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)
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 video is a mix of the Army Strong video produced by the army to entice young women and men to join the military. The other video is produced by Displaced Films which is a series of films produced for the Iraq Veterans Against the War http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier
The series of films can also be seen here http://www.vimeo.com/5448532
You can make a donation to Jeriko Films here http://jerikofilms.wordpress.com/about/
The military has a budget of $459 million in advertising revenue which is the amount it spent in 2005. Please help us provide an honest picture of war by making a donation. Here is further information from, David Zeiger who requested we include the following information.
Hello Cindy and All
I am so happy that you used episodes from our series, This is Where We Take Our Stand, for your Army Strong video. It's incredibly powerful, and getting out to a lot of people. You did a great thing with it, and this is what the series is for.
I have a very important request, though. Please make it much more clear on your site and in the piece that the material is from the web series This is Where We Take Our Stand, and that the entire series can and should be seen at http://thisiswherewetakeourstand.com/ There are still two episodes that will be posted this monday and in two weeks, and then the entire series will be available as a single piece as well.
First of all, it's important that people see the whole series. But along with that, it's been a tremendous struggle to get the story made and told, and we are still in the midst of trying to get the funds to complete a television film as well. So it is crucial that both the name of the series and the people who made it be very prominent whenever it is used. It's also important to include that it is from the people who made Sir! No Sir! I'm sure you understand all of this.
We are linking Army Strong to http://thisiswherewetakeourstand.com/, and will do what we can to help get it out there.
Two weeks ago I received an email from Daniel J. Lakemacher, who is applying to be administratively discharged, by the Navy as a Conscientious Objector. To honor, and hopefully draw attention to his refusal I am reprinting his blog posts describing the twists and turns of extracating oneself from the machine. These posts were originally posted to warisimmoral.com
Saturday May 30 (Days 25-28) Unexpected validation
If you're wondering about my count of the days since I filed my request, I accidentally fell behind by one day over the last weekend. This past Thursday and Friday were actually Days 25 & 26, and this weekend is then Days 27 & 28. Monday will resume my regular schedule.
Continuing on timing, I've been told to expect that this process will take months. For example, during my interview by the Chaplain, he made, what seemed to me, a loaded statement that the decision-making process for my request may take so long that I would be at the end of my "contract" anyway. A noteworthy aside is that he failed to mention the three years I would still be forced to spend in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) even after my "active duty". Don't be fooled, anyone who enlists does so for 8 years, whatever portion is not listed as active duty is spent in the the IRR.
In any case, I informed the Chaplain that I was undeterred by the potential time-frames involved, and I stated that I ultimately want to do what I believe is morally right, despite what may seem more pragmatic. I also commented that I already felt emotionally much better having made my decision and taken action. I've related to a number of friends that I've experienced an increased self-acceptance and satisfaction in life since I aligned my beliefs and actions by filing my request; however, I was unaware that others less close to me had also noticed a definitive change.
A couple weeks ago, I paid for Kinko's to make spiral-bound presentation booklets containing the online version of my application and a preface that is a slight modification of my "Reflections on GTMO" blog post. I'm continuing to pass around these folios to a variety of individuals on the Navy base who I think will be interested.
After reading it, one such person asked to speak with me privately. A little background is that she was one of the first people I worked with in the Navy. We met in late 2005 and have intermittently talked when we see each other at the base ever since. In addition to thanking me for sharing my thoughts and beliefs, she said that reading what I wrote finally gave her the information to make sense of what had been going on with me.
Quite surprised, I asked what she meant. She began by telling me that she's always appreciated me as a uniquely nice person and therefore has valued even our casual friendship. She went on to say that because of this, she's perhaps been more perceptive and interested in me that I've given her credit for. Completely intrigued as to where this was going, I urged her to explain.
