GI Special: firstname.lastname@example.org 10.13.08 Print it out: color best. Pass it on.
GI SPECIAL 6J12:
“We Were Like Sitting
“The Taliban Fire Was So
Intense That The Troops Behind
The Building Could Not Peer
Around The Side To Return
[Chronicle Of A Disaster]
October 13, 2008 By Sean D. Naylor, Army Times [Excerpts]
As dawn broke, the small convoy paused on a hill overlooking a valley and the village of
Wanting to make their peaceful intentions clear, the U.S. and Afghan troops had
driven the 15 kilometers from their firebase with their headlights on, making no
attempt to disguise their approach. [See first two boldface below. The events
previous to this approach described in the first two boldface below could be
Among the heroes of that Nov. 2, 2007, battle was Sgt. 1st Class Drew Kimmey. On
Sept. 25, his actions at Sarsina were recognized in a Fort Bragg, N.C., ceremony in
which he became the first active-duty civil affairs soldier to receive the Silver Star.
Kimmey was part of a roughly 100-strong allied force that descended on Sarsina.
Riding in 14 vehicles, that force included two Special Forces A-teams, Kimmey’s civil
affairs team, 40 or 50 Afghan National Army (ANA) troops with half-a-dozen U.S. Army
embedded tactical trainers (ETTs), about 20 Afghan National Police officers, a
psychological operations team and two civilian canine teams.
Sarsina, in the Oruzgan province, is only about three kilometers long and home to about
500 people. But through it runs the only road to a major Taliban training and recruitment
sanctuary a few kilometers to the north.
 This likely explained the fact that Kimmey’s team, Civil Affairs Team-Alpha 745,
had been attacked on each of its two previous visits to the village.
“By shutting us off at Sarsina they’re keeping out of their safe haven,” Kimmey said in a
Sept. 23 telephone interview.
 “We hadn’t had an opportunity to talk to anybody in that village prior because
we were engaged,” said Capt. Stephen Ward, Kimmey’s team leader.
One of the Special Forces A-teams, Operational Detachment Alpha 3214, set up a
blocking and overwatch position with an ANA squad and three ETTs just south of the
village. Meanwhile, the other A-team, ODA 3212, began clearing the village from north
to south while the civil affairs team and the SF battalion physician’s assistant talked to
villagers and provided medical assistance.
But it soon became clear that all was not right.
The troops found only three families in the village. Every other home was abandoned,
with buildings locked and their entrances barricaded.
“It looked more and more like it wasn’t people locking their stuff to protect it from looting,
but more (like) the village was converted into a defensible position by the Taliban,” Ward
said. [Do you suppose this could have been another clue?]
The few villagers remaining told the coalition troops that as soon as the Taliban had
seen them approaching, “they came in and told all of the residents to get out of the town,
and there was going to be a fight,” Kimmey said.
But there was no sign of the enemy. Yet. [The previous attacks, the conversion of
the town into a fighting position, and the reports of townspeople are, of course,
examples of “no sign of the enemy.”]
“For three or four hours we were joking among our team like, ‘I wonder how long before
we get shot at,’” Ward said. “‘How long are we going to get away with talking to people
and walking around here?’ “
The answer came after five hours in Sarsina, as the coalition force was getting ready to
A massive barrage shook the valley as automatic weapons and rocket-propelled
grenade fire erupted from windows, behind vegetation, prepared fighting positions and
drainage ditches that doubled as trenches.
About 300 Taliban had caught the coalition troops in a close-range L-shaped
ambush. [And since they were equipped with cloaks of invisibility, the scouting
parties sent out by the U.S. officer in command could not possibly have found
them at “close range” during the “five hours” the U.S. troops were in the ville --
doing what exactly with the “few villagers”?]
Two soldiers were killed instantly: Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Walls, an ETT from 1st Brigade,
1st Infantry Division, and one of the ANA soldiers. The shock of those losses and the
heavy volume of fire caused the Afghan troops to hunker down behind one of the
buildings for the duration of the fight.
An RPG disabled an ETT truck. When 3212’s team sergeant moved his ground mobility
vehicle (an upgraded Humvee used by Special Forces) forward to recover the ETT
vehicle, it was hit by an RPG and its gunner was wounded by a shot through the cheek.
The driver pulled the GMV to the rear, leaving the 3212’s team leader, Capt. Lavern
Theis, the ground force commander for the mission, stranded behind a building with
about 20 ANA troops and the two bodies.
“The intent wasn’t to leave anybody forward, it was just that due to the volume of fire
Capt. Theis wasn’t able to move back with them, he kind of got pinned down with the
body,” Ward said.
Theis soon radioed that his position was in danger of being overrun.
“By the tone in Capt. Theis’ voice you could tell that he was in a lot of trouble,” Ward
Ward ordered his vehicle forward, quickly traversing the 400 meters to Theis’ position.
But just 10 meters short of their destination, the CA team’s GMV ran into a hidden ditch
at 40 mph. Ward and Staff Sgt. Carlo Alcazar each blacked out for about 10 seconds.
