Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This announcement was distribute by Adam at Displaced Films, October 6, 2009
Now, more than ever, you need Sir! No Sir! and related DVDs and books!
All our prices have been slashed!
Being a rebel has never been more affordable!
Picture this: A corrupt, American-installed government is losing control of the people, despite tens of thousands of U.S. troops enforcing their rule. The insurgents are gaining ground in the countryside, and U.S. air strikes have destroyed several villages, killing hundreds of civilians. The American Generals are convinced that if they can just get rid of the unpopular government and send forty thousand more troops, victory is in sight.
Sound familiar? Welcome to AfghaniNam.
And while the drums of endless war beat on, what better time to once again--and at far less cost--learn the urgent lessons of the GI Movement to end the Vietnam War.
Sir! No Sir! -- The film that critics raved about and thousands saw in theaters; the film that was like a hand grenade thrown into the invasion of Iraq; the film that helped inspire an upsurge of opposition and resistance to that invasion inside the military and among veterans--is today as timely as ever. And so are the other DVDs and books available at http://www.sirnosir.com.
If you haven't seen Sir! No Sir!...You're kidding! If you have seen Sir! No Sir! but not the DVD extras, you haven't REALLY seen Sir! No Sir! ($15.00)
If you haven't read Soldiers in Revolt, The Spitting Image, and Mission Rejected, you don't know the whole story. (Soldiers in Revolt, $12.95; The Spitting Image, $16.95
Mission Rejected, $9.95; All three, $39.95)
If you haven't seen FTA or read Jane Fonda's War, you don't know Jane. (FTA, $15.00 Jane Fonda's War, $14.95 Both, $23.95)
If you haven't seen A Night of Ferocious Joy, you haven't been inspired. ($8.00)
And if you haven't bought Sir! No Sir! in bulk and sent it to a soldier, veteran, or high school or college student, you're not doing all you can to end this madness! (5 for $35.00, 10 for $60, 15 for $75, 20 for $100) Click here to buy these and other GI resistance materials
And if you haven't watched the new web series, This Is Where We Take Our Stand, telling the inside story of the Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan investigation, do it now! (Click here to visit the site, or use links to individual episodes on the right)
This open letter, from David Zeiger, was distributed August 18, 2009
As I write this, we are getting ready to post the fourth episode of This is Where We Take Our Stand, our six-part web series about last year’s Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan event. You can find the series at http://www.thisiswherewetakeourstand.com, and of course on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.
It’s been a huge struggle, but this series is finally here–and I hope we created something that will bring the truth you revealed at Winter Soldier to thousands, even millions. We strove to make each episode a revelation and a punch in the gut, featuring some of the most important and powerful testimony from Winter Soldier along with the battles so many of you fought to make it happen. Boots Riley of The Coup wrote a killer theme song, Sound Off, that can also be downloaded from the site.
Winter Soldier happened in the last year of the Bush administration, and it was the most powerful condemnation of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that I have seen. Your testimony laid bare the insane, relentless brutality of those wars and the hypocrisy of Bush’s claims that you were there to bring “freedom and democracy” to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. You made it clear that it was the policy of the government and military that was criminal. And you brought into the open the courageous, profound opposition to the wars that exists within the military and veterans’ community.
But what about now? Millions of people expected the Obama administration to change those policies and end the occupations. Well, where is that change? In Iraq, where we have been promised there might be a withdrawal by 2011 leaving 50,000 troops there to insure an “America friendly” government? Or how about Afghanistan, where a thoroughly corrupt, Bush-installed government is now being propped up with the additional 20,000 troops that were withdrawn from Iraq? What has changed?
What’s most horrifying for me is seeing the slaughter continue today with hardly a peep from those who would have loudly objected when Bush was in charge. So, perhaps ironically, Winter Soldier is today more relevant and urgent than ever. This is not about the past, as Obama has often said, but about what is happening right now.
It is your voices that must be heard in this darkness. And it’s in that spirit that we have made this series. It belongs to you, and we hope you will not only watch and show it to others, but use it to spread the impact of Winter Soldier and build your movement. We welcome your thoughts and comments, and urge you to add your own testimonials to the web site. Along with posting the final three episodes through September, we will make the whole series available on a DVD for you to use.
With love and solidarity,
This review, by Roger Greenspun, was originally published in the New York Times , July 22, 1972
By now most people must know something about the political vaudeville troupe formed by Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and others to offer soldiers an alternate entertainment to say, Bob Hope, or whatever shows are provided by the U.S.O. The troupe called itself F.T.A., which stands for Free Theater Associates, or for other things such as, Free the Army.