According to her, she discerned a couple significant shifts in my overall demeanor and mood in the years we've known each other. Upon first meeting, she expressed that she generally knew me as hard-working and happy go-lucky; however, she claimed it was obvious to her that something had changed with me upon my return from GTMO. She stated that she didn't feel that she knew me well enough to appropriately broach the topic, but she said that, in my eyes in particular, she could see something was deeply bothering me. Then "a couple of months ago", she noticed another change. This she described by saying it looked as if I'd finally found peace about whatever it was that had been troubling me. By my sharing my request and some of my other written thoughts, she felt emboldened to talk with me about it. She concluded by saying that although a belief in God works for her, she was sincerely happy for me, and she was glad to have finally made sense of what it was that had been going on with me over the past 18 months.
I was awestruck by her insight, as well as her acceptance. Nevertheless, the conversation was still not complete, as she continued it by expressing that she would like to speak on my behalf, not about what it was that I believed, but about how she's known me as long as anyone in the Navy has, and she's convinced that I have authentically changed. My wonderment turned to gratitude, and I thanked her profusely for everything from talking to me to her willingness to be a witness at my sometime-coming "informal hearing".
Although my ultimate hope is that by making my conscientious objection as public as possible I will inspire others to do the same, I can think of no better secondary achievement than that which took place in the above conversation.
Thursday May 28 (Day 24) Ordered not to die ... at least by suicide.
Yesterday I overheard a radio news commentator mention that the Ft. Campbell, KY army base has had 11 suicides since the first of the year. This alarming loss of life by suicide caused me to look for further information, and I was literally shocked to discover that the senior commander of the base, Brigadier General Stephen J. Townsend, held a "Suicide Stand-Down" (a mandatory training that effectively halts regular operations of a base) from which CNN quoted him as follows:
"If you don't remember anything else I say in the next five or 10 minutes, remember this -- suicidal behavior in the 101st on Fort Campbell is bad," Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend told his forces. "It's bad for soldiers, it's bad for families, bad for your units, bad for this division and our army and our country and it's got to stop now. Suicides on Fort Campbell have to stop now."
"Don't let yourself, your buddies or your families down," he said, ending his comments by repeating, "This has got to stop, soldiers. It's got to stop now. Have a great week."
I ask you to consider his words in light of the fact that he is likely the highest ranking person who will ever be physically seen by the masses of people who were mandated to listen to him that day. In other words, within the strictly authoritarian hierarchy that is the military Chain of Command, he is the top level of what is actually visible to the vast majority of those below him. Secondly, bear in mind this one quote from the book Suicide Science, in which the chapter title Shame, Guilt, and Suicide alone is telling:
"Theory and emerging empirical research indicates that feelings of shame are more prominent than guilt in the dynamics leading up to suicidal thoughts and behaviors."
Although CNN interviewed a few mental health experts about how such "guidance" may have been ineffective, I'm more interested to hear what message you think was received by the soldiers if they did exactly as their General ordered. What might they be thinking and feeling if, in the wake of the 11 suicides that prompted the special meeting, they remembered only that their General said, as regards suicide:
"It's bad for soldiers, it's bad for families, bad for your units, bad for this division and our army and our country . . ."
Furthermore, what effect might it have had on the soldier who was earnestly struggling with thoughts of suicide, perhaps as an effect of the extreme cognitive dissonance required of any individual tasked with killing others for the sake of promoting peace, justice, and liberty?
Wednesday May 27 (Day 23) Sir! No Sir!
Although I still have no updates to offer regarding the progress of my conscientious objection, I'm encouraged by the new and different people I hear from almost daily as a result of this website. One of the more exciting contacts I've made is a gentleman who was discharged as a conscientious objector in 2001. I've exchanged emails with him about how the process went and also how he's been doing post-Navy.
Another individual, previously unknown to me, recently emailed an offer to help me find a job upon discharge, and in addition he directed me to the website where I discovered the documentary film Sir! No Sir!. For the more savvy film critics out there, be aware that this isn't a cheesy low-budget propaganda piece, but an award-winning movie that received two thumbs up from Ebert & Roeper.
A quote from the ... 2-minute trailer resonated deeply with my own sentiments about both the current wars of the U.S. military and all war in general:
"We truly believed what would stop that war was when the soldiers stopped fighting it."
