Sir! No Sir!

Sir! No Sir! is a documentary that chronicles the largely forgotten antiwar activities of American GIs and other members of the military during the Vietnam era — actions that put them in greater peril than civilian protesters. Subtitled: The Suppressed Story of the Movement to End the War in Vietnam. Powerful and surprising, the film weaves together the stories of veterans who participated in the opposition movement, an effort that by the early 1970s found widespread support from civilians and troops alike. This film was eye-opening for me. I knew there were vets who spoke out against the war after being discharged, but I never knew there was so much resistance from active GIs. Sir! No Sir!demonstrates the scope and power of the anti- war movement within all branches of the American military during the Vietnam War era. The film shows that anti-war sentiment and anti-war activity permeated all sectors within the American Military establishment, and many brave men sacrificed their careers to stop our country’s unnecessary and immoral war in South East Asia. The film also has many Special Features which help to reaffirm the theme that there was a concerted and intelligent opposition to the war in Vietnam, and this view was shared by a significant portion of this nation’s fighting forces. A large group of insightful military personnel used their cognitive abilities to make their own moral judgment decision about what America was doing in Vietnam — and in their opinions, they saw a gross miscarriage of justice. The film is about the disconnect that occurs when soldiers don’t believe in the fight. You may be offended by what some of the anti-war protestors did, but you’ll be stunned and amazed to learn what soldiers in service did. The Vietnam War is the reason we don’t have a draft today! Young men have these guys to thank, or else their butts would be fighting more illegitimate wars. For those of us who oppose war and indiscriminate killing, the factual material is outstanding, as are the interviews with those who fought in a war that they bitterly opposed. I served in the Army during the Vietnam War and was on the margins of the GI anti-war movement depicted here. I can testify to the truth of most of this film since I saw, experienced, and read about many of the things it deals with. I admired the people interviewed in this documentary, and still do. They had the special kind of courage it takes to openly stand up against a monstrous evil at great risk to themselves. This kind of courage is very rare, even rarer than the kind found on a battlefield. Taking a stand like this based on principle is, in my opinion, the highest form of patriotism. It is patriotic to protest your government when it is wrong!  We forget how vehemently the war was protested. It’s right to rebel! Yes, it’s anti-war. This film finally astutely addresses that “anti-war” doesn’t mean “anti-soldier.” A perhaps timely observation. To attack someone’s right to dissent and free speech is far more un-American than not agreeing with a war. This is the most balanced look I’ve ever seen about the war in Viet Nam and the populist efforts to stop the war. It sets the record straight on Jane Fonda finally too. I never knew about her involvement in the FTA Tour (“Free The Army” Tour), which was a play on the troop expression “Fuck The Army”, which in turn was a play on the army slogan “Fun, Travel and Adventure”)  The FTA Tour was an anti-Vietnam War road show designed as a response to Bob Hope’s pro-war USO tour. Jane Fonda did a lot to entertain the troops, and acknowledge their hardships, as well as criticizing the war. Given the way that war tore this country apart, it’s not surprising there is such a difference of opinion on this film – drawing parallels between what happened then and recent events in Iraq. One thing that struck me while watching the film is that today huge media conglomerates are owned and operated by fewer individuals and groups, and how easy it has become to suppress and distort America’s long history of dissent. These days, any critical examination of this country’s involvement in foreign entanglements is perceived as disloyalty to the troops. Nothing can be farther from the truth, and Sir! No Sir! shows that the genesis of this particular heresy began in the 1960s as those in power attempted to silence opposition to one of America’s most unpopular wars. I especially liked the analysis of the total myth about the Vietnam vets supposedly getting spit on as they returned to the public airport in San Francisco, when in reality they all landed at military bases that allowed no civilians, spitting or otherwise. The arguments for why the spitting-on-GIs incidents must have been fictional were convincing to me. This was important as a fictional fabrication, because it did leave a collective feeling of guilt among some citizens over something that never happened —  which I believe was a big factor 40 years later in people supporting the Gulf War. They were determined to not mistreat GIs “again”. I noticed one reviewer called this film ‘Apocalypse Then’ and spoke as if American empire-building was something in the past and ‘how did we survive such madness’? We haven’t survived it, because it’s more prolific than ever. We were in a war in Iraq for American empire starting in 2003. Our military for the most part fit the description as ‘obedient cannon fodder necessary for preservation of empire’ as well as enhancing the size of empire. Will it ever come to the point again of Sir! No Sir! on the part of enough military men to refuse their assigned missions? That remains to be seen. With the new drone warfare and aerial wars replacing boots on the ground, I would guess there will always be enough misguided young Americans who swallow the government-directed propaganda we see on US and Western mainstream media news and commentary to continue the electronic-wargame / empire-building. Would that enough young people once more have the capability to think for themselves. Contemporary American pundits on the Far Right would like to see these truths silenced…permanently. With the resurgence of militarism, it is no wonder that some folks may give negative reviews for this documentary. Right now loving war and blindly believing the Pentagon’s media is very much in fashion. This is a film about a much different time when people were aware on a massive level about what a racket war actually is. Many, too many, have forgotten. Before Iraq 1 and 2 and Afghanistan, there was Vietnam, the original big-time racket. It’s a pleasure to see that not everybody has forgotten the lessons of those years. And what a time it depicts, when people finally refused to believe the big lie of the domino theory, the lie of killing to spread “freedom”, the lie that Offense is somehow Defense, and they refused it on such a huge scale. It makes me proud of my generation all over again. For fair-minded fans of documentaries or history this film is well worth watching. I really liked this film that shines a light on a side of the military that I didn’t know much about. One of the best Vietnam documentaries I’ve seen, very informative, plus I learned a history lesson on the widespread GI resistance to the war. I’ve watched a lot of films about the Vietnam era. Many are good, but this is amazing. It is very relevant today. And the bonus material is also excellent. I never knew that GIs were against the war while they were still in the service. Wow! Sir! No sir! is a real gem. Great film. I would recommend this film to anyone looking for some insight on the troops who had to make such an important and unprecedented decision… also to anyone looking to understand the Vietnam War in general. I’d say that everyone should see this, especially young American males. Everyone, whether or not they were of age during ‘Nam should see “Sir! No Sir!” This really should be required viewing, because “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.” Filmmaker and activist David Zeiger’s Documentary 2005 NR 84 minutes.

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Winter Soldier

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