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!
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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 article was posted by Robert Naimann, to After Downing Street, October 22, 2009
If there were ever a time when the peace movement should be able to have an impact on U.S. foreign policy, that time should be now. If there were ever a time for extraordinary effort to achieve such an impact, that time is now.
The war in Afghanistan is in its ninth year. McChrystal's proposal could continue it for another ten years, at a likely cost of a trillion dollars, and many more lives of U.S. soldiers and Afghan civilians. The contradiction between domestic needs and endless war was never more apparent. Congress fights over whether we can "afford" to provide every American with quality health care, but every health care reform proposal on the table will likely cost less than McChrystal's endless war. A recent CNN poll says 6 in 10 Americans oppose sending more troops. Democratic leaders in Congress are deeply skeptical: as far back as June, Rep. Murtha and Rep. Obey voted for Rep. McGovern's amendment demanding an exit strategy, and that was before the Afghan election fiasco, when international forces failed at their key objective of providing security, and before McChrystal demanded a 60% increase in U.S. forces, on top of the 50% increase approved earlier this year. Our troops are "exhausted," Murtha says. Top Administration officials share the skepticism. Vice-President Biden, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, and Afghan scholar Barnett Rubin, an advisor to Ambassador Holbrooke, have all been arguing against a troop increase: the political people on the grounds that the American people and Congress won't support it; Biden on the grounds that it would be a diversion from Pakistan; Rubin on the grounds that it would be counterproductive to reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Elite opinion is closely divided. This is a jump ball. It could go either way. And a decision by Nobel Laureate Obama to send 40,000 more U.S. troops is likely to severely constrain U.S. policy, abroad and at home, for many years.
Such a time calls for extraordinary efforts to mobilize public opinion to move policy.
National peace advocacy organizations, including Peace Action, Just Foreign Policy, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, and Voters for Peace, are launching such an extraordinary effort. At the joint website noescalation.org, we're posting the phone numbers of every Congressional office, and what is known so far about where they stand on the proposal to send 40,000 more U.S. troops. We're asking Americans to call Congressional offices and search the media for information on where each Member of Congress stands. And we're asking for that information to be reported back to the website noescalation.org.
The more Members of Congress take a clear stand against military escalation, the more likely President Obama is to reject McChrystal's request. Some Members of Congress are saying, "we're waiting to see what the President decides." But that nonsense is an obvious dodge. The time to affect the President's decision is obviously before he makes it, not afterwards. Of course some Members of Congress are going to avoid taking a position if they can. Our job is to smoke them out.
This article, by Paul Harris, was published in The Observer, September 27, 2009
At his home in Richmond, Virginia, Larry Syverson spends part of every day worrying there will be an unwanted knock on the door. Syverson's son, Branden, is an American soldier serving in Afghanistan, conducting dangerous patrols in an area infested with Taliban.
"I worry every day that I might hear someone come to the door unexpected. Just last week two of his best friends were killed over there," he said.
That's why Syverson, 60, an environmental engineer, is trying to organise a protest in Richmond against the war in Afghanistan for the second weekend in October, almost eight years after the conflict began.
He is a member of Military Families Speak Out, an anti-war group made up of relatives of military personnel that is preparing to turn its attentions from the conflict in Iraq to the one in Afghanistan. He has three sons in the military who together have served five tours in Iraq as well as Branden's stint in Afghanistan.
"I am extremely proud that they have chosen a military career. I just don't like the way that they are being used to fight these unnecessary wars," said Syverson.
That is a growing sentiment in America. As Barack Obama appears likely to increase America's already greatly enlarged troop commitment to the Afghan war, the war itself is becoming increasingly disliked.
The conflict used to be called America's "forgotten war". No longer. As casualties have spiked, so has hatred for the war: a solid 57% of Americans now oppose it. That has seen the anti-war movement in America prepare to turn its attentions from Iraq to Afghanistan, gearing up for an autumn campaign of marches and civil disobedience.
They hope to emulate the anti-Vietnam war protests, using highly visible public campaigns to force the hand of the White House to pull out of the country, not escalate the conflict.
The first major protest will happen next weekend, when anti-war protesters plan to arrange more than 500 empty pairs of boots on a grassy lawn right outside the White House. Each pair will represent an American soldier killed in the war.
Syverson knows that such a move is symbolic but he hopes its position so close to the centre of power will be effective, just like the old Vietnam war protesters who regularly thronged Washington's Mall in the 1960s.
"If Obama looks out of his window, he is going to see a symbol of over 500 soldiers who died in Afghanistan. He is going to know the public is waking up to this war. The honeymoon with Obama is over and the American people are not going to stand for it much longer." Syverson said.