Likewise, I truly believe that most of the individuals killing each other on either side of any war are not doing so because they actually want to or even because they think that it's right. Sadly they're risking their own lives and terminating the lives of others primarily out of a combination of extreme fear and programmed obedience.
The key then is to no longer allow government-sanctioned murder to masquerade as a matter of honor, duty, and sacrifice. Instead it is right to empower the individuals working for the military to recognize that they have the ability and the moral justification to stop fighting, regardless of what they may be "ordered" to do.
Tuesday, May 26 (Day 22) *Updated* Further Replies to "Obedience as Virtue
Noah Marsh also choose to address a specific remark of Jay's, and I wanted to offer his additional perspective to further the discussion. I sincerely hope to hear back from Jay, but in the interim I will seek to address other issues.
If reading the above sentences leaves you perplexed as to what discussion I'm referencing, please start by reading Day 19 - Obedience as Virtue. If you then progress through each subsequent day to this most recent update, it will hopefully all make sense. If you're immediately reticent to go backwards because it will involve more reading, fear not, there are only two additional posts between where I have directed you and the present. Noah Marsh
In his third paragraph, Jay Jones questions Dan's analogy of beating a child, i.e. spanking, by claiming, "It really doesn't hold water." First, I must say that analogies are never perfect. People select analogies on the basis of a dominant feature of correspondence important for the immediate point the author is making. Of course the analogy will not correlate perfectly in every aspect. With that in mind I still do not agree with Mr. Jones' claim, "It really doesn't hold water."
Secondly, the justification for Mr. Jones' critique misses an important point of Dan's analogy. While there are instances in which a parent does tell a child not to do something for his or her own safety, e.g. not to touch a hot stove, the majority of the directives that parents issue to their children have no impact on a child's welfare - safety. For instance, almost every parent that I know has told their child not to color on the walls. When a child violates that edict, punishment ensues, often by "spanking." Why must a child not color on the walls? I may be wrong on this, so please correct me if I am, but Mr. Jones would say, "[Because,] no shit [the parent] knows better than the non-obedient child." What does the parent know better than the non-obedient child? Why does that knowledge mean the child should not color on the walls? Often times I believe parents' demand obedience from their children to avoid their own embarrassment (I have seen many parent-child interactions on public transit that demonstrate this). What is the difference from learning not to touch a hot stove by burning one's self and by beating? The latter attaches the pain to disobedience while the former attaches pain to the harmful act. I believe Dan's analogy was chosen intentionally (correct me if I am wrong on this as well), specifically for this reason. Dan's analogy hold's more water than Mr. Jones allows for.
POSTED BY DANIEL J. LAKEMACHER AT 7:16 PM
Those you might deem as taking a bad tact towards parenting (those that punish out of resentment) aside. What possible lesson could a parent be trying to impart by forbidding a crayon graffito? (Assuming that any parent may want to actually teach as opposed to simply guard and provide) Simple respect for personal property, not destroying what's not yours. A simple precept and in this case that respect can very well lead to that child growing up more the individual.
Now as for the whole hot stove/"beating" analogy: You can punish children after the fact because they can associate the two. While it is true that you're not supposed to punish a dog after the fact due to their inability connect the punishment and the action. However, at a young age, humans are of a high enough cognitive function that they can associate a response to the action after the fact. Children aren't Chihuahuas.
It seems that the underlying motive stems from an aversion to spanking. Would you be ok with punishing said crayola kid in some other means? Or of you the type that would do nothing but scrub the walls? Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment can be done without it stepping over the line of “beating”. I'm not going to get into parenting, its another topic. However, whatever your take on parenting, simply protecting your child is doing them a disservice. Dan's analogy asks the question: "Think for yourself; did your very first lesson involve learning that disobedience would result in physical pain?" There are a couple of flaws in the question. First, it assumes that the first lesson is the one you remember as the first. Perhaps your parents tried many different ways to get to you not steal/wreck others stuff/run in the streets and they just didn't take. Second, since humans cannot remember pain, (if you could your leg would hurt when you thought of spraining your ankle) unless you have lasting mental trauma the effects of spanking today is paled by whatever lesson you learned. Once again, I'm not going to get into what lessons a parent might impart.
