The GI and Vets March for Peace on Oct. 12 was our victory. Its conception and its control were carried out by GIs. We marched, and we won more than we had ever hoped for.
This is the first time in this nation's, and perhaps any nation's history that during war, soldiers gathered together in an organized and democratic fashion to protest their own country's commitments and conduct.
This is not the first time that active duty servicemen have openly and freely expressed themselves on national policy, but is rather the beginning of the American servicemen's determination to voice their concerns, their dissent, their grievances, in a sane and orderly fashion - whether in support of or in opposition to any particular policy.
The American GI has initiated the first legitimate and intelligent political action on the soldier's part in world history. Too often the warrior has merely slaughtered, maimed, or suppressed; he has altered only by destroying. But with this demonstration, he has begun a new struggle: The attempt to halt useless destruction, end wars and liberate men from end- less conflict; all, within and for the sake of traditions that allow organized society.
The soldier announces his active and sane participation in politics.
Soldiers are telling their world, for the first time, that they will no longer wage unjust wers, that they will now wage peace.
The serviceman will no longer condone military involvements without having a voice in determining the use of power and the cause in which it is used.
Freedom of expression is our basic heritage. That right is not eliminated when a man becomes a soldier. Indeed, that right becomes enhanced; it becomes a duty, a duty to laud his country for its greatness, and, like any other citizen, to criticize any betrayal of its basic ideals. A soldier's obligation is not silence and unquestioning obedience. It is to speak out for what is best in his people, and perhaps to die in defending them.
Today, American soldiers have spoken out. They, and thousands of veterans, have denounced a cruel and immoral war. In voicing this opposition, like any other sane and concerned group of the citizenry, they have become, for the first time, active citizens.
The soldier has established his right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
The country has learned that creative dissent exists within the military also. And that it cannot be crushed.
It cannot be stifled if the soldier finds organized and legitimate channels though which to work. Individual battles against the military rarely succeed; illegal actions never do.
When soldiers get organized around issues important enough, when they work through authorized military channels hard enough and coordinate their efforts with the public well enough, soldiers will be heard; yes, even the supposedly isolated and a political soldier can have an effect.
The serviceman, for the first time, has remembered his civilian roots. By appealing to the clergy, to lawyers and any other legitimately concerned member of our society, and by utilizing their assistance, the soldier reestablishes his civilian origins. He than be- comes — as he became — Oct. 12 — an effective group in his society: A force to effect change in his own, and his nation's involvements.
Soldiers must and will organize around critical issues. And that organization has only begun
Task Force, no. 3