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Sunday, April 01, 2007


Sir, No Sir! Yes!

A few months ago when I reviewed Winter Soldier, about the "hearings" held by antiwar soldiers about atrocities in Vietnam, a number of readers recommended the film Sir, No Sir! which is a broader (and newer) film about the entire GI resistance movement against the war. I missed the local showings at antiwar groups at the time, but finally got around to seeing it (the movie only, not the nearly one hour of extras!) last night on DVD. What a great film, both inspiring and truly amazing, to see at least some of the extent of something I certainly knew about, but most definitely didn't have an appreciation for its breadth. More than 300 GI-written underground newspapers, a huge "citizens vote" movement in San Diego against sending a particular warship back to Vietnam, thousands of soldiers in stockades in Vietnam and San Francisco and elsewhere, antiwar marches featuring not a few or a few dozen but thousands of GIs - those are just some of the examples which come to mind.

Two disjointed points to make. First, let me just republish here something I wrote recently on another forum, but which was reinforced all the more by seeing the power of the antiwar movement shown in Sir, No Sir!

Let me just add one note from Daniel Ellsberg, who spoke in San Francisco. There's a lot of nostalgia for the "good old days of the anti Vietnam War movement," and how everything was all peachy, and large "democratic" meetings which decided on the next mobilization, and joint mobilizations, etc. etc. What seems to have been forgotten, and what Ellsberg reminded us in SF, is that it took ten years of antiwar marches and actions to stop the war in Vietnam. So any idea that somehow the left had the "right strategy" back then. and that it would have succeeded now in stopping the war in Iraq if not for the division between ANSWER and UfPJ, is just historical revisionism.

We are fighting a powerful, determined ruling class with a lot at stake. Any idea that there is some magic bullet and quick solution to any problem, be it the war in Iraq or anything else, is illusory. It will take a long-term struggle on many fronts to make progress.
Another thought stimulated by this movie was about Jane Fonda, and about supporting the troops. The right-wing focuses on Fonda, and because they labeled her "Hanoi Jane" because of her trip to Hanoi, there's a tendency to think that was the reason she was so hated. I don't think so. The reason Jane Fonda was so dangerous was because the entire focus of her antiwar work was with the antiwar GIs, which was the ultimate danger (and, some would argue, the ultimate straw that broke the camel's back) to the warmongers. And if you watch Fonda in this film, at performances of her "FTA ('Free' the Army)" troupe before thousands of GIs, what you can see is someone who really supported the troops, in the sense of giving them the kind of support - emotional and political - that they really needed.

See this movie.

And, if you have a copy of Holly Near's 1973 album "Hang In There" available, go listen again to some of her great songs of the time, like "GI Movement," "No More Genocide," and the eponymous "Hang in There." Moving, powerful stuff. Maybe if I get a moment I'll digitize them and put them online where they belong.

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