Now, the question comes to a head when you try to extrapolate that out to obedience in adults. Personally, I disagree with the amount and reach of our laws and gov't. Laws should be almost exclusively about protection and safety.
As far as Dan's admitted violation of other's liberty goes. I don't know exactly what he's referencing or what gains were made (or what the cost was). And I don't inherently worry about violating people’s liberty. Especially if those people were incarcerated in GITMO. Do I think that there might be some innocent people or those that really don’t pose a threat? Absolutely. Are there innocents in the US penal system? We all know there is. Is that reason to release them all? No. However both the current and previous administration simply can’t find other countries to take them.
"Enhanced Interrogation" works, sometimes simple incarceration works. Hell, sometimes torture works, as Sen. McCain admitted to during his GOP acceptance speech. I'm not advocating torture, it’s iffy at best. People tell you what they think you want them to say. Nor am I asserting that the US tortures: Water boarding is not torture; we do it to our own. I’ve been in worse situations and I’ve done it to good friends, with whiskey, forcing them not to spill any. That is far worse and it’s really not that bad.
MAY 30, 2009 12:17 PM
I believe Mr. Jones' critique regarding the "crayon grafitito" analogy I provided earlier flawed, but I will limit my conversation to the lengthier and,I interpret, more important of his responses. I must first say I found the comparison of a child to a Chihuahua very timely as my wife and I have begun the process of buying a dog, which includes reading about training methods. I appreciated the irony. The rest of Mr. Jones' post I found inciteful and not as apt to insightful conversation.
I must admit I was shocked by Mr. Jones' assertion that a child ought to be punished after having burned himself or herself on the stove, "You can punish children after the fact because they can associate the two...at a young age, humans are at a high enough cognitive function that they can associate a response to the action after the fact." I did not have punishment after the fact in mind when I originally asked, "What is the difference from learning not to touch a hot stove by burning one's self and by beating?" I imagined a parent telling a child not to touch a hot stove and then as the child reaches towards it, the parent swats the child's hand away and then punishes the child in some way (I will address forms of punishment briefly below.) The action is not touching the stove, the action for which the child is punished is for attempting to disobey the parent's command. Mr. Jones is correct, a child can associate response with action. Unfortunately, punishments connect response to disobedience and not the item or practice to be avoided. It is this protecting of the child that does them a great disservice (see Mr. Jones' post just beyond the middle of the second paragraph).
Why must the child be punished? Mr. Jones implies people punish a person in order to teach them a lesson. (This is not true in all cases, but I agree this is the most common function of punishment within a parent-child relationship and therefore will respond accordingly.) The child has learned not to repeat that same action via the burn. The child learns the lesson prior to any inflicted punishment (corporal or not). What added benefit is there then in the punishment? A child, without what Mr. Jones' calls trauma resulting, can learn his or her lesson without the punishment therefore punishment is not necessitated. This is what I hoped to emphasize. If Mr. Jones, or anyone else, can produce a situation in which a lesson can only be taught through punishment, I will concede that punishment is useful in some instances.
Regarding the usefulness of punishment Mr. Jones' claimed, "It seems that [sic] the underlying motive [for stems from an aversion to spanking." The child has done nothing wrong by coloring on the walls and therefore does not need to be punished in any form (e.g., timeout, grounding, spanking, etc.). The problem with punishment is not the corporal aspect. What is the purpose of punishment? I attempted to get at this in my earlier response and in this response as well. The reason I want to focus on this that Dan's post asks this very question (in not this way). Dan seems to operate from the assumption that the purpose of punishment is to reinforce obedience, nothing more and nothing less.
If you (anyone) can only respond to or think about one thing from this post I ask you to try and answer the question:
"What is the purpose of punishment and what are the best examples of punishment fulfilling this purpose?"
Tuesday, May 26 (Day 22) Further Replies to "Obedience As Virtue?"
