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.
The following report, from Alan S & Elaine B, was published in Military Resistance, September 28, 2009
“There were Traveling Soldiers everywhere!” reported one of our Military Project outreach group of 9. [Traveling Soldier is a newsletter produced by Military Project, featuring information for and from troops opposed to the Imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: http://www.traveling-soldier.org/]
This was eyewitness news at its best since Elaine B had actually entered the armory, the first of any of us to have done so in more than 4 ½ years of outreaching to the site.
Our valiant correspondent had been invited minutes before (on two separate occasions) by friendly officers after inquiring about a drill schedule and in the process of obtaining the schedule (yes, we now know when to go for at least another year) saw the copies of Traveling Soldier inside the armory first hand:
“I decided to cross over the line, backed by my friend RM from the Military Project. We walked right through the line of camouflage and duffel bags, up the steps and into the building. Not a peep from anyone, in fact lots of smiles and hellos.”
“We asked where the ‘office’ was, and was pointed to the elevator, told to go upstairs and it was right there.
“So we went to the elevator, and off came 4 soldiers ready to go to the buses. They smiled, we smiled and got in the elevator.
“As we did this we noticed our handouts all over the place; on desks right outside the elevator on both floors, on the steps.
“Some of the plastic bags we wrapped them in were open, and ALL of the cookies and brownies were gone!
“We went to the office and said we were there to obtain a drill schedule. Amongst at least 6 soldiers there, one female NCO, who looked familiar to me, carrying a duffel bag on her back larger than she was, said ‘oh, here...’ she turned around, reached into a wire basket on top of the room divider, and whipped around holding out the latest drill schedule for the entire year!
“She smiled and said ‘here you go!’ We said thanks so much, we'll be back!”
All this took place after a very successful outreach on 9/18/09 that distributed 98 lit packets, hundreds of snacks, 20 “Sir! No Sir!” DVDs and, for the first time a handout of 34 “Querido Camilo” DVDs. [This is a DVD featuring Camilo E. Mejia, Iraq Veterans Against The War & Military Project, who was imprisoned by the Army for refusing to return to fight in Iraq after seeing the war was wrong.]
But no matter how joyful an outreach can be, these events always remind us of the serious nature of the work and responsibilities we have toward brave people undergoing enormous, unrelenting pressures: soldiers and their families.
No outreach is successful without personal contact and this one yielded its share.
We noticed a woman dropping off a soldier and in conversation learned her fears.
She was the soldier's mother, a hospital worker, and after telling us wars are all about money “and not knowing what we're doing over there,” cited continuing verbal abuse and harassment her son was undergoing from a superior officer who was denying him promotion, thereby keeping him a truck driver, an extremely dangerous MOS when deployed.
The fatigue of her ever present concern clearly lined her face, she sighed, “but what can I do?”
We gave her a package of the publications being handed out to the soldiers, pointing out that there was information about the GI Rights Hotline inside where legal assistance was available for soldiers with harassment complaints, and also let her know how to get in touch with us if further information or contact would be helpful.
Another soldier seemed needful of telling some of us he had been to Iraq twice and didn't want to go back, so he decided to switch to the Guard thinking he wouldn't get deployed. He was a bit naive when it came to that point!
But he said that he kept his head "low" when he was in Iraq for 2 tours, one of which was 15 months, and pretty much did what they call "search and avoid" missions.
He said he was very lucky, never got into a firefight, never saw anyone killed. But hated being there. He's attending school, and hopes to return to the Middle East as a civil engineer to help build.
How many stories are there at this armory and all the others visited and unvisited?
And endless amount one would think since soldiers are as much part of the human community as non-soldiers.
It's past time to find those stories and put them in print so troops will know their true friends and allies; those willing to march with them to mutual destiny.
Are we going back in October?
Since we have the dates, how couldn't we?
This poem, by Jennifer Pacanowski, wass posted to Facebook by Michael Kern, August 27, 2009
WE ARE NOT YOUR HEROS
We are not your heros.
Heros come back in body bags and caskets.
We are now society’s burden,
We are displaying our pain.
Begging for help that falls onto the VA’s deaf ears.
Pill popping to silence us into numbness and dead eyes.
WE ARE NOT YOUR HEROS.
We are now a mental diease.
NO VACCINATIONS FOR PTSD.
NO CURE for Post traumatic stress disorder.
We fight for our cure with our
We are hurting ourselves,
Letting society watch our pain and suffering.