Last year, against considerable official opposition, it toured United States military bases in the Pacific. Francine Parker's "F.T.A.," which opened yesterday at the Baronet and Victoria theaters, is a documentary about aspects of that tour.
The film divides its attention pretty evenly between the performers and their audience, and a lot of time is given to interviews with dissident, or merely disillusioned, servicemen. Some hate the war in Vietnam. Some just voice dismay at certain truths about the military like "They don't want you to be an individual") that have been perpetually rediscovered by raw recruits at least since the Battle of Thermopylae.
So much time is given to the audience, whose insights, though real, are neither original nor profound, that the actual performance comes across in scattered bits and pieces.
A lot of the show must have been very funny, with a kind of humor genuinely in touch with the desperation borne of simply being in the service. (Army doctor prescribing to obviously pregnant wife of enlisted man: "Go home and take two A.P.C. tablets and come back when your swelling goes down.")
But as presented in the movie, most of the show doesn't seem very funny, except inadvertently—as when Donald Sutherland seriously recites the prose of Dalton Trumbo with a straight-from-the-shoulder solemnity that happens to be perfectly in keeping with his phony-preacher characterization in Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders."
Occasionally the F.T.A. troupe becomes involved with the local population, so that we may hear the Just Grievances Against American Imperialism of the people of Okinawa or Japan or wherever Miss Fonda and her colleagues happen to be listening. I found most of this a predictable bore, but it did allow for the film's only really striking sequence: an anti-American guerrilla theater pageant in the Philippines that momentarily turns revolutionary passion into a romantic gesture of extraordinary beauty.
Otherwise there are a few good things. There is the lovely ballad singing of Rita Martinson (most of the singing, by Len Chandler, isn't so lovely), some hints at lively routines, an occasional glimpse of deep happiness in eyes of Miss Fonda or of Holly Near. But the spirit of F.T.A. must lie elsewhere, in other times and special places. For all its agility and pressing close-ups, the film doesn't capture that spirit—or even adequately show the kind of experience that might have let it grow.
F.T.A., directed by Francine Parker; written by Robin Menken, Michael Alaimo, Rita Martinson, Holly Near, Len Chandler, Pamala Donegan, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Dalton Trumbo; editors, Joel Morwood and Michael Beaudry; camera, Juliana Wang, Eric Saarinen and Joan Weidman; music by Aminadav Aloni; produced by Miss Parker, Miss Fonda and Mr. Sutherland. At the Baronet Theater, 59th Street at Third Avenue and the Victoria Theater, Broadway and 46th Street, Running time: 94 minutes. This film is rated R. Released by American International Pictures.
With: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Len Chandler, Pamala Donegan, Michael Alalmo, Rita Martinson, Holly Near, Paul Mooney and Yale Zimmerman.
FINALLY, AFTER 35-YEARS IN EXILE FTA IS BACK!
AVAILABLE FEBRUARY 24 EXCLUSIVELY ON DVD FROM DISPLACED FILMS AND NEW VIDEO/ DOCURAMA FTA
Starring Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Michael Alaimo, Len Chandler, Holly Near And a Cast of Thousands of antiwar soldiers. 1971–two years after Richard Nixon had promised to end the Vietnam War, American troops were still fighting and American warplanes were still bombing North Vietnam relentlessly.
A massive GI Movement to end the war was sweeping through the troops, wreaking havoc on the U.S. military. Into that mix came The FTA (F*** the Army) Show, a caustic, electrifying, sharply antiwar comedy review led by Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. As they toured outside military bases from Guam to the Philippines, over 60,000 soldiers cheered and joined the show’s call to end the war. It was an explosive, historical moment never seen before or since.
FTA, Francine Parker’s powerful documentary of the tour, opened in U.S. theaters in 1972, as the Nixon administration was still escalating the war and fighting for its political life at home. After only one week, the film mysteriously disappeared–never to be seen again. Until now.
This interview, with david Zeiger, was originally posted by James R., to Indymedia Ireland, March 21 2008
Some weeks ago, with last weekend's Winter Soldier event on the horizon, I talked to David Zeiger, through the freebie magic of Skype. He's the directer of the documentary Sir, No Sir. It's a Displaced Films and BBC production that came out about two years ago, and focused on the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam.