The current discussion began as a result of my May 22nd post, available here, that critically questioned whether or not obedience should be valued as a virtue. It continued in the response of Jay Jones, who I will summarize as advocating that "to harangue obedience itself is a flawed argument," because "at some level, whether as a child to a parent, a lawbreaker to a police officer or a soldier to a superior, obedience is required." Jay also expressed that "To fret over “violating others liberty in order to obey someone else’s authority,” like I have done, "can be foolhardy". I encourage you to read Jay's thoughts in their full context here, and add to the discussion based on any of the comments or my original post.
Today's post comes as a result of two different replies to what Jay wrote. The first, from Matt Lakemacher, is written from the perspective of one who believes in God and states that, "Obedience has its place in a civilized society, absolutely, but sometimes the noblest thing that one can do is to be disobedient." Secondly, and in contrast to both Jay and Matt, Wes Bertrand wrote from the perspective that, "Obedience can't be a virtue for a volitional, conceptual organism, although religion and statism have always contended otherwise."
From this point forward I wish to let each party speak for themselves, and I hope that in reading this, you too, will be transformed from reader to active participant in this critically important discussion.
I do believe in a God, and yes at some point subservience is, as you say "logical." The hornet's nest of issues I have with religion and our culture, crystallized in the hymn "Trust and Obey" that I ironically quoted from, is when that subservience is blind, unthinking, and uncritical. It is this elevation of faith and obedience to the level of highest virtue that can lead to the mass murder of Jews just as easily as it can lead men to fly jet planes into skyscrapers (all in the name of religion). Obedience has its place in a civilized society, absolutely, but sometimes the noblest thing that one can do is to be disobedient. Understanding the difference between the authority of God and the authority of man's flawed attempts to understand Him is also critical. Lastly, my comment has everything to do with the previous post, as "sheep-like" following of authority has been a hallmark of organized religion since its inception, and is just as problematic as in cases where the authority in question is the government (or where it's impossible to tell the difference between the two).
Obedience can't be a virtue for a volitional, conceptual organism, although religion and statism have always contended otherwise. Ask yourself why.
Ask yourself why one human being should obey another human being. We're not talking about doing some practical task for another who is unable or who has other things to do (as in the workplace). Obedience in the present context is synonymous with compliance, submissiveness, acquiescence, passivity, docility, deference, subservience, servility, subjection--in essence, one will bending to another's will.
Jay Jones apparently believes in the master/slave relationship as a way of psychological life, even though the result is psychological death. Most of the statements above seem to indicate that irresponsibility is something to aspire to, that irresponsibility should be considered a hallmark of good behavior. Well, you reap what you sow--children who fear authority won't think for themselves, will lack creativity and passion, and grow up to be masters of still more young slaves. But a leash is just a rope with a collar at both ends, you see.
To use concepts without understanding the nature of concepts spells intellectual--and thus moral--bankruptcy. It also spells the inability to grasp objective reality on one's own terms. Francis Bacon certainly got one thing right: "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." Notice that he didn't say "Humans, to be commanded, must be obeyed," for such a remark would have wreaked of illogic.
Unfortunately, due to the illogic of our present culture, most human beings, especially those who favor a second-hander's code of morality (master/slave relationships), are practically devoid of genuine self-esteem. To use reason in an independent fashion would require them to consider themselves worthy of the task, for no man who has worked on his self-confidence and self-respect would consider obedience a virtue.
Self-sacrifice reveals mind-sacrifice.
Rational animals would be wise to heed the words of philosopher Ayn Rand (via John Galt): "Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible—that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error. In place of your dream of an omniscient automaton, accept the fact that any knowledge man acquires is acquired by his own will and effort, and that that is his distinction in the universe, that is his nature, his morality, his glory."
In other words, swear by your life and your love of it that you will not live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for yours. Only then will you begin to understand what living as a rational animal entails--and that within each child resides the future of humanity (as Maria Montessori eloquently noted).
Self-responsibility and its Effects on Obedience and Aggression http://www.logicallearning.net/obedience.html
*Please be aware that while I highly value comments, they are moderated to ensure that this doesn't become a forum for personal attacks. If your comment doesn't post, please don't hesitate to email me
Sunday, May 24 (Days 20-21) One Answer to Obedience as virtue?