Alcazar’s first thoughts upon regaining consciousness were, “Oh crap, we’re still here.”
“We were like sitting ducks,” Alcazar said.
Ward escorted the battalion physician’s assistant and the team’s interpreter from the
back of the truck to the building behind which Theis and the ANA fighters were
sheltering. After collecting and reloading the spilled .50 cal rounds for the GMV’s turret
gun, Alcazar, who would receive a Bronze Star with “V” device, also sought shelter
That left Kimmey manning the .50 cal in the turret, essentially alone in holding back
more than 100 Taliban.
“Our truck was just getting absolutely riddled with bullet holes,” said Ward, who also
received a Bronze Star with “V” device. “Sgt. Kimmey’s position was taking the brunt of
the direct fire, to the point where you just feel helpless, because you just know that if he
leaves that weapon system or something happens to him, that there’s a good chance
we’ll get overrun.”
The Taliban fire was so intense that the troops behind the building could not peer around
the side to return fire.
“It was the loudest sustained roar that I’ve ever heard, over any air show or any rock
concert I’d ever been to,” Ward said.
Soon Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles and A-10 Thunderbolts were providing close air
support at “danger close” ranges.
“The debris came flying over our head,” Ward said. “It just feels like your whole body’s
getting shaken apart, you’re standing inside a big bass drum.”
ODA 3214 and most of the force that had been positioned to the south of the village
fought their way up to the embattled civil affairs team. After loading the bodies, they
quickly hooked the civil affairs truck to 3214’s GMV and began towing it south. By now it
was at least 4 p.m.
But about 350 meters to the south, the vehicles ran into another ditch, breaking off the
CA vehicle’s front right wheel. “Now the vehicle is completely disabled,” Ward said.
The U.S. troops quickly removed the sensitive items from the civil affairs truck, while
Kimmey continued to pour fire from the .50 cal, which had heat waves rising from its
Then he disabled the gun and the friendly force abandoned the vehicle, those who had
been riding in it now running alongside 3214’s GMV until they reached two other trucks
that had been providing supporting fire.
Those on foot boarded the trucks and the coalition force retreated south, behind a
landmass known as “Cemetery Hill,” beyond the Taliban’s effective fire range. But by
now it was almost dark and the Taliban threat had evaporated. “Once the sun went
down, they were done for the day,” Ward said.
By midnight the troops were back at the firebase. In addition to the two killed in action
and the gunner shot through the cheek, eight U.S. and four Afghan soldiers suffered
minor wounds, Ward said. He estimated that 150 Taliban were killed.
IRAQ WAR REPORTS
Ky. Army Ranger, 27, Dies In Iraq While
Patrick Rudd, 27: Associated Press
10/8/08 MADISONVILLE, Ky. (AP)
The father of a western Kentucky soldier killed in Iraq says the Madisonville community
is “filling me up with love and prayers” since learning of his 27-year-old son’s death.
Sgt. William P. Rudd died Sunday after being hit by enemy small-arms fire while on
combat patrol in Mosul, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
Rudd was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga.
“The community is filling me up with love and prayers,” the soldier’s father, Bill Rudd of
Madisonville, told The Messenger newspaper of Madisonville. “They support what
Patrick did for our cause, so we wouldn’t have terrorists back over here.”
Patrick Rudd is believed to be the first Hopkins County native killed in Iraq.
He graduated from Madisonville-North Hopkins High School in 1999, then went to work
on the assembly line at White Hydraulics in Hopkinsville.
Patrick Rudd had previously been deployed twice to Afghanistan and five times to Iraq.
He joined the Army on Oct. 2, 2003.
“He had spent two years thinking about it, knowing that he needed a different direction in
his life and wanting to defend our country.”
Patrick Rudd served with the Army Rangers, which are elite special operations troops.
“He didn’t join for himself,” Bill Rudd said. “You might say he joined for everyone else
Patrick Rudd was a decorated soldier, receiving the Joint Service Commendation Medal,
the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf
clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and many
He is expected to posthumously receive the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal and
the Meritorious Service Medal.
Bill Rudd last saw his son four months ago when he visited Fort Benning, Ga., where
Patrick was stationed.
Other survivors include Patrick Rudd’s mother, Pamela Coakley of Nortonville; his
stepmother, Barbara Rudd of Madisonville; and a sister and brother.
The family is waiting to hear when the body will be returned to the United States before
making funeral arrangements
A Small Taste Of Things To Come;
“Mahdi Army Militiamen Fought With
U.S. And Iraqi Soldiers”
10.10.08 Los Angeles Times
Clashes between Mahdi Army militants and U.S. and Iraqi troops erupted in east
Baghdad after accusations that Washington orchestrated the assassination of a popular
An official at Iraq’s Interior Ministry said Mahdi Army militiamen fought with U.S. and
Iraqi soldiers in the sprawling Sadr City district after mosques broadcast accusations that
coalition forces were behind a bombing hours earlier that killed nationalist lawmaker
Explosions and gunfire could be heard in adjacent neighborhoods.