One person who will be in Washington for the boots protest is Cindy Sheehan, perhaps the most famous single protester to emerge from the demonstrations against the Iraq war. Since her son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, Sheehan has become a bête noir to many conservatives and an outspoken rallying point for the anti-war movement. She was a one-woman force of nature who dominated the headlines when she camped outside the Texas ranch of President George W Bush.
Now she too is concentrating on opposing the war in Afghanistan. She has already kept a vigil outside Obama's summer holiday home on Martha's Vineyard and will be going to Washington next weekend. "It's unfortunate that it has taken eight years for the anti-war movement to focus on Afghanistan," she told the Observer. "We have to start to put a human face on what is happening over there."
Sheehan said that she and her fellow organisers would be gearing up for next year, which will feature midterm elections to Congress. She sees this autumn's events as being a preview of mass actions to come all the way through 2010.
"It is year of the midterm elections. I can't tell you what we are planning but it is going to be brilliant. There will be a lot of protests, a lot of civil disobedience," she said.
A broad coalition of anti-war groups is also already co-ordinating protests and demonstrations for the coming weeks, hoping to emulate the successes of the Vietnam protests in a way that the anti-Iraq war movement never pulled off. There will be vigils, memorials, teach-ins, demonstrations and marches. They will range in scale from a few individuals to events where thousands of people will be expected to turn up.
Groups involved include Military Families Speak Out, Win Without War, Code Pink, United For Peace and Justice and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"There will be hundreds of events all across the US," said Syverson. Some other groups, like US Labor Against the War, which represents 190 unions, which have been largely silent on Afghanistan compared to Iraq, have also announced they are now planning to start opposing the Afghan war too.
The movement is certainly tapping into a growing public mood of anger and discontent. For years, Afghanistan was seen as the "good war" as opposed to Iraq's "bad war". It had supposedly been won with relatively little loss of life, deposed a reviled government and been justified by the Taliban's open support of al-Qaida.
But now, there are more US casualties each day in Afghanistan than in Iraq, and American troop numbers will have risen dramatically to 68,000 by the end of the year. Indeed, Washington and the White House are consumed by speculation over whether Obama will accept a request from General Stanley McChrystal for yet more troops to be sent to the combat zone.
On American television screens, reports from Iraq have become rare. But news from Afghanistan – nearly all of it bad – has become common. Pictures of the carnage reach into every American living room and are frequently splashed across the front pages.
Now public sentiment has shifted firmly towards wanting American troops to pull out, a reversal of the once common opinion that Afghanistan had been a conflict worth fighting. As recently as April, a majority of Americans supported the war. Now only 43% do.
It has hit Obama's personal ratings too. When it comes to Afghan policy, his approval score has dropped 18 points from 67% to 49%. A handful of soldiers are also refusing to serve in Afghanistan. In Fort Hood, Texas, Iraq war veteran Victor Agosto was sentenced last month to 30 days in jail and his rank reduced to private after refusing to deploy there. He was the second Fort Hood soldier to do so.
But sustaining a meaningful opposition movement to the war in Afghanistan is not going to be easy. Much of the wind was taken out of the anti-war movement by the election of Obama, who, it is safe to say, the majority of protesters supported in the 2008 election.
Even Sheehan admits that taking the anti-war fight to the White House under Obama is not going to be a walk in the park, despite the fact that he is presiding over a massive escalation of the war. "It was super-easy to hate George Bush. It was also easy to embrace Obama. But both emotions are irrational when the policies remain the same. We have to make it about the policy, not the person," Sheehan said.
Yet so far, the Obama administration does not appear to have much fear of the doveish wing of the broad liberal coalition that put Obama into the White House. In America's two-party system of government, the Republican party offers an alternative on Afghanistan that is more hawkish, not less. Indeed Obama, who has championed the already massive increase in US troops there, has been criticised only for seeming to hesitate in agreeing to McChrystal's latest request for yet more troops. The request was included in a confidential assessment of the situation that concluded the entire mission would most likely result in failure without more soldiers.
"This is not the time for Hamlet in the White House," said Mitt Romney, one of the likely candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
Yet that criticism seems unfair. Though Obama is reportedly striving to reshape Afghan policy in the face of the worsening violence there and the fallout from an Afghan election widely regarded as deeply fraudulent, no one seriously expects America's troop commitment to the country to be radically cut. That means the anti-war movement too is gearing up for a long struggle and a war of attrition aiming to chip away at Obama's popularity.
It might work. After only a year in office, Obama's approval ratings have dipped across the board and the war in Afghanistan is increasingly seen as "Obama's war", not just the legacy of Bush and his neoconservative foreign policy. Indeed, Obama fought his election on a campaign promise of shifting the focus to Afghanistan away from Iraq.