WE ARE NOT YOUR HEROS.
We are your BURDEN
Smacking you in the face with our honesty of this needless war.
So you have the freedom to JUDGE us.
I wish I never came back.
This letter was written a few minutes before Afghan war resister Travis Bishop was shackeled and taken away after his court-martial at Fort Hood.
To everyone who still cares:
I can not say that a year in prison doesn’t scare me: I am terrified. I just cried in the bathroom so no one could see.
But still, though I am terrified, it would be scarier still to know that my fellow soldiers who feel as we feel would never find out what we are trying to accomplish had I not gone to prison.
Everyone who hears or reads this should know that I love you all, and my life is forever changed because of you.
Victor and myself are starting something big . . . and it is now up to all of you to continue on.
With all of my heart,
This article, by Travis Bishop, was posted go the Free Travis Bishop, Fort Hood War Resister Blog, August 20, 2009
First off, hello to all those who still support me! Your support, kind words, and well-wishings have truly kept me going through this difficult time.
I want to assure everyone, well-wishers and nay-sayers, that I am still 100% confident that my decision was a smart one. Though I suffer a harsh personal loss, the gain for this movement is incredible. Already I have heard of others who have been influenced by mine and Victor’s decisions and actions, and it warms my heart.
Ultimately, the goal is to end these wars. And keeping that in mind, remember that my decisions are mine and mine alone. My hope is that others learn from mine and Victor’s sacrifices. They are small when compared to the ultimate gain.
To my supporters, Thank You and write me right now while I’m in Bell County even!
To those who think I was coerced, influenced or made to do this, please write me to. I would love to personally explain how I feel.
You can write Travis at: Travis Bishop, Bell County Jail, 113 W. Central Ave., Belton, TX 76513
This book review, by Jon Letman, was distributed by the Inter Press Service News Agency, August 17, 2009
KAUAI, Hawaii, Aug 17 (IPS) - Six months into Barack Obama's presidency, the U.S. public's display of antiwar sentiment has faded to barely a whisper.
Despite Obama's vow to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq before September 2011, he plans to leave up to 50,000 troops in "training and advisory" roles. Meanwhile, nearly 130,000 troops remain in that country and more than 50,000 U.S. soldiers occupy Afghanistan, with up to an additional 18,000 approved for deployment this year.
So where is the resistance?
In independent journalist Dahr Jamail's "The Will to Resist: Soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan" (Haymarket Books), Jamail profiles what may ultimately prove to be the United States' most effective anti-war movement: the soldiers themselves.
During the early years of the Iraq war, Jamail traveled to Iraq alone and reported as an unembedded freelance journalist. Over four visits, Jamail documented the war's effects on Iraqi civilians in "Beyond the Green Zone" (2007).
Although he is a fierce critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of the U.S. mainstream media which he says served as a "cheerleader" for war, Jamail admits he was raised to admire the military. However, after covering the war from Iraq between 2003 and 2005, Jamail was enraged by what he calls "the heedless and deliberate devastation [he] saw [the U.S. military] wreak upon the people of Iraq."
Back in the U.S., traveling the country speaking out against the war, Jamail met scores of soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found that he shared with them a "familiar anguish" which drove him to further explore their motivations as soldiers. In doing so he opens the door to a growing subculture of internal dissent that is increasingly bubbling up and spilling over the edge of an otherwise ultra-disciplined, highly-controlled military society.
"The soldiers I spoke with while working on this book are some of the most ardent anti-war activists I have ever met," Jamail told IPS. "Having experienced the war firsthand, this should not come as a surprise."
In "The Will to Resist", Jamail profiles individual acts of resistance that he envisions as the possible seeds of a broader anti-war movement. The book is filled with stories of soldiers who refuse missions deemed "suicidal", go AWOL, flee abroad, refuse to carry a loaded weapon, even arranging to be shot in the leg - and those who in a final act of desperation commit suicide.
Soldiers who refuse to deploy or follow orders risk court-martial, prison time, dishonourable discharge and loss of veteran's medical benefits, yet an increasing number of active duty soldiers and veterans are willing to do so.
Rather than accept a mission almost certain to bring death, some troops simply refuse to follow orders. Jamail describes soldiers in Iraq on "search and avoid" missions who grew adept at giving the appearance of going out on patrol when, in fact, they were lying low, catching up on sleep and trying to avoid being killed.