UNREMITTING HELL ON EARTH;
ALL HOME NOW
U.S. soldiers try to extinguish an American armoured vehicle at Al Canal street, near
Sadr city, Baghdad, Iraq, after a roadside bomb exploded next to a US military convoy,
May 26, 2008, police said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
AFGHANISTAN WAR REPORTS
A Brilliant New Pentagon Plan
To Assure Resistance Will Kill
More U.S. Troops & Defeat U.S.
Replacing AK47s With M16s:
“With The AK47, It’s Dump Some
Diesel Down The Barrel And Shake It
Pvt. Mohamad Adil Says “The AK Was
Good To Clean. This One Is Difficult”
October 13, 2008 By Michelle Tan, Army Times [Excerpts]
QALAT, Afghanistan — The Afghan National Army is ditching its AK47s in favor of the
M16 rifle as part of a force modernization effort that will change not only how the soldiers
handle their weapons but possibly how they fight.
“These guys have been firing the same guns their whole lives, and now we’re asking
them to change,” said Maj. Oliver Rose, an operations mentor for the Headquarters
Security and Support Brigade’s Delta Kandak, or battalion, in Kabul.
“It’s going to be different for a culture that has been using Warsaw Pact weapons for the
last 30-some years to go to more refined NATO weapons,” he said, adding that along
with a new weapon, the Afghan soldiers will have to learn precision shooting instead of
just laying down as much ammunition as possible with the less-accurate AK47.
They also will have to learn how to clean and maintain the M16, which requires
more maintenance than the hardy AK47.
“With the AK47, it’s dump some diesel down the barrel and shake it clean,” Rose
said as he observed one of his noncommissioned officers train a group of Afghan
NCOs on the basics of the M16 in Darulaman, southwest of Kabul.
The Afghan leadership asked for the switch to the M16, said Col. Bo Dyess, chief of the
force integration division in the CJ-7 for Combined Security Transition Command-
Pvt. Mohamad Adil, of 5th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps, in Qalat, northeast of
Kandahar, received his M16 about four months ago.
He said through an interpreter that he has fired the weapon on the range but not in
“When I start fighting, I’ll know,” said Adil, who had pink tissue stuffed in the muzzle of
When asked about the tissue, Adil said it was there to keep out the dust.
“The AK was good to clean,” he said. “This one is difficult.”
Sgt. Faizullrahman, also from 5th Kandak, agreed with Adil.
“Before, with the Russian weapon, the AK47, it was very good on the battlefield,
even if there was dirt,” he said. “With this, I don’t know if it’ll work with the dirt.”
Fellow soldier Pvt. Mirwayes said sometimes the kandak will go on days-long missions.
“The only problem we have with this weapon is you’re supposed to keep it clean,”
he said. “Sometimes we go on missions where we don’t have time to keep it
Capt. Ernest Harrell, the S-2 and S-3 mentor for 5th Kandak, said the soldiers generally
are proud of their M16s because they feel like they had to earn the right to carry it.
But they have not tested the M16 for themselves on the battlefield, he said.
“That’s the biggest thing about the AK that they like,” Harrell said.
“They know it will work in combat, so they’re very suspicious of the M16.”
Stop Loss Regs
October 13, 2008 By Rick Maze, Army Times [Excerpt]
The skinny on stop-loss:
Stop-loss and stop-move policies that bar the reassignment, voluntary separation and
retirement of soldiers in deployed and mobilized units have been in effect since
November 2002 for reservists and June 2004 for active-duty soldiers.
Here are highlights of the program:
• Stop-loss and stop-move policies will remain in effect until lifted by the secretary of
defense and the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.
• Restrictions under the active-component unit program take effect 90 days before the
earliest theater arrival date specified in deployment orders issued by the Joint Chiefs of
The restrictions continue through a unit’s deployment to home station, plus a
stabilization period of no more than 90 days.
Now soldiers may request to leave service before the end of the 90 days.
• The active-component restrictions apply to all soldiers in units that are alerted to deploy
in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Included are deployable and nondeployable soldiers assigned to a unit’s rear
• National Guard and Army Reserve restrictions apply to all reserve call-ups for the war
on terrorism (including homeland defense) and Central Command operations. They
apply to mobilized units and all their soldiers, regardless of specialty.
Soldiers are placed in stop-loss status when the unit is alerted for mobilization and until
90 days after demobilization.
• Soldiers who are subject to stop-move will not leave the area of operations for
reassignment or to attend military schools unless approved by a three- or four-star
Exceptions are soldiers on orders to recruiting or drill sergeant duties; to officer-
producing schools, such as Officer Candidate School; to special operations accessions
courses; and to Army Medical Department schools.
• Soldiers who were affected by previous stop-loss programs, such as the all-component
skill-based program, are subject to restrictions of the current unit-based programs.