"If Obama's decisions are seen as a continuation of Bush's, then Obama will lose the effect of his honeymoon period. You can already see that happening," said Mitch Hall, a history professor at Central Michigan University.
The irony of left wing, anti-war protesters campaigning against Obama is not lost on many of them, including Syverson, who voted for Obama, went to his rallies and campaigned for him.
"I feel really let down," he said. He is unlikely to be alone. But American history has shown repeatedly, especially with Vietnam, that political stripes at home often mean nothing abroad. After all, it was under the liberal Democrat presidents JFK and Lyndon Johnson that US involvement in Vietnam escalated and under conservative Republican Richard Nixon that America finally got out. Some prominent commentators have drawn other parallels with Vietnam, comparing McChrystal's troop increase request with those of General William Westmoreland, who demanded extra troops for the doomed fight in Vietnam. "In Vietnam and Afghanistan, as the situation worsened and public opinion began turning against the war, the commanding generals – Westmoreland and McChrystal – put in requests for thousands of extra troops," wrote San Francisco Chronicle columnist Joel Brinkley. Given that history, it seems perfectly possible that the deepening quagmire in Afghanistan might last for every year of Obama's time in office, even if he serves two terms.
For Syverson, though, Obama's policy on Afghanistan has already been enough to make him angrily tear off the Obama bumper sticker he had put on his car. "Hell, if I'd ever vote for him again," he said. As the anti-war protests unfold, Obama's presidency may end up being defined by how many Americans can be persuaded to take a similar view.
This announcement was posted to was originally posted to After Downing Street
Please try to attend the next "Army - Don't Go to Iraqistan" rally to be held this coming Saturday, Oct. 10 at West Point to address people arriving for the Army-Vanderbilt football game. Directions.
We will gather at 10:30 a.m. in Highland Falls by the clock at the southern most tip of the public park at Main Street and West Point Highway, just south of West Point's Thayer Gate. The rally will end at noon, kickoff time.
Eleven of us attended the rally there this last Saturday, and we found the experience very worthwhile.
We came to West Point because it is the nation’s top training center for young people entering Army leadership and because it is a way to reach out to people who are directly affected by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The photos below are graciously provided by Andy Courtney.
We all were very surprised at the numbers of people who gave us thumbs up, honked horns or showed other signs of approval.
For example, when we got into town we set up shop across from the park on the shoulder of the road. A man, who seemed to be from Highland Falls be cause he knew the name of the person in front of whose driveway we were standing, stopped his car and suggested that we move to the park because this would increase our visibility and would put us on public property, thus avoiding a complaint by the driveway owner, who, the motorist told us, could be quite contrary.
We did not receive this warmth at earlier anti-war protests at the same spot. We also got some of the customary signs of disapproval, but this was outweighed by the positive responses.
In addition, we found the Highland Falls police extremely cordial and agreeable to our presence in the park; they asked only if the park was where we intended to hold the rally. A police car stood by during the event, and at one point a man stopped to talk to the officer in the car, pointing at us. But nothing was said to us by the police beyond our initial encounter.
As we prepared to depart at noon, Chuck Bell suggested that we shout out Margaret Eberle’s name and then shout “Presente”, which we did three times; for although she has passed from us we felt her very much with us on Saturday and continue to do so.
This report/announcement was posted to After Downing street.org, October 3, 2009
Toby, Jimminywinks and I rolled up to 1126 Old Chain Bridge Road this afternoon (Friday). ... While this is a beautiful, green, rural area of McLean, Virginia, the Cheney house is rather ugly compared to the homes surrounding it. As we were walking toward the house we met a neighbor, a young woman walking her dog. She told us that Cheney was at the house, recuperating from back surgery. I don't know if that's actually the case, but it made our adventure much more exciting.
We took turns dressing up in a black and white striped prison suit and Cheney bobble-head, and holding a sign saying "Arrest Me for Torture". We had another sign saying "Arrest Cheney For Torture". We chalked the street in front of his house with "Torture is NEVER legal. Arrest Cheney."
Attached are some photos taken by the wonderful young woman who is Cheney's neighbor. She told us she'd probably join us on Sunday when we're back at Cheney's house. She was very supportive of us. In fact, most of the people who passed us in their cars gave us a thumbs up, waved, and one even clapped. But one gentleman, walking a very handsome dog, told us we were on private property and breaking the law. Toby said "Cheney broke the law by approving torture", but our antagonist insisted that our violation of the law of private property was by far the more serious crime.
After about an hour we decided to call it quits for the day, and as we were gathering our things and leaving I saw a car next to Cheney's house start down the driveway toward us. We got to our car and I looked back to see the other car stopped right in front of the chalked message, where it remained for about five minutes. It then started toward our car and stopped again. I couldn't tell for sure, but the driver was likely taking pictures of us and the car.
