Encouraging support for GI resistance   

by Larry Kerschner          

        May 10, 2005 is a national day for support of GI resisters.  A new group called Courage-To-Resist is organizing veterans, military families, and community activists to support military objectors.  All Americans of conscience should support those in the military who reject illegal and immoral orders from their military superiors.

       The military likes to pretend that, especially in a “volunteer” military, troops are obligated to participate in any “war” they are sent to.  This begs the question of what a war is.  In the United States the legal war authority for the military depends solely on a declaration of war by Congress.  Congress cannot transfer that war making authority to the Executive Branch. Under Article VI of the constitution “all treaties made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby”.

       Several of those treaties are the Nuremberg Conventions, the Geneva Conventions, and the U.N. Charter.  Under the U.N. Charter outside of genuine self-defense all war is illegal aggression.  Under the Geneva Conventions the bombing of hospitals and the forcible transfer of populations from their homes as we have done in Fallujah, mass roundup and imprisonment of non-combatants, destruction of food crops, use of weapons such as cluster bombs which are indiscriminate in the death and suffering they cause, the use of economic sanctions after it is clear that they are causing unnecessary suffering and death, torture of prisoners, “dead-checking” in which disabled prisoners are shot, and “rendition” which is torture by proxy are all illegal war crimes.

      There is a history of resistance to these types of illegal acts within the U.S. Military.  In 1966 three privates from Fort Hood, Texas refused to be shipped out to Vietnam.  In April1967,  five GIs staged a pray-in for peace at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.   Until 1968 the desertion rate for U.S. Troops in Vietnam was lower than in previous wars but by 1969 it had increased fourfold.

      In mid-1969 an entire company of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade sat down and refused to fight.   Later that year, a rifle company of the 1st Air Cavalry Division, on CBS television back home, refused an order to go down a trail they perceived to be too dangerous.  By 1970, the U.S. Army had 65, 643 deserters.  Stateside, between 1967 and 1972 there were a total of 354,112 GIs who were Absent With Out Leave. 

    One of the little discussed, but important, factors in the end of the Vietnam invasion was the refusal of troops to follow illegal or stupid orders. As the occupation of Vietnam continued the incidence of “fragging” increased.  Congressional hearings in 1973 found that three percent of officer and non-com deaths between 1961 and 1972 were a result of fragging. 

     Sabotage of equipment became another tactic of resistance among the troops.  On May 26, 1970, the USS Anderson was preparing to go to Vietnam from San Diego.  A major breakdown occurred after someone dropped nuts, bolts and chains down the main gear shaft.  In July of 1972, two of the Navy's aircraft carriers were put out of commission by sabotage.  A fire on the USS Forestal caused $7 million in damage delaying deployment for months.  Several 12-inch bolts inserted into engine reduction gears forced three month delay of the deployment of the USS Ranger.

      There is a common misconception that the resistance within the military developed primarily among the draftees.  The fact that it was the enlistees who were more likely to engage in rebellion should give rise to some thoughts about the current “all volunteer” military. 

     There is a Federal statute, 18 USC 2387, which prohibits “all manner of activities (incitements, counseling, distribution or preparation of literature) intended to subvert the loyalty, morale, or discipline of the Armed Services” which carries a possible penalty of ten years in prison. There may be other secret laws against speaking in support of GI resistance under the Patriot Act.  However it is clear that if we are still a nation under the supreme law of the Constitution those in the military who under conscience, or just under law and common sense, who refuse to participate in illegal and immoral actions are  within their legal rights and should have the support of all of us. 

     I would never want to “subvert military discipline” but I can think of a great use for a large amount of Super Glue within the innards of all our nuclear weapons.  Our Humvees and tanks would make great planters.  Another few 12-inch bolts would probably make interesting music within the bowels of some large boats. Just a fantasy.

    More information can be obtained at www.notinourname.net/courage.html

Larry Kerschner  the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better....Richard Rohr