• Deployed active-duty soldiers who are qualified for re-enlistment may re-up for any
option. If the re-enlistment requires a move, the move will be delayed until 90 days after
• Soldiers who are under stop-loss and stop-move restrictions remain eligible for
promotion and service school selection.
• Officers who are twice passed over for promotion and who decline selective
continuation are subject to stop-loss restrictions.
Officers who are passed over for promotion and selective continuation will be separated.
“I Turned Against The War In
Afghanistan When I Found Out I
Was Being Used As A Tool For
Someone Else’s Economic Gain”
“The Things Soldiers Do, The Things
They Have To Do, Are Not The Fault
Of Individuals Or Bad Apples”
“It’s The Occupation Itself That’s To
October 8, 2008 By Brian Lenzo and Tristan Brosnan; Socialist Worker Courtney
Cenname and Chelsea Miller contributed to this article. [Excerpts].
ACTIVISTS ARE taking the testimonies of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans on the
road with a series of “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan” events in several cities.
Inspired by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) hearings held in Maryland earlier
this year, the Northeast Winter Soldier turned out more than 200 people at Monroe
Community College (MCC) in Rochester, N.Y., on October 4.
The main event of the day featured IVAW members who talked about their experiences
and the lessons they have drawn from participating in our government’s wars. IVAW
board of directors member Adrienne Kinne, the MC of the day, opened the session with
Rochester IVAW member Tim Braley, who silenced the crowd with his description of
combat conditions in the middle of a densely populated Iraqi city.
Chris Grohs, a former medic with the 82nd Airborne Infantry, spoke of the horrors he
witnessed in Iraq.
“The things soldiers do, the things they have to do, are not the fault of individuals or bad
apples,” Geoff Millard of Washington, D.C., told the crowd, to thunderous applause.
“It’s the occupation itself that’s to blame.”
Geoff [Miller] also described the state of veterans’ health care, saying, “The military
medical system isn’t there to heal us, they’re there to get us well enough to fight their
Robynn Murray of Buffalo, N.Y., gave compelling testimony about her experience as a
young woman who was supposedly deployed as Civilian Affairs, but ended up a
machine gunner in Iraq. Bringing the audience to tears, she talked about her anguished
decision to refuse to fire in a civilian-populated area, despite being under fire herself.
The panel ended with IVAW regional coordinator and Rochester chapter president Bryan
Casler, who explained the indoctrination soldiers are subjected to, and the dehumanizing
behavior that is encouraged daily.
Following Casler’s testimony, the crowd stood up from their chairs and chanted “What do
we want? Troops home! When do we want it? NOW!” IVAW members led the crowd out
of the auditorium on a march to a local Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic, which is closed
on weekends due to limited funds.
Protesters marched back to MCC, at one point taking over five lanes of traffic on a
major roadway, with motorists honking in support, some even waving out of their
cars and slapping hands with protesters as they swarmed through traffic.
More than 15 local groups joined together to organize and staff the event. The
combination of amazing guest speakers, powerful and moving testimony from IVAW
members and the participation and energy of the crowd was a glimpse of what our
movement could be like.
IN AMHERST, Mass., over 100 community members and students gathered on October
1 for a Winter Soldier event at the University of Massachusetts (UMass).
The event was organized by the Western Massachusetts chapter of IVAW and the
Pioneer Valley Antiwar Coalition, and was co-sponsored by numerous local groups,
including the Western Massachusetts chapter of CAN, the Northampton Committee to
Stop the War, the ISO and the GI Rights Hotline.
Ted Goodnight, an IVAW member who served in the National Guard for 15 years,
talked about his experience in Afghanistan. “I turned against the war in
Afghanistan when I found out I was being used as a tool for someone else’s
economic gain,” he said.
In 2005, Goodnight was sent to Mississippi as part of a humanitarian aid mission
in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“Instead of doing humanitarian aid work, we were marching up and down the
streets with loaded rifles and shotguns, supposedly to prevent looting in rural
Iraq Veterans Against The War
Organizing In Portland, Oregon:
“Panelists Will Discuss The True Costs
Of War, And What We Can Do Here At
Home To Support Our Veterans, Work In
Solidarity With The Iraqi And Afghan
People And End The War”
[Thanks to Mark Shapiro, Military Project, who sent this in.]
October 13, 2008 by Mike Francis, The Oregonian [Excerpts]
Winter Soldier Northwest:
Saturday, Oct. 18 in Portland 12:00-5:00PM
Where: First Unitarian Church 1011 SW 12th Street (at
Main), Portland Oregon
Cost: $5-10 sliding scale, no one turned away.
Portland-- PDX Peace coalition today announced a full line-up of expert speakers for
Winter Solider Northwest: Eyewitness Accounts of War.
The forum will feature eyewitness accounts of the realities of war from soldiers, their
families, Iraqi refugees, and Afghan-Americans. Panelists will discuss the true costs of
war, and what we can do here at home to support our veterans, work in solidarity with
the Iraqi and Afghan people and end the war.
