work – and expecting soldiers to stand for their moral principles by breaking the laws that their moral principles first drove them to defend is way out of whack.

GI Resistance would not be necessary and this movie not needed, if American citizens were accepting their responsibility and taking an active role in ensuring that our government functioned within the context of our Constitution.

GI Resistance would not be necessary if our Congressional Representatives did more than provide lip service to their oath of office.

Whether it is in a war on the battlefield, or in a war to stop one – soldiers have borne the responsibility of this country’s citizenship on their shoulders since our founding fathers first envisioned an independent nation.

Soldiers need to be realistically supported – veterans need to be given the respect they deserve for the battles fought, and the American citizenship needs to get up off their collective backsides and do something real to give back for the sacrifices all of our military personnel have made.

I would hope that we want to do more than simply stop this war. We’ve tried that before – stopping one war does not stop war.

GI Resistance is all well and good --- but it is time to act in a manner that will set the wheels of change in motion and build a foundation for lasting warless ness, for living without war is all we are ready to handle right now -- we are far from ready for Peace.

What is needed is a democratic military, and it is the American citizenship and our Congressional Representatives who MUST make this happen.

Do you know what it takes to file for Conscientious Objector status in the US Military?

The actions expected of our soldiers by anti-war activists do nothing except send our soldiers to jail. Activists encourage soldiers to violate regulations and break laws, in doing so often destroying their lives, putting their careers and everything they believe in to rest simply because you say you will support them. Your word has little behind it. I have seen that firsthand.

If you want the soldiers to stop war – then give them a legal way in which to do it – a route of honor – not one of submission.

Not long ago, a First Lieutenant stood and publicly announced his refusal to deploy to Iraq. He claimed not to be a Conscientious Objector. What exactly is a person who refuses to participate in an immoral, unethical action if not a Conscientious Objector?

Supporters are actively encouraging our soldiers to flee to Canada, churches are now offering sanctuary to those in the military who choose to run rather than deploy to a war they no longer believe in. What type of acts are these if they are not acts of Conscience?

Veterans of many wars suffer from combat stress - nightmares - regret for acts committed -- questions of Conscience.

If you want the soldiers to stop war – then make Conscientious Objection honorable.

My husband went to jail for 15 months as an act of Conscience – because his principles would not allow him to violate the laws he had sworn to uphold, even as his command violated their oath to defend our Constitution by refusing to respect my husband’s rights as a human being, a soldier and an American citizen who volunteered to serve.

Don’t offer sanctuary in a place of hiding, bring Conscientious Objection to the forefront and demand that our Congress re-write the law supporting a soldier's right to choose – and demand that it is signed by our President.

Don’t tell soldiers to run to another country and then offer them solidarity tea on the borders. Demand that they be given justice, by creating the just laws that allow them to serve this country with honor --- defend the laws that define our Constitution and do so according to their conscience -- a God-given right.

RE-Write the LAWS that our soldiers sacrifice their lives to defend. Give our soldiers the rights they deserve.

Don’t have ice cream parties on the White House lawns – Don’t display empty boots on the National Mall – and don’t stop eating to show that you can sacrifice.

STEP UP and demand that our soldiers be treated with HONOR – and RESPECT for the fact that they, more than anyone in this room – have the right to be called American citizens for they, more than anyone in this room, understand the meaning of duty, honor, and country – and the sacrifice needed to defend what this country stands for.

Our soldiers cannot do this -- our American citizens and Congressional Representatives can -- and the DUTY, OBLIGATION and RESPONSIBILITY to DEFEND those who DEFEND our country's founding principles with their lives falls squarely on YOUR shoulders.

WHEN -- will you act with the commitment that our soldier's sacrifices demand?


© 2005 Displaced Films. All Rights Reserved