ANTI-WAR activist Jane Fonda is on a soapbox again, this time opposing the war in Iraq.
She will be onstage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley Feb. 22, helping raise funds for nationwide screenings of a documentary film about the Vietnam War and troops who refused to fight it.
Joining her will be Diana Morrison of Alameda, co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who represent an anti-war movement in today's military.
The movie, "Sir! No Sir!" has "tremendous relevance to what's going on now," Fonda says in an interview from her Atlanta home.
"My heart aches, just aches, for the men and women who are serving (in Iraq), which we never should have invaded. There were other ways of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. But we sent our troops over there without adequate training, without adequate body armor, without adequate numbers to do the job. We put them in a terrible situation."
She says a growing number of troops now in Iraq continue to send home the message that "Occupation is not liberation. Bring (us) all home now."
"Sir! No Sir!" will be shown at the 142 Throckmorton event, introduced by the man who made it, filmmaker David Zeiger of Los Angeles.
Zeiger first showed the movie at the Mill Valley Film Festival last year, after which Janice Anderson-Gram of Tiburon offered to help raise funds for distribution. Anderson-Gram, a film buff who serves on the boards of two film production companies, and Carole Simon Mills of the Marin chapter of Democracy for America (DFA), are co-hosting the event.
Sponsors include a wide range of peace organizations including DFA, Global Exchange, San Francisco Veterans For Peace, Be The Media and MMOB/LeaveMyChildAlone.org
Morrison, 37, served in Iraq with the 270th Military Police Company of the California National Guard from June 2004 till the following January. "I didn't really know why we were going, but I figured it had to be some kind of humanitarian mission. It only took me a few months to see that we weren't doing anything for the Iraqis. We were spending millions but nothing was changing for the Iraqi people.
"None of it makes sense," she says. "They obviously don't want us there."
Grammy nominee Maria Muldaur of Mill Valley, recording an album of Bob Dylan love songs, will sing with her band.
"I have a lot of concern about the way this country is going, the way the war is going," Muldaur says. "If there is anything I can do to get the message out, I jump at the chance."
Zeiger says "it's hard to get a quantitative grasp on the anti-war movement in today's military. But it certainly is going on."
Amadee Braxton, national coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War, says the Philadelphia-based organization has 230 members in 35 states.
Anderson-Gram says "very few people understand how large and passionate the opposition to the Vietnam war was by the actual soldiers, the GIs. It is a story that hasn't been told and has particular relevance to what's going on today."
Fonda says the "Sir! No Sir!" film - containing testimony from dozens of Vietnam veterans - is not only an important part of history but a hard-hitting analogy to the war in Iraq.
In some ways the two wars are similar, she says, "starting with national arrogance. (In both instances) we went in without understanding the culture or the people, without an understanding of what it would take, and on and on."
"The Muslims are a very proud people, as are we. One of the reasons for the tremendous anti-American fervor began before the first Gulf War, when we had our troops stationed in their holy places, an affront to their national pride. "
Fonda's support for "Sir! No Sir!" is a natural outgrowth of her opposition to the Vietnam War.
The film shows several scenes from the USO-type tour she and actor Donald Sutherland organized in the early 1970s to counter the pro-war tours led by comedian Bob Hope. The show was performed before 60,000 service men and women in Japan, the Philippines, Okinawa and the U.S.
"By then, the anti-war movement was already in full sway," Fonda says. "Military historian Robert Heinhl says the Army at that time was in a state bordering on collapse, with massive desertions, fragging (attacks on officers) and things like that. Civilians were not creating the anti-war movement, it was already very potent."
The film says that during the war, more than 500,000 servicemen deserted.
Zeiger, like Fonda, says the Vietnam anti-war movement has been widely misrepresented as a campaign of college-boy malcontents and Ivy League intellectuals, when in fact it rose within the military itself. "There was vocal opposition from the early days," he says. The unreliability of the ground troops "had a lot to do with the decision Nixon made to pull them out of combat and concentrate on the air war (instead)."
"Sir! No Sir!" also refutes the myth that GIs came home to a public that spat on them.
Fonda is repelled by the spin that was used in the Swift Boat campaign against Vietnam veteran John Kerry, making opposition to that war seem like the work of traitors. "The idea that a man who evaded the military and didn't complete his service in the National Guard could call (Kerry) unpatriotic is quite shocking."
Zeiger, a political activist from his college days at UC Santa Cruz, dropped out in 1970 to devote himself to ending the war. He spent three years in a Killeen, Texas coffee house, where disaffected GIs from Fort Hood gathered to discuss the war and organize against it.
Fonda, who had just returned from eight years in Paris and was touring similar coffee houses "mostly just listening" to anti-war activists, met him there.
This year, when he needed financial help to distribute his movie, she stepped forward. She has already appeared at fund-raisers in Los Angeles and New York. Despite the need for distribution funds, the film will premier in San Francisco April 7.
Zeiger has done other documentaries, including a 13-part PBS series called "Senior Year," following 15 students through their senior year at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. "Just about every television network" turned down his proposal for "Sir, No Sir" but he went ahead anyway, contacting people he had known from the anti-war movement, tracking down others on the Internet.
The result is an 84-minute film, largely of interviews.