I would like to thank Jay Jones for making the second set of comments to the "Obedience as Virtue?" post. His remarks will serve as today's content, and I hope that they will stir further discussion of this question. I will be busy fulfilling the orders of the Navy to work today, and it will therefore probably be a few days before I can respond myself. In the meantime, please feel free to add comments to either myself or Jay, and I may even add your writing as a post. Without further adieu, Jay Jones:
"Ok, as for "Anonymous’" post. If you believe in a God, then subservience at some level is just damn logical. If not, well then there's a whole hornet's nest of issues you have with religion and, well, our culture. Yet none of them have much to do with this post.
But for Dan, I know that you've done more than enough thinking through of what you're doing. However, in arguing the merits or detriments of obedience, you overlook a couple simple truths. One, the vast majority of people are sheep, not those that would naturally lead. You’re in the Navy, you’ve seen this. People can be trained to lead, but most don’t naturally.
As for the whole corporal punishment analogy, it really doesn’t hold water. If your 5 year old does whatever it is that parents of 5 year olds don’t want them to do: Is it really worthwhile to try to confer with him on the level of self-actualization? No, you have to go down to his level to make sure he understands where you are coming from. I think it’s somewhat ironic that you juxtapose the relationship of a parent who really, by all accounts, no shit knows better than the non-obedient child. Honestly, what it seems you’re espousing is anarchy at the kindergarten level.
The same holds true with interrogation. You can start at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy and work your way down. The best interrogators may be able to function in the top few levels. However, when it comes down to it, EVERYONE will respond to the lower two (safety, physiological). The question of the day falls into two parts: Where is the line where our society deems some practices, when put into common use, unethical. And, when and in what cases, are said practices allowed given the situation is considered dire?
But to harangue obedience itself is a flawed argument. As much as I think I could last and fare well in an anarchistic “society”. It’s not what I would prefer. So at some level, whether as a child to a parent, a lawbreaker to a police officer or a soldier to a superior, obedience is required. To fret over “violating others liberty in order to obey someone else’s authority” (not an exact quote, changed for tense) can be foolhardy. It is perfectly acceptable, in our society, to without trial indefinitely detain those who would be a harassment to the public. Don’t believe me? Go look at your local loony bin. There you will find dozens of people, never even accused of any crime, held against their will.
As for Milgram, people are sheep.
To be continued….
Tried to post before under a name, but I think anonymous is working. But my name's Jay Jones."
This article, by Dennis Lin, was published by the Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2009
A time capsule of the anti-Vietnam War movement, "FTA" is also a vivid flashback to a world-famous movie star's stint as a political radical. At the peak of her celebrity, which coincided with the dawning of her political consciousness, Jane Fonda abdicated her Hollywood throne and remade herself as the face of the anti-establishment.
With government agents and the news media watching her every move, she led a vaudeville troupe on a tour of U.S. military bases in 1971 -- a trip chronicled in this fascinating documentary, largely unseen since its brief, abortive release and finally available on DVD this week.
In the disc's only extra, a 20-minute interview, Fonda recounts how the project came about. She and Donald Sutherland, her costar in 1971's "Klute" (which won her an Oscar), were approached by Howard Levy, a doctor who had become an antiwar cause célèbre for refusing to train Green Beret medics. He proposed that they put on a corrective to Bob Hope's gung-ho USO shows, giving voice not just to the growing peace movement but to antiwar sentiment within the ranks of the military.
The FTA troupe staged its first shows in the U.S., with Fonda and Sutherland (who had just played the irreverent Hawkeye in Robert Altman's "MASH") headlining a company that included Peter Boyle and Howard Hesseman. (The all-purpose acronym is short for "Free the Army" and a more profane variation.)
When it came time to embark on the two-week Pacific Rim tour, Fonda assembled a more politically correct lineup that stressed racial and gender parity -- equal numbers of black and white, and male and female, performers, including singer Holly Near and comedian Paul Mooney.