Voices of Veterans From Iraq & Afghanistan
Camilo Mejia, a National Guard staff sergeant who after fighting for five months in
Iraq, became the first combat soldier to refuse to go back to Iraq. He now serves
as Chair of the Board of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and is the author of
Road from ar Ramadi.
Jan Critchfield, a specialist with the Army National Guard who served as an army
“journalist” while attached to the 1st Cavalry in Baghdad during 2004. His
unspoken job in Iraq was to “counter the liberal media bias” about the occupation.
Member of IVAW Seattle.
Joseph Holness, served in the US Army in Iraq and with the US Air Force
Reserves supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, from Gresham, Oregon.
Evan Knappenberger, served one year in Iraq with the Army 4th Infantry Division
working as an intelligence analyst; held one week long “Tower Guard Vigils” in
Bellingham, WA and Washington, DC to call attention to the STOP-LOSS policy.
Seth Manzel, an Army sergeant who served as a vehicle commander and machine
gunner in Iraq. Member of IVAW Seattle.
Adriana Moyola, US Army war resister from Portland and IVAW member.
Chanan Suarezdiaz, a Navy hospital corpsman and purple heart recipient who
served in Ramadi from September 2004 to February 2005 with a weapons
company. He is now the Seattle Chapter president of IVAW.
Michael William, Army National Guardsmen who went AWOL, IVAW Northwest
Iraq War Veterans On Building An Oregon IVAW Chapter:
Leah Bolger, Veterans for Peace Chapter 132 from Corvallis, on the statewide effort to
keep Oregon’s National Guard in Oregon.
Gerry Condon on linking with the Canadian War Resisters Campaign.
Daniel Shea, Veterans for Peace Chapter 72 on the PDX Peace campaign to make
Portland a Sanctuary City for War Resisters.
Sponsored by: PDX Peace Coalition, Iraq Veterans Against the War(IVAW) Seattle
Chapter, Veterans for Peace Chapter 72, Military Families Speak Out Oregon, American
Friends Service Committee, American Iranian Friendship Council, Code Pink Portland,
International Socialist Organization (ISO) Portland Chapter, KBOO Community Radio
90.7 FM, MoveOn Portland, Peace Memorial Park Foundation of Portland, People of
Faith for Peace, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, Recruiter Watch PDX, Unitarian
Universalist Service Committee, Vancouver for Peace, War Resisters League Portland
DO YOU HAVE A FRIEND OR RELATIVE IN THE
Forward GI Special along, or send us the address if you wish and we’ll
send it regularly. Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is
extra important for your service friend, too often cut off from access to
encouraging news of growing resistance to the wars, inside the armed
services and at home. Send email requests to address up top or write to:
The Military Project, Box 126, 2576 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10025-5657.
IRAQ RESISTANCE ROUNDUP
Oct 13 (KUNA) & Reuters & By Robert H. Reid, Associated Press
A roadside bomb wounded three policemen when it exploded near a police patrol in
Qahira district of northern Baghdad, police said.
Police sources told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that an explosive device was planted
on the side of the road when a police patrol passed by an oil institution in Al-Shaab
neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. The attack injured three members of the police
patrol who were transferred to the Al-Kendi hospital to receive medical care, sources
Two Iraqi soldiers were killed by a sniper in Mansour district of west-central Baghdad,
Major-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for Baghdad security operations, told
Two Iraqi soldiers were killed by snipers in separate attacks in the capital's Yarmouk
district, police said.
A roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army patrol and wounded an army major near the town of
Sulaiman Pek, 160 km (100 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said.
Five policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in
the New Baghdad district of eastern Baghdad, police said.
A car bomb killed two prison security guards on Sunday in western Mosul. Two other
guards were also wounded, police said.
Attackers stormed the house of a policeman and killed him on Sunday in Mosul, police
IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE RESISTANCE
END THE OCCUPATIONS
Documentary Film Promotes War
Resistance Inside The Military:
“There Was Not One Ounce Of Regret
From Those Who Came Forward And
Talked About Their Experiences”
“Their Stories Had Been Suppressed
Before, So They Were Glad To Share
Their Stories In The Film”
October 13, 2008 Interview with David Zeiger, Sir No Sir, by Kathy Sanborn
Kathy Sanborn is an author, journalist, and recording artist with a new CD, Peaceful
Sounds. Listen to clips and buy the album at http://cdbaby.com/cd/kathysanborn.
The exorbitant cost of war has contributed substantially to the country’s current
financial woes. The Iraq War costs about $700 million per day, or about $11 billion
per month, depending on whose estimates you accept.
The US Senate Joint Economic Committee estimates that the total cost of the Iraq War
will be $2.8 trillion through the year 2017, assuming a gradual drawdown to 55,000
Obviously, there exists no plan to end the Iraq occupation any time soon.