Jamail quotes one Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as saying, "Dissent starts as simple as saying 'this is bullshit. Why am I risking my life?'"
Soldiers tell Jamail that incidents of refusing orders are unremarkable and "pretty widespread," to which he responds, "It is also understandable why the military does not want more soldiers or the public to know about them."
"Army Specialist Victor Agosto, who served a year in Iraq, has recently publicly refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan," Jamail told IPS, "and the Army, due to the threat of more soldiers and the broader public learning of this, backed away from giving Agosto the harshest court-martial possible, to one of the lightest."
Jamail also dedicates two chapters to soldiers who stand up to systemic misogyny and homophobia in the military. Extensive interviews with female soldiers detail a pervasive culture of institutionalised "command rape," harassment, abuse and assault which, in a number of high-profile cases (and many more unknown) end in ostracism, coercion, demotion, suicide and murder.
Citing studies from professional medical journals that offer a grim assessment of sexual intimidation and abuse within the U.S. military, Jamail writes, "According to the group Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one in six women in the United States will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. In the military, at least two in five will. In either case, at least 60 percent of the cases go unreported."
As Jamail recounts horrific cases of violence toward women in the military, he notes the irony of frequent claims that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are "liberating" women of those Muslim countries.
Like female soldiers, gay and lesbian service men and women are targeted for harassment and abuse. Jamail meets soldiers who, under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, must conceal their true identity, falsely posing as straight while battling internal conflicts about their own roles in the military.
In the blunt language of the soldiers, Jamail describes the military experience as a process of dehumanisation. "The primary objective appeared to be to mistreat and dehumanise your guys [fellow soldiers]," one Marine says. "I could not do it, not to my men and not to those people. I like the Iraqis, I like the Afghanis. Why were we treating them like shit?...That is when I really started questioning what the hell was going on."
For many soldiers however, the pain of war is simply too much to bear and so they choose their own final discharge: suicide. In an emotionally exhausting chapter, Jamail cites statistics from the Army Suicide Event Report which states active duty military suicides have risen to their highest rates since the Army started tracking self-inflicted deaths in 1980, and the numbers are growing.
Documenting the phenomenon of "suicide by cop," Jamail quotes from a Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome (PTSD)-wracked veteran's pre-"suicide" internet article in which he wrote, "…We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out."
Contemplating the long-term implications of the more than 1.8 million military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jamail points out that the United States, for many years to come, will be faced with caring for tens of thousands of veterans whose lives are permanently marred by grave physical and traumatic brain injuries, psychological scars, PTSD, and a host of associated problems ranging from divorce and substance abuse to domestic violence, homelessness and run-ins with the law.
Other soldiers manage to cope somehow and, perhaps in a sense, recover. Following their discharge, some veterans profiled by Jamail seek to make peace with themselves by educating others about the realities they experienced in war.
The most successful and constructive of military efforts to resist war are made by those who turn their experiences into teaching tools and therapeutic exercises like music, video, theater, painting, books, blogs, photographic and art exhibitions, performance art and even making paper out of old military uniforms.
In a chapter titled 'Cyber Resistance,' Jamail contends the Internet "is probably the first time that we have available to us an inexpensive and extremely inclusive means to communicate and thereby advocate sustained resistance to unjust military action, at an international scale without losing any gestation time."
Websites like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Blogspot and countless alternative news sources have given soldiers and veterans both a voice and the means to connect with those Jamail calls "fence-sitters, members of the silent majority and well-intentioned but resource-less individuals to participate in the promise of a historical transformation."
"While we don't have an organised GI resistance movement today that is anywhere close to that which helped end the Vietnam war," Jamail said, "the seeds for one are there, and they are continuing to sprout amidst a soil that is becoming all the more fertile by the escalation of troops in Afghanistan, the lack of withdrawal in Iraq, and an increasingly over-stretched military."
The Coffee Strong GI Coffeehouse is asking GIs stationed at Ft. Lewis to submit nominations for the worst Lt. at Ft. Lewis. To nominate your Lt., or read existing nominations, Click Here. On July 10, the following was posted
I kid you not, My first Lt. would use a gps and a plugger and still couldn't get the platoon from point A to point B.
We would do night ops and end up driving around the desert until the sun came up because of his incompetence.
My driver told me he'd seen the Lt. use a compass inside the Humvee. I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.
Why is it that the military thinks a college degree qualifies someone to be an officer?