Fonda, Sutherland and company stopped off in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan (where they were initially refused entry). Denied permission to perform on U.S. bases, they set up shop in nearby coffeehouses and other venues, although military officials apparently tried to minimize attendance by publicizing incorrect show times.
All told, the troupe played 21 shows, which were attended by some 64,000 servicemen and women. Many of the male GIs, as Fonda ruefully concedes in the interview, must have been anticipating the Space Age sex kitten from "Barbarella" and not the righteous radical who took the stage in jeans, no makeup and a raised fist.
The show mixes protest songs with broad and bawdy skits, taking potshots at military chauvinism and top-brass privilege. But what it lacks in finesse, it makes up for with a raucous energy. Directed by Francine Parker (who died in 2007), the documentary alternates between the song-and-dance routines and behind-the-scenes footage of soldiers talking candidly to the troupe members about their frustration and anger at the ongoing war and the American presence in the region.
As fate would have it, "FTA" opened the same week in July 1972 that news broke of Fonda's trip to Hanoi, where she made radio broadcasts for the North Vietnamese regime and was photographed sitting on an anti-aircraft gun. Within a week, the distributor (youth-flick specialist American-International Pictures) had pulled the movie from theaters.
Fonda's career went into partial eclipse, and she remains to this day a favorite target of the right, but she recovered to win a second Oscar for the 1978 war-veteran drama "Coming Home." For years she quietly has distanced herself from her radical past, which might explain why "FTA," which she co-produced, has been out of circulation for more than three decades.
Its recent reemergence points to a change of heart and owes much to the efforts of filmmaker David Zeiger, who used footage from "FTA" in "Sir! No Sir!," a 2005 documentary about antiwar resistance within the military.
This week's DVD release was preceded by screenings at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles and the IFC Center in New York, where Fonda appeared as part of a fundraiser for Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The film also screens on the Sundance Channel this week.
Two other artifacts of Fonda's radical period have been issued on DVD in recent years.
"Steelyard Blues" (1973), a slapstick counterculture comedy that also costarred Sutherland, was released by Warner Home Video. And Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin's scathing "Tout Va Bien" (1972), with Fonda as an American journalist caught up in a wildcat strike at a sausage factory in France, is available from the Criterion Collection.
This article, by Brenda Sandburg, was published by Workers World, February 14, 2009
For 37 years no one was able to see “FTA,” a riveting documentary of the anti-war show that Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and others performed for GIs during the Vietnam War. The film was yanked from theaters one week after it opened in 1972, and all copies were destroyed. However, the original negatives were discovered a few years ago, and a reprint of the movie is now being released on DVD.
Sundance will broadcast this must-see movie on Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. and on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. Docuramafilms is also distributing it on DVD so everyone can access it through Netflix and other outlets.
“FTA,” which stands for “F**k the Army,” played at the IFC Center in Manhattan on Feb. 2. Jane Fonda appeared in person to introduce the movie, along with David Zeiger, the director of “Sir! No Sir!,” and a representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “It really presents that time in a way that feels present and alive and real,” Zeiger said.
Fonda explained that the FTA show was intended to counter Bob Hope’s pro-war USO program. At the time, there was massive opposition to the war within military ranks, and GIs turned out in droves to see entertainers who told the truth about their experiences. Fonda and Sutherland had just finished filming “Klute,” when Dr. Howard Levy, known for refusing to train Green Berets, asked them to be part of the show.
Witty and moving, the production featured satirical skits (in one number Donald Sutherland and Michael Alaimo call out what’s happening on the battlefield like baseball sportscasters), songs (Rita Martinson’s “Dear Soldier” is remarkable), and searing commentary (Sutherland’s closing call for people to point the gun at the war makers is stunning).
President Richard Nixon would not allow the troupe to take their show to South Vietnam as Bob Hope did, nor permit them on U.S. military bases. Instead, they performed outside bases in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan. During the two-week tour they held 21 performances for more than 60,000 service men and women.
Fonda said the military tried to keep them away by issuing releases that gave the wrong times for the show. But she said they waited until the audience turned up, and when thousands were unable to get into the packed venue, they held additional shows so everyone could see it.