There is one filmmaker who has done much to educate military personnel and civilians
alike about war resistance in the 1960s and how it impacts the war resistance of the 21st
That man is David Zeiger.
Zeiger’s renowned documentary film, Sir! No Sir!, has even more relevance today
than when it was released in 2005 to rave reviews.
He wrote, produced, and directed the film, which includes such luminaries of the
Vietnam War period as then-activists Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. Sir! No
Sir! was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2005 Independent Spirit Awards,
and it’s easy to see why: Zeiger focuses on the heretofore little-known story of the
GI Movement, or the Vietnam War resistance inside the military.
Recently I had the chance to chat with Zeiger about Sir! No Sir! and its critical role
in fomenting modern war resistance among our military embroiled in Iraq and
Sanborn: Sir! No Sir! has become increasingly relevant to the growing resistance of our
troops today. What prompted you to make the film?
DZ: I started work on the film in 2003, during the buildup to the war.
I was involved with the GI Movement in the 60s, which history had pretty much
The myth that Vietnam vets were spat on when they came home was pervasive. I
wanted to tell the story of the GI Movement, and the story became relevant and current
over time. It was more a matter of setting the record straight, and it became a part of the
panorama of Vietnam stories.
Initially, I did not feel that Sir! No Sir! would create much of a spark or impetus to the
new anti-war movement growing within the active duty troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The film has played a big role in helping resistance to happen.
I started to distribute DVDs to the troops for free and the result has gone way
beyond my expectations.
Sanborn: One of the men you dedicate your film to was Jeff Sharlet, war resistance
leader and founder of Vietnam GI. He passed away at the age of 27 from Agent Orange
How was Sharlet so effective in distributing his underground paper, Vietnam GI?
DZ: I didn’t know Jeff. I began working in the GI Movement after he died. He had
passion and the intimate understanding of the experience inside the military. He
understood that intimate connection between the resistance going on in the military and
the opposition to the war occurring in the United States.
His publication, Vietnam GI, grew in an organic way and traveled virally through the
military, much as it would have done on the Internet today.
Sanborn: The members of the Military Project, an organization that links civilians with
active duty service members who resist the war, tell me that 50% or more of the soldiers
on the ground are against the war in Iraq, in large part probably thanks to your efforts.
What were those numbers back in the Vietnam days?
Were they even higher?
DZ: In 1971, the Pentagon commissioned a survey of all the enlisted and drafted troops,
and found that 52% of them had engaged in some form of protest against the war. Their
definition of “Protest” would range from wearing a peace sign on your helmet to more
vigorous forms of protest.
The year 1971 was the peak year for the active GI Movement.
Open opposition to the war was common, and in May of that year soldiers demonstrated
in US bases against the Vietnam War.
Sanborn: Incidents of fragging were fairly common in Vietnam, I believe. To your
knowledge, have there been similar episodes in the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations?
DZ: I’m not aware of that.
Sanborn: Jane Fonda had quite a reputation in the 60s; some called her a traitor, and
said she put our military at risk by her anti-war statements. How did the active duty
troops really see her: as a hero or traitor? To this day, how does she see the role she
played in the anti-war movement?
DZ: Jane Fonda was wildly popular with the military in the 60s, both as an actress
In 1971, she toured bases in the US and the Pacific Rim to audiences of sixty
The idea of Jane Fonda as a “traitor,” etc., did not even exist until the late 70s.
After the war was over and the POWs came home, the story was pushed by some right
wing individuals to reshape what had happened. Myths like “people turned their backs
on the soldiers,” were put out there for public consumption, but they just weren’t
With one exception, the anti-aircraft photo taken in North Vietnam, Jane completely
supports what she did, and is proud of it.
Sanborn: It seems that, because Vietnam could be thought of as ancient history to
some, our young servicemen and women don’t have the benefit of knowing the true
reasons we go to war.
For instance, the drumbeat for the Iraq war was all about “spreading freedom and
democracy to the Iraqi people,” but we know now that probably a million Iraqi civilians
have been killed since the onset of the occupation – hardly a freedom-building result for
Based on your research, was the propaganda for war in Vietnam based on any real
threat, or was it just a moneymaking exercise – business as usual – for the military-
DZ: It depends on what you mean by “threat.”
The United States at that time was concerned with preventing national liberation
movements around the world. Vietnam was on the verge of establishing an independent
Vietnam. The US government stated that we wanted to stop the spread of communism,
but it really meant stopping national liberation movements.
It’s a matter of global economic military power.
It was a myth that we were spreading freedom and democracy in Vietnam, of course.
Three million people died in Vietnam, mostly due to the heavy bombing. So the short
answer is yes, there was a threat to our interests.
Sanborn: You help to distribute free DVDs of Sir! No Sir! to servicemen and women by
taking donations on your web site.
So far, you’ve distributed over 2,500 free DVDs to the troops, thus opening their
eyes to the fact that they can resist the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan just as
many soldiers did in Vietnam.
Do you get a lot of flack because you support war resisters, David, or do most people
who contact you support your efforts?