It consists in part, of interviews with veterans explaining why they resisted the war, and in some cases went as far as to defect. Hundreds went to prison and thousands into exile, by 1971 it was a movement that in the words of one colonel had “infested the entire armed services” - yet few people today are aware of this soldiers movement against the war in Vietnam.
The film was completed in 2005 winning both the audience award at the LA Film Festival and the Starfish award for best documentary. I interviewed David for some context on the current movement of war resisters, he also spoke about unmaking Hollywood legends around Vietnam and the process of radical news making. Here you can read the transcript of our talk or listen to the full audio, vocal ticks and clicks galore at the link below.
How did you get in touch with that older generation of dissident troops that you talked to in the movie?
Well I was involved with a lot of them back during the Vietnam war. I wasn't a Veteran but I was a civilian supporter of the GI movement. I worked for about three years in a little town in Texas, just outside of Fort Hood, in a coffee house. That was part of a network of coffee houses that helped support soldiers who were organizing against the Vietnam war. To give them legal advice and to help with printing and that sort of stuff. So I knew a lot of these guys and when I decided to make the film I started with the people I knew and just kept going deeper and deeper - just trying to track down a lot of people I knew existed, but didn't know exactly where they were.
So you were involved in running a cafe called the Oleo Strut?
Yeah, we profile it in the film, yes this was part of a network of coffee houses that were set up in the US and actually overseas a lot in Germany and in Asia. These were staffed by Veterans and civilians who were supporting the soldiers who were organising against war and against racism in the military and that kind of stuff. So this was a story that I was very familiar with but over the last 30 or 35 years the story of what had happened in the military really got sort of buried and a lot of the guys had just gone back into their lives.
You do describe on the film posters by-line, that this is the “suppressed story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam.” Can you give me some sort of idea of just how far off mainstream agendas this movement has been and I guess how the documentary has placed it back into the centre of how we can imagine an anti-war movement? Where does this conservative revisionism around Vietnam come from? Do you think the contemporary anti-war movement has lost a sense of the role of soldiers as participants in such movements?
Well absolutely. This story was deeply buried after the war, for a variety of reasons. I mean, first of all, just to give you some sort of perspective, the movement inside the military against the war had become so widespread that the military, essentially not that they had given into it, but they had no real choice but to pull troops out of Vietnam and to try and make real changes. They did a survey in 1971 that showed that over half the soldiers in the military had engaged in some sort of protesting against the war. And it was very public, it was very out there and it was covered in the media. There were huge events and there were mutinies.
And after the war, for one thing and for the people who had been involved in it and for the anti-war movement and everything there was kind of several years of people just wanting to move on. So it opened up the field to a lot of revisionism about what had happened. Starting in particular under the Reagan administration, the reality of what had gone on in the military was replaced with a string of films from Hollywood that presented the war as being loyal soldiers who came home and were betrayed by the American people who had opposed the war, who had turned their backs on the soldiers. And turning your back on the war and opposing the war, got turned into turning your back on and betraying the soldiers.
There were over 200 films made since Vietnam about the war and none of them, until my film ever said a word...except for another one that was suppressed at the time...ever said a word about opposition inside the military. There was some stuff about veterans, but nothing about the organizing inside the military. So this thing was... and you know the idea that replaced it was the myth that was so wide spread in this country the past ten years, that soldiers came home and anti-war activists and hippies were waiting at the airport and spat at them and you know, threw stuff at them. The fact is that none of this is true. There was never a verifiable incident of something like that actually happening.
But it became so widespread, that I think its safe to say that most people in the anti-war movement today in this country, believe that during Vietnam the soldiers were betrayed by the anti-war movement. It has a big chilling effect. It gives the idea that if you are too active against the war, or if you accuse the war of being genocidal or targeting civilians you are by definition, targeting or vilifying the soldiers. None of that is true and bringing out that, in fact, this is not what happened during Vietnam has a big impact on how soldiers look at what is going on and how a lot of civilians see it.”
So you've talked about the Rambo effect, the troop returns home and gets rejected by civilian society – have you seen any of the recent Hollywood films on Iraq and are they dealing with it in a manner different to how film dealt with the Vietnam conflict?
I've seen a lot of the films that have come out. I think in the documentary world there's been more of an attempt to honestly get at the reality of what is happening on the ground. There's From the Ground Truth and some other films that are trying to get at the opposition that is growing inside the military. One film, of the ones that's started coming out of Hollywood...I've not seen Redacto, but I've heard its a very powerful movie that does portray how American troops have just essentially been unleashed on the people and the kind of atrocities that it can create.