“FTA” mixes excerpts from the show with interviews of GIs who talk about the government’s deception and the racism and sexism in the military. One Black GI says Black men should be exempt from the war. “The only place a Black man should fight is where he’s being oppressed,” he says. “I’m not being oppressed in Japan, Pakistan or Vietnam.”
The film also reveals what life was like for people living near U.S. bases. In the Philippines women and girls were forced into prostitution by poverty. One soldier says the prostitutes were required to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and to wear green badges in bars to indicate they were disease free.
In Japan, a man describes what happened when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Standing by a river, he says the explosion rose 2,000 feet at the epicenter and thousands of people jumped into the boiling river to escape the heat.
Zeiger was instrumental in bringing this extraordinary film back to life. While making “Sir! No Sir!,” a stirring account of GI resistance to the Vietnam War, he tracked down the people who produced “FTA.” He discovered that “FTA” director Francine Parker had just the year before found the original 16-millimeter negative in a vault where it had been edited. She had blown it up into a 35-millimeter print but did not go further, as it appeared thousands of dollars in back taxes were owed on the film.
Zeiger discovered this was not the case, however, and took “FTA” to the Sundance channel.
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.
This review/interview was originally published by the Erie Times-News, April 13, 2008
Few people have ever heard of a Vietnam-era phenomenon called "the GI Movement," a peace-activist storm that swept the country when the war in Vietnam was well under way.
Many attribute the popular ignorance of the phenomenon to the revisionist history that followed our withdrawal from Vietnam.
The Movement consisted of both recently returned veterans and active-duty soldiers. With a brilliant mix of archival film and talking heads, David Zeiger's documentary film, "Sir! No Sir!" examines this period of turmoil, and it deserves to be seen at Mercyhurst College on Wednesday.
Zeiger put off making the film because he was convinced that people simply didn't want to see another story from those tumultuous '60s.
"What prompted me to make the film was Sept.11, and the War on Terror's segue into the Iraq War," Zeiger told an interviewer. "I saw that this had suddenly become a story that would have current resonance, something that would immediately connect with what's going on today."
He didn't feel he had to mention Iraq in his film.
Zeiger begins by introducing us to individuals who, in the early war years, made their own feelings known. Convinced of the war's immorality, Louis Font became the first West Point graduate to refuse to serve in a war. Army Special Forces officer Donald Duncan gained brief fame in 1966 when he refused to participate further in "sickening" practices.
Howard Levy, an Army dermatologist, tired of training Green Beret troops to treat Vietnamese children while the U.S. was daily bombing villages and killing untold numbers of civilians. Levy was court-martialed and spent three years in prison.
Late in the film, sociologist Jerry Lembcke, a vet, briefly discusses his book, "The Spitting Image," which reveals there are no recorded instances of hippies spitting on returning vets.
These and other personal accounts are interspersed with references to organized efforts by vets and others to stop the war. The 1968 Tet offensive, which demonstrated massive civilian support for the North Vietnamese, was a turning point in the war. It was an image later perpetuated by the film "Rambo."
Many war resisters within the military were imprisoned in the Presidio stockade, where a sit-in took place in the prison yard. Marches and demonstrations popped up all over the U.S. Various forms of underground press disseminated newspapers and leaflets in and around military bases.
Most provocative, perhaps, was the emergence of FTA (for "Free the Army," or something more obscene), which saw itself as a touring group providing what Bob Hope's USO tours couldn't. One prominent member was Jane Fonda, who appears in the film, and who became notorious among war sympathizers as "Hanoi Jane."
Director Zeiger himself had become an antiwar activist and operated the Oleo Strut, a coffeehouse outside Fort Hood, Texas. Like the helicopter shock absorber for which it was named, the gathering place helped to allow soldiers returning from Vietnam to Fort Hood to land softly.
Those were heady days, and the film captures them with rapid editing, driving guitar music and an effective but unobtrusive voiceover narration by Troy Garrity, Jane Fonda's son. It serves to remind us of what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when in a 1787 letter he asked: "What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?"