Sunday, May 06, 2007

Editorial: Don't miss Sir! No Sir! Monday night on The Sundance Channel


"Have we ever done an editorial on a movie?"

Dona wondered that. The answer is no. Not even at the height of Mel Gibson's 'antics.' So why now?

The movie is a documentary entitled Sir! No Sir! directed by David Zeiger. We've discussed and noted the film here before -- many, many times. So why now?

This coming MONDAY is the Sundance Channel's televised Premiere of Sir! No Sir!
Don't miss this opportunity to see the film and show it to others.
Make a night of resistance out of it!

Sir! No Sir!
Monday May 7
Sundance Channel
9 pm Eastern and Pacific
Check Listings for Central and Mountain
The Ground Truth
Monday, May 7
The Sundance Channel
10:30 pm Eastern and Pacific
Check Listings for Central and Mountain

The Sundance Channel? "Are you betraying your mission to serve your original readers?" No.
No, we know full well that our original readers, a dedicated group, included many without cable or satellite TV. We also know some of them purchased Sir! No Sir! on DVD and we'll assume that some of them have friends with cable or satellite. The latter can be sure to get the word out so people are watching Monday night. The former can feel ahead of the curve, "Oh yeah, we've got that in the house. We're not missing anything by not having cable."

Ava and C.I. will continue to cover broadcast TV in their commentaries. But this is pretty big news and Sir! No Sir! is a pretty big movie.

How so? For those who haven't seen it, the documentary covers the resistance in the military during Vietnam. You see archival footage, you get current interviews with some of those who resisted. You learn about the underground press dedicated to the movement of resistance. You hear people speaking today about their actions back then and, even now, in many voices, you hear a sense of wonderment, a sense of "Was I really strong enough to do that?"

They were and they did. And this now-hidden (we won't say forgotten because we think the hidden part was far more active) resistance helped to end the illegal war. The myth today, the lie, is that the troops either wanted to be fighting or had no opinion on the war. That's not reality. (It's not reality now either, but we'll get to that.) Why hide this reality?

To rob people of their sense of power. To send a message to those who come after that it really is just a few people -- and they're outside the military -- that opposes an illegal war. To crack down on dissent within and outside of the military. To teach everyone to be good little soldiers, following the marching orders given out by the White House.

As the movie demonstrates, the resistance wasn't hidden in real time. You could find it in Life on TV, all over. It took a lot of work to hide it and that's why we say now-hidden and not simply forgotten.

Let's get to today. Watching the movie will really put across how little coverage you're getting of war resistance from All Things Media Big and Small. We've said it before and we'll say it again, when Dana or Doug Zeigler makes a film twenty to thirty years ago about the war resistance that went on during the Iraq war, we hope the director puts people on the spot. For instance, we'd love to see how The Peace Resister explains the silence of her own magazine (magazine, not website) on the issue of war resisters?

There's a movement going on right now of war resistance, a growing, thriving movement, and you can't find out about it in the pages of The Nation. Helga Aguayo, wife of US war resister Agustin Aguayo, has spoken of how Sir! No Sir! had an effect on her husband. It didn't alter his beliefs. He was already attempting to be granted c.o. status. But a film like this sends the (needed) message that "You are not alone."

That's an important message to send. And the silence around war resisters, practiced by The Nation most shockingly but by other outlets as well, is that you are alone and you don't matter. That's bullshit. War resistance mattered then and it matters now.

Sir! No Sir! isn't a part of a long line of films documenting war resistance within the military and, for that reason, it may have a shock value for many viewers. It may set off light bulbs the same way Howard Zinn's books do. It will connect you to the larger picture of resistance, a history of resistance that so many seem determined to ignore.