DZ: There is very little flack. Most people support the film. Some film reviewers, though,
got flack for praising the film when it was released.
Sanborn: I spoke with Monica Benderman, Kevin’s wife and coauthor of their book,
Letters from Fort Lewis Brig: A Matter of Conscience. She said it was very difficult for
Kevin to make the decision to become a conscientious objector, and even today, he
sometimes wonders if he made the right choice. The military offers secure pay, and it
isn’t easy to give that up, especially in a tough economy. What kind of advice can you
offer to soldiers who might be torn between their conscience and the need to support
DZ: I can’t offer advice. The issue is bigger than our personal situation. It’s not easy to
take a stand, and we need to support individuals in their decisions.
Sanborn: Is there one thing that stands out in your mind about the Vietnam vets
interviewed in your film?
DZ: There was not one ounce of regret from those who came forward and talked
about their experiences. Their stories had been suppressed before, so they were
glad to share their stories in the film.
Sanborn: In your opinion, what will it take to get the wars to end? I have a song on my
new CD called “Forever War,” because that’s what the powers that be seem to have in
mind: all war, all of the time. What can we do, as Americans, to stop this madness?
DZ: I wish I had an answer to that. I’m not an activist; I’m a filmmaker. Wars are very
much a part of the system.
I don’t feel that an Obama presidency will change things a great deal, either. A
movement inside the military is an extremely powerful force, but we need a much bigger
and broader social upheaval to end these wars.
The Sir! No Sir! DVD is on sale now, exclusively at
Also available is a Soundtrack CD (which includes the entire song from the FTA
Show, “Soldier We Love You”), theatrical posters, tee shirts, and the DVD of “A
Night of Ferocious Joy,” a film about the first hip-hop antiwar concert against the
“War on Terror.”
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The Army Joins The Revolution;
14 Oct 1917:
“All Other Major Political Groups Lost
Credibility Because Of Their Association
With The Government And Their
Insistence On Patient Sacrifice In The
Interests Of The War Effort”
September 28, 2007 By PAUL D’AMATO, Socialist Worker [Excerpts]
RUSSIA WAS the first and only country to achieve a socialist revolution--that is, a
society in which ordinary people had their hands on the levers of power.
For that reason alone, the capitalist rulers of the world cannot allow it to stand on its own
merits. The later degeneration of the revolution into bureaucratic, one-party totalitarian
rule must be read back into the past to “prove” that the revolution was doomed to fail.
This is the purpose of the hundreds of studies published by Russia “experts” that portray
Lenin and the Bolshevik Party as ruthless, nasty and authoritarian. The revolution, in
most accounts, did not involve the masses in determining their own destiny, but was the
work of individuals bent on exploiting mass discontent for their own purposes.
This framework serves two purposes: to elevate the role of individuals in the making of
history, and simultaneously to denigrate the role of ordinary workers, who are seen as
Lenin is portrayed as a superhuman madman, bent on one-man dictatorship--and
possessing an irresistible will to power. Historian Robert Payne, for example, writes
absurdly of Lenin, “His fanatical will was like a lever which attempted to throw the whole
globe into an orbit more to his liking; and because he pressed so hard on the lever, the
earth still shudders.”
The reality is that the Bolshevik Party became a mass party in the course of the
revolution, winning the allegiance of the most militant workers. Far from being Lenin’s
cat’s paw, the Bolsheviks were a party alive with debate and disagreement, with different
factions fighting over the revolution’s course.
Lenin was certainly the most respected leader in the party, but it was a respect earned
by his role as a theoretician and practical leader, not by hypnosis or fiat. Indeed, Lenin
often found himself in the minority and had to fight hard for his positions. Moreover, in a
number of cases, Lenin’s views, particularly on tactical questions, were wrong, and were
rejected or adjusted by the party.
When Lenin returned to Russia in April, his views--transfer all power to the Soviets--were
considered by other Bolsheviks to be completely out of touch and even anarchist. It took
him some weeks of hard argument to win over the party.
Lenin also had to fight tooth and nail to convince the party of the necessity of preparing
for an insurrection once the Bolsheviks had won over a majority in the Moscow and
On the other hand, Lenin proved to be wrong after the July Days when he argued that
the soviets were now bankrupt institutions. The party, though it officially voted to
abandon the slogan “All power to the soviets,” never really abandoned it at the local level
and soon restored it.
Lenin was also wrong in his views that the insurrection might begin in Moscow--
Petrograd was clearly the leading revolutionary citadel in Russia--and in his insistence
that the insurrection should be organized through the Bolshevik Party, independently of
the soviets. Other leaders, such as Leon Trotsky, were able to set a better course on
THE ARGUMENT that the Bolsheviks “hijacked” the revolution fails to take into account
that the Bolsheviks were only one political party among many competing for the support
of the Russian people.
The fact that the Bolsheviks were able to win mass support away from the Social
Revolutionaries and Mensheviks flowed not from their superior persuasive powers or
ability to command blind obedience, but because of their program.