The tendency in Hollywood and just in general is still, that in this country the focus is so deeply on American service men. The issue everyone wants to deal with is “what effect is this war having on our troops?” So much of the horrendous nature of the war, in terms of the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed, the occupation, the brutality – all of that, gets buried under the question that keeps getting put on the agenda here, which is: “is this hurting American troops?” Which I think again is a result of the pretty successful propaganda campaign that went on about Vietnam in the eighties and the nineties.
Several people in my film point out the Vietnam war was not about the American troops, it was about what was going on in Vietnam and what the US was doing in Vietnam. I think that's true of Iraq. The Iraq war is not about the American troops, it is about the US invading and occupying a country and it's interesting how things get kind of twisted around here.”
The GI movement against the Vietnam war probably gets more recognition within the military than outside of it, in the sense that people speak of the Powell doctrine and the creation of an all volunteer army as a consequence of the belief that the draft allowed a series mutinous movement to cohere within the military. But is it possible to speak of an economic draft today and how do you think the GI movement may have revolutionized the military itself?
Well I think the interesting thing is that, in a lot of ways eliminating the draft more spoke to the civilian movement than the GI movement because you know the draft became a real focus of the student movement and it sparked a lot more widespread protest I think than they wanted. Inside the military, although the draft had a big role in the movement, really the what sparked it and drove it was volunteers. People who had gone into the military, thinking they were doing the right thing, going to defend America just as their uncle did in Korea and their father did in World War Two, and their grand-father did in World War One. How much of that is a mythology is another question.
But there was a sense of betrayal among the troops, and really the troops that felt most betrayed were the ones that had volunteered. In many ways that kind of speaks to today and the fact that there is an all volunteer army, and a lot of it is an economic draft – there is a very high level of desertion going on right now, which is both political and an expression of “this is not what I joined the military for.” The politics of soldiers seeing that they've been lied to, that they were told that we are going over there to defend democracy, going over there to help the people of Iraq, just as they said about Vietnam, and seeing that this is not at all what is going on. That betrayal is what causes the turmoil in the military rather than people being press ganged into it.
So I think there are a lot of changes. The military did a lot to defuse the potential for a GI movement again, they've been doing that for a long time, and its not just the draft. They try and make the military more appealing. They put McDonald's at the bases and do little stuff, to make it feel more like home weirdly enough. They also try to create a stronger sense of unity among the troops, that you are there fighting for your buddies, you may not be fighting for America, but you are fighting for your buddies to try undercut the opposition inside But the reality is the reality and I think that is what is driving a lot of soldiers to deeply question and oppose the war today.”
In the movie you highlight that there were 300 underground newspapers, and that really testifies to what a remarkable network the antiwar GI movement was. How was this done under the very nose of the command structure, there must have been an awful lot of work involved? Do you think the internet could be put to a similar use today? I mean producing a newspaper is a lot harder than producing a website say. Do you see any echoes of that?
Well its interesting. The underground newspapers in the military were a fascinating and interesting kind of thing. They were considered to be illegal by the military. Especially when they first started coming out in '68 and '69. There were all kinds of attempts by the military to court martial people who were putting them out, to court martial people who were distributing them. Both for the actual charge of subverting the military and for trumped up charges, drugs and that sort of thing.
But it became so wide spread and people were so creative in how they were getting them out and getting them on bases, that eventually the military really couldn't do anything about it. I think it was around 1970 or 1971, there was a memo sent out by the Pentagon outlining what was acceptable and what wasn't acceptable – essentially accepting the existence of these papers and trying to control them without outright suppressing them as they had been doing in the early part of the war.
And the difference, its a funny thing the Internet. The GI newspapers created a lot of a sense of a community of opposition and it was great. And that was this physical, tactile kind of thing. Centering around this newspaper, guys would get together and you'd have to write the articles, you'd have to figure out how to paste it up, how to get it printed and fhow to get it distributed, and all that kind of thing.
The Internet on one hand eliminates the need for all that stuff because you can create your blogs and do whatever you can to get your stuff up there, and you are instantly in contact with the world. But on the other hand there's this isolation to it because everyone is sitting at their terminal doing this. So far it hasn't at least helped build that sense of an actual community of opposition. I think it is in a certain sense, but not in the sense of the physical opposition that it is going to take to really do something about the war. So I don't know, it's both a boon and a curse in some ways.
I guess thats' an interesting question to end an interview for a website like Indymedia, so thanks for that.