Yesterday I called the McLean, VA, police department to let them know I was going to vigil in front of Cheney's house. They said that wasn't their jurisdiction -- that I should talk to the U.S. Secret Service, so I called them next. I had several conversations with a man named Wiley, explaining who I was, giving my contact information, and what I planned to do. He asked me why I was going to Cheney's house and I told him that I want to call attention to the former Vice President's crimes, and that I want Cheney prosecuted for the torture carried out in my name. I assured him that I wasn't interested in harassing Cheney -- just that I want the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute Cheney.
We felt elated after being at Cheney's. Will this attention to Cheney make a difference? Will it help lead to his prosecution? I don't know what will accomplish that, but I'm going to be back this Sunday at noon and I hope to camp overnight. I want to invite you to join me there. Dogs and children are especially welcome to come. As added enticements, Ray McGovern and David Swanson may join us on Sunday, and refreshments will be provided. Click here for a map of Old Chain Bridge Road in McLean
This announcement, from Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, was published on the Veterans and Service Members Stand Up Against War and Racism website
October 7, 2009 marks the start of the ninth year of the invasion of Afghanistan. On that day, there will be anti-war actions in cities and towns throughout the country. There will also be anti-war actions on Monday, October 5, and Saturday October 17.
Many national and local anti-war organizations are initiating these actions. The ANSWER Coalition is either initiating or endorsing and supporting all of these actions.
The war and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq are both colonial-type wars. Bush used the “War on Terror” as a pretext for the escalation of imperialist intervention. Bush is gone but the brutal occupations continue.
Now, eight long years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. and its NATO allies are vastly expanding the war, doubling the numbers of troops. Casualties on both sides are soaring. Resistance to foreign occupation is growing rapidly inside Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan. The war is a disaster for the peoples of those countries, just as are the occupations of Iraq and Palestine. It is also growing disaster for the people here — not only the soldiers and their families, but the tens of millions of people suffering from the economic crisis.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost more than $14 billion per month, $160 billion every year, nearly $1,000,000,000,000 ($1 trillion!) since the start. At the same time, we are told by the politicians — who never say no to the military-industrial complex and have given away more than $10 trillion to the big banks — that there’s no money for single-payer health care. They have proven that the money is there. The problem is that the politicians are dedicated to protecting the interests of the military and health insurance corporations, not of the people.
The ANSWER Coalition is calling for people across the country — in cities, towns and campuses — to take action on Wednesday, October 7, 2009, and at all the planned actions between October 5 and October 17 to demand an end to all the wars and occupations, and health care for all. We urge you to organize a rally, picket, teach-in or some other kind of activity that day.
A list of all the anti-war actions in October will be posted within the next week on the ANSWER Coalition website at www.ANSWERCoalition.org.
By clicking this link, you can let us know what you are planning and we’ll add it to the national calendar.
This announcement was posted to the Veterans for Peace website, October 1, 2009
October 7 marks the 8th year of the war on Afghanistan. Join Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Military Families Speak Out as we continue to resist this ongoing war and occupation. Because of his increase of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, this is becoming President Obama's war and we must hold him accountable, however we must never forget that citizen money and citizen silence allows the war in Afghanistan to continue. Veterans For Peace encourages each chapter to hold local events to actively resist this war and occupation. VFP has been on the leading edge of those pressuring Obama to end this war - HELP US KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!
October 7th Local Actions on the Anniversary of the Afghanistan Invasion
This week the New York Times said the "Antiwar Movement Plans an Autumn Campaign Against Policies on Afghanistan." They are damn right!
They also said, "United for Peace and Justice are also planning smaller events in communities around the country, including teach-ins with veterans and families of deployed troops, lobbying sessions with members of Congress, film screenings and ad hoc memorials featuring the boots of deceased soldiers and Marines."
And that's exactly what we hope that your group is doing! Our goal is to have events in every community possible around the anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan (October 7th). Check out our organizing tips below and then list your event on UFPJ's website!
Possible Afghanistan Anniversary events on October 7th:
Host a "Peace for Afghanistan House Party." Peace Action is providing easy step-by-step tips and materials to organize your house party.
Organize a film showing of Robert Greenwald's new film series Rethink Afghanistan. Find out how to get the Rethink Afghanistan DVD and organize a film showing.
August was the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the start of the war in 2001. Now, General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has delivered a report which says the war is winnable if more troops are sent. But President Obama faces a tough political decision if he again increases troop levels.
Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and conservative columnist George Will both came out within the past week for winding down the war. The Administration's decision whether to further increase troop levels will be hotly debated during September and October. These are the months when the peace movement must raise our voice, increasing the political cost of escalation to the breaking point.