This is an excellent film. Talk about an untold story! "Sir! No Sir!" reveals the massive military resistance to the Vietnam War - the peace movement within the military. It's an excellently made film - gripping, powerful and revelatory. Don't miss it.
I want to highlight a few bits that were particularly striking to me.
Googling, I found a book on the subject, Protest and Survive: Underground GI Newspapers during the Vietnam War, out of print, but perhaps I can find it used.
Writing or distributing these newspapers was a court-martial offence, and people served serious prison time for it.
The Army was used to violently put down riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to attack peaceful protestors at the Pentagon. African-American soldiers rebelled and organized against this. When troops were called in to bash heads at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Black troops were held back.
A generation earlier, African-American soldiers' experience in World War II gave rise to the civil rights movement, as returning men questioned why they fought for something in Europe that they didn't enjoy at home. Now their sons and daughters were advancing that fight.
It was similarly thrilling to see and remember that powerful symbol of defiance and solidarity: the raised fist.
Right around this time, the US started to bomb Cambodia. One former soldier says, "Many of us were convinced that Nixon had to go to an air war because he couldn't trust us on the ground. And for good reason - we were shooting his officers and refusing to go into direct combat whenever we could."
When the US war against Vietnam changed from primarily a ground campaign to primarily an air campaign, military resistance surfaced in the air force and navy.
Paralyzed Vietnam Veterans have been at the forefront of the independent living movement (and the wheelchair sports movement) for decades. Many of those veterans, however, cling to their beliefs about why they are paralyzed: they were serving their country, they were fighting for freedom, the US are the good guys. Kovic and many other paralyzed veterans knew that their sacrifice was unnecessary, and completely preventable, as were the deaths of 58,000 Americans and probably 1,000,000 Vietnamese.
Kovic is still active in the peace movement. He is a living connection between military resistance to war and a movement which demands equality and justice for all living people.
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"Sir! No Sir!" stirred all my intensely negative feelings about the nation of my birth and the many evils it has perpetrated. But I wept in admiration and awe of people's courage and strength and determination to do the right thing.
We haven't watched all the DVD extras yet - which total a longer running time than the film! - but we did see one. There is a short piece on Camilo Mejia, an Iraq War resister who was court-martialed, sent to prison, and given a dishonourable discharge. Standing next to Mejia was his lawyer, who we recognized from "Sir! No Sir!" as Louis Font. Font graduated from West Point Military Academy; the Army was sending him to the Harvard School of Government when he himself became a military resister.
The fight continues.