They were the only party that demanded land to the peasants, factories to the
workers, all power to the soviets [elected workers’ councils] and an end to the
“All other major political groups,” writes historian Alexander Rabinowitch, “lost
credibility because of their association with the government and their insistence
on patient sacrifice in the interests of the war effort.”
In short, whereas the other parties acted as a brake on the revolution, the Bolsheviks
wanted to see it through to the end.
At the same time, the party was not for some kind of minority putsch against the
Provisional Government led by Kerensky. Lenin and other party leaders worked to
restrain the movement when they felt that a premature revolt threatened the movement
as a whole with defeat.
It must be remembered that Lenin’s position was that the party must “patiently explain”
their demands and win over the majority of the working class before it could move
toward decisive action against the Provisional Government.
Lenin’s bold and determined leadership, as well as the Bolsheviks’ relative unity and
discipline compared to other political parties, were key factors in the revolution’s
But this unity and discipline was not bureaucratic--it was organic and political. The party
debated and voted on all key questions, and local organizations of the party possessed
a great deal of leeway to carry on their own independent initiatives.
Rabinowitch attributes much of the Bolsheviks’ success in transforming themselves from
a party of 25,000 on the eve of the February Revolution into a mass party capable of
leading a successful struggle for power with a membership of a quarter million to “the
party’s internally relatively democratic, tolerant and decentralized structure and method
of operation, as well as its essentially open and mass character.”
The conspiratorial, clandestine forms of organization of the Bolsheviks that preceded the
revolutionary period were imposed by necessity on all illegal parties as a result of the
repressive conditions of Tsarism. The Bolsheviks were always prepared, when
conditions changed, to move toward open, democratic methods of organization.
This little fact is practically ignored by most historians.
The dreaded “democratic centralism” of the Bolshevik Party was exactly what the term
implies: the fullest and freest debate, combined with strict adherence to decisions once
made. This is what gave the party its ability to “read” what was happening in the
disparate sectors of struggle, generalize from that experience and offer guidance to it.
Democracy without centralism is a talk shop. Centralism without democracy creates
bureaucratism and isolates the leaders from the ranks.
As Trotsky later wrote:
“How could a genuinely revolutionary organization, setting itself the task of overthrowing
the world and uniting under its banner the most audacious iconoclasts, fighters and
insurgents, live and develop without intellectual conflicts, without groups and temporary
“The Central Committee relied upon this seething democratic support. From this, it
derived the audacity to make decision and give orders. The obvious correctness of the
leadership at all critical stages gave it that high authority which is the priceless capital of
Rabinowitch, in his book The Bolsheviks Come to Power, is able to demonstrate in rich
detail that “within the Bolshevik Petrograd organization at all levels in 1917, there was
continuing free and lively discussion and debate over the most basic theoretical and
tactical issues,” and that the party had shifting left, center and moderate tendencies
within it, right through the revolutionary period.
“Leaders who differed with the majority were at liberty to fight for their views, and not
infrequently, Lenin was the loser in those struggles.”
SURPRISING THOUGH these insights are to most bourgeois or anarchist
commentators, the Bolsheviks’ open and democratic character flowed from its
commitment to workers’ self-emancipation.
Lenin’s insistence on the need to build a disciplined party of revolutionaries is usually
presented as a product of his “distrust” of the working class’s revolutionary potential--
when, in fact, Lenin’s entire political career was based on the proposition, established in
the early years of the Russian Marxist movement, that, “(t)he revolutionary movement in
Russia can triumph only as the revolutionary movement of the workers.”
Nikolai Sukhanov, by no means a Bolshevik supporter in 1917, but who witnessed the
party at close quarters in the days leading up to the October Revolution, observed the
interconnectedness between the party and the working class:
The Bolsheviks were working stubbornly and without letup. They were among the
masses, at the factory benches, every day without a pause. Tens of speakers, big and
little, were speaking in Petersburg, at the factories and in the barracks, every blessed
For the masses, they had become their own people, because they were always there,
taking the lead in details as well as in the most important affairs of the factory or
barracks. They had become the sole hope...The mass lived and breathed together with
What Sukhanov seemed not to understand is that the Bolsheviks themselves were
workers--leaders on the ground in the day-to-day struggle.
They did not parachute in from somewhere else; they were already there.
As early as June, for example, Bolshevik delegates dominated the conferences of the
factory committees. The Bolshevik vanguard was not an isolated elite, but organized
working-class militants tempered by shared experience and shared politics, developed
through interaction with their fellow workers.
One lesson of the Russian Revolution is that workers can take over the running of
society; revolutions can win. Of course, the lesson of many failed workers’ revolutions
(1905 in Russia or 1919-23 in Germany, for example) is that such victories are by no
Another, equally important lesson is that such a revolution can only win, as it did in
Russia, if the working class organizes its own revolutionary party to guide its path to
Revolutionary Army: (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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