[Marxism] Jerry Lembcke on antiwar soldiers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 8 11:50:25 MST 2006

Reflections on the Anti-War Documentary, Sir! No Sir!
By Jerry Lembcke

Mr. Lembcke is Associate Professor of Sociology at Holy Cross College. He 
is in Sir! No Sir! as author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the 
Legacy of Vietnam.

The new documentary about the Vietnam-era GI anti-war movement, Sir! No 
Sir!, opened in theaters during the spring and summer of 2006. The film 
compiles the historical record of the rank-and-file rebellion that grew 
during the war years and reached the level of mutiny in Vietnam by the 
war's end. It recounts that history through the stories of people like 
Green Beret Master Sergeant Donald Duncan, Dr. Howard Levy, Navy Lt. Susan 
Schnall, and infantryman David Cline, all of whom turned against the war 
while still in the service and appear in the movie.

I have a part in the film as author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, 
and the Legacy of Vietnam, a book that debunks the widely believed notion 
that anti-war activists were hostile to Vietnam veterans, even spitting on 
them at West Coast airports. In research for the book, I found similar 
stories in other societies following lost wars, stories that function as 
face-saving devices that attribute the war's loss to home-front betrayal 
rather than the prowess of the enemy-victor. The myth of spat-upon Vietnam 
veterans also displaced from public memory the reality that thousands of 
GIs and veterans were integral to the anti-war movement, a fact that 
startles many Sir! No Sir! viewers when they see it so graphically revived 
on the screen.

My place in the film has created some opportunities for me to participate 
in post-showing discussion groups. Invariably, those discussions have drawn 
comparisons between then and now, the resistance of soldiers and veterans 
of the Vietnam years as portrayed in the film compared with the more 
compliant posture of troops today toward political and military authority. 
Not surprisingly, the audience drawn to the anti-war flavor of the film 
uses the past as a basis for criticism of the present, leading participants 
to ask why are so few uniformed Americans moved to resistance today when so 
many were in a state of insurgency just a generation ago?

full: http://hnn.us/articles/31396.html



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