And, as we've stressed before, we know when some people hear "history" or "documentary," they start thinking "boring." The film's not boring. It moves quickly and you'll most likely find yourself, as Betty did, thinking, "It's over already?" You will not be bored, you will not doze off. If you're a first time viewer, you will wish you had invited friends over to watch it with you because you will want to share the movie. So if you do get The Sundance Channel, make plans to invite company over on Monday. As noted in an e-mail to get the word out:

1. Not Everyone has the Sundance Channel...
2. So if you do, PLEASE organize a house party to watch the films
and spread their influence among soldiers and civilians alike.
3. If you don't, find someone who does and offer to bring the chips.
In preparation, to help spread the films, WWW.SIRNOSIR.COM is offering these specials:The Director's Edition DVD of the film and 1 1/2 hours of additional stories will be on SALE through May 15th
$19.95 (from $23.95)

The Limited Edition DVD, with the film and "Punk Ass Crusade" counter-recruitment video,
is now available in bulk at a DISCOUNTED RATE:
5 for $50

10 for $80
15 for $105
20 for $120
(All plus shipping and handling)
The Ground Truth is also available in bulk at

It's this Monday night, May 7th. We'll close with words from the director of the film (from an open e-mail sent to get the word out):

"It's a unique experience to feel that you are part of making history."
So says Dr. Howard Levy who, as an army doctor in 1966, spent 3 years in federal prison for refusing to train Green Beret troops heading to Vietnam. His comments come at the end of my film about the GI Movement against the Vietnam War,
Sir! No Sir!
In a sadly ironic twist, 40 years later Dr. Levy and the thousands of active duty soldiers who openly organized against the Vietnam War while in the military are once again part of making history-because their story is sparking a new and significant movement in the military today.
Sir! No Sir! tells a story that has literally been erased from history. Hundreds of films, both fiction and non-fiction, have been made about Vietnam. But this story-the rebellion of thousands of American soldiers-has never been told in film. This is certainly not for lack of evidence. By the Pentagon's own figures, 503,926 "incidents of desertion" occurred between 1966 and 1971; officers were being "fragged"(killed with fragmentation grenades by their own troops) at an alarming rate; and by 1971 entire units were refusing to go into battle in unprecedented numbers. In the course of a few short years, over 200 antiwar underground newspapers were published by soldiers around the world; local and national antiwar GI organizations were joined by thousands; thousands more demonstrated against the war at every major base in the world in 1970 and 1971, including in Vietnam itself; and stockades and federal prisons were filling up with soldiers jailed for their opposition to the war and the military. Colonel Robert Heinl, the Marine Corp's official historian, wrote strikingly in 1971 that rebellion in the ranks had "permeated every branch of the service." His article in the Armed Forces Journal was titled "The Collapse of the Armed Forces."
Sir! No Sir! opened in theaters last Spring and got a good deal of attention. L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan called it "A powerful documentary that uncovers half-forgotten history, history that is still relevant but not in ways you might be expecting," and another critic only half-jokingly called it "A film that threatens the war movement with every showing, the Bush administration should outlaw it from all theatres within fifty miles of an armed forces recruiting station."
It turns out he had a point. Since its release last spring, my little film about events that happened 40 years ago has had quite an impact inside the military. Kind of like giving a motorboat to prisoners abandoned on a remote Island. The organization
Iraq Veterans Against the War has distributed hundreds of DVDs soldiers for free, and the film has been cited by several who have publicly refused deployment to Iraq on the grounds that the war is immoral and a clear violation of international law.
Navy Seaman Jonathon Hutto and Marine Sergeant Liam Madden met at a screening in Norfolk last fall and, inspired by the film and David Cortright's seminal book on the GI Movement, Soldiers in Revolt, decided to start the Appeal for Redress. Cleverly using the military's own whistleblower protection policy, the Appeal is a petition to congress calling for an immediate end to the war. Almost instantly they had 1,600 signatures (it has since risen to over 2,000). If the number seems small, consider this: There are currently about 140,00 troops in Iraq. In November 1969, with over 3.5 million GIs in Vietnam, 1,366 signed a New York Times ad calling for an end to the war-and the effect was electrifying. Numbers only take on their true meaning when understood in context.
True, Iraq is not Vietnam, and 2007 is not 1969. But something very profound is happening here. The world is full of moments when history intertwines with the present in dynamic and unexpected ways. The civil rights movement of the 1960s was fueled by the hundred-year-old stories of Harriet Tubman, John Brown, and the slave rebellions we never learned about in school. This is another one of those moments.
My film doesn't tell anyone what to do. But it does tell an incendiary story of thousands of soldiers who helped end a war 40 years ago. As the Bush administration plans only escalation of this horrendous war, the 200-pound gorilla blocking his way may well be the troops themselves.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }