Chapter titles: the best outtakes

In this Week Three of the U.S. coronavirus crisis, books seem more popular than ever — though as its economic impact hits home, I do find myself wondering if anyone will be buying them in November, or burning them to keep warm.

Still, Ain’t Marching is in production now, and though its official publication date’s not till November, you can already pre-order it on Indiebound or Amazon. And things are happening really fast: have spent much of the month finalizing the text one last time, and thinking about next steps.

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Among those final changes was one eliminating my chapter titles, in favor of simple time periods (e.g.,1754-1800). But I still miss the ones I came up with, a few of which I hope to use as headlines for an article or two.

To me, Chapter One will always be A Military Born of Dissent, and Chapter Two, about the “Indian Wars,” will always be a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “They must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them.” Next, for the period historians call “antebellum,” Chapter Three was San Patricios, Bleeding Kansas, and Violent Pacifists, while the Civil War chapter was Drafted Quakers and Soldier’s Heart. The 19th century closed out with the Philippine War and the birth of U.S. global imperialism, as Chapter Five: Unfinished Business and The First “Anti-Imperialists.”

I especially miss what I called my World War I chapter, Poets in Jail and Rebels in the Snow, and the following chapter through 1945, From “All Quiet” to “Never Again.” My Cold War title, The Iron Curtain and the Sheet of Steel, came partly from a Bayard Rustin quote about those years. The chapter ends with the Fort Hood Three, just before the Vietnam chapter, which I called Vietnam: When Everything Blew Up, and Everything Grew. I don’t miss what I called my 1980s and 1990s chapters, but I will always call the final chapter The Moral Injury of The Long War.

After all, I specialize as a writer in twisting a cliche till it hurts.

outtake: Capt. Rockwood, who took the Marine Corps Values too seriously.

I really tried to keep this one, perhaps because when I interviewed him in 1996, I didn’t realize I was beginning my life’s work. He’s also someone I’ve seen repeatedly over the years since, not just when I interviewed him again in San Diego but at Occupy in 2011, and the Manning trial in 2013.But his story got cut eventually, and like the others his voice no thrums between the book’s pages.

Rockwood wasn’t objecting to any war; instead, his dissent happened during one of Bill Clinton’s “humanitarian” interventions, when only peaceniks like me and Todd Ensign wanted to help him. Often, soldiers turning to the peace movement have been stalwart militarists. Captain Lawrence Rockwood was no exception.

Rockwood still chuckles a little when he thinks about the day in 1994 that he called attorney Tod Ensign: “If there was a believer in what U. S. military as a force for good, it was me. And I still do.”[i] Tod Ensign had helped soldier-dissenters since the Vietnam War; now, he kept busy helping those caught in the Clinton administration’s new armed interventions, the ones touted as wars for international human rights. In September 1994, Rockwood had just thrown away a promising career in military intelligence by charging his command with flagrant disregard for the laws of war.

A Catholic who’d once tried to join the Capuchin monastic order, Rockwood had transferred to military intelligence after nearly 11 years as an enlisted medic; at first, he mostly read communiques and analyzed data for the 10th Mountain Division. Rockwood had been exhilarated when Bill Clinton declared Operation Uphold Democracy, a response to the well-publicized brutality taking place in Haiti. Rockwood’s division was deployed to help restore power to deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest, and to guard against human rights abuses by the FRAPH (the Haitian militia that had overthrown Aristide).

As his unit was preparing to depart, Rockwood found that the intelligence being supplied to commanders was inadequate and steeped in stereotypes. He was told to classify intelligence into five categories or PIRs (Priority Information Requests), one of which was “Haitian-on-Haitian violence,” a categorization heavy with racist implications, one that omitted the structural and geopolitical issues that fueled this violence. “The phrase, reminiscent of the expression ‘black on black violence’ concocted to describe South African violence in the mid-1980s,” wrote one journalist covering Haiti for InterPress Service, “seeks to equate the two ‘sides’ of the Haitian struggle and thereby conceal both the reality of Haiti and the responsibility of US proxies.”[ii] Similar tropes were raised during the Philippine War and World War I. The nation’s original sin was alive and well.

Then, 10th Mountain commander General David Meade changed the mission, citing a lack of political support for Aristide and determined to prevent “his” Marines from suffering what those in Somalia (whose bodies militants had paraded in front of CNN) had the previous year. Meade told the 10,000 arriving troops that their number one priority was “force protection.” When Rockwood’s informers described the brutal murders of Aristide supporters in the poorest section of Port-au-Prince, Rockwood could do nothing. “We had all these soldiers and Marines,” he told me, his voice breaking. “It was as if we could hear them crying for help, but our orders were to stay inside and protect each other.”

In addition to a master’s degree in international relations from Catholic University and years of thinking of himself in his military role as a humanitarian or healer of sorts, Rockwood carried with him the memory of a childhood visit to Dachau, during which his father told him that the United States had been morally bound to intervene. “He told me that the reason that these things are created is because of blind obedience and cynicism,” Rockwood recalled later. “That’s exactly what I was seeing, blind obedience and cynicism.”[iii]

When Rockwood told his superiors that he’d learned that some five to twenty people a day were being killed in Haiti’s notorious National Prison, he was told that an investigation would happen “in due time.” After hearing that it might take a week, “during which hundreds might die,” Rockwood registered a letter of protest with the brigade commander. On the night of September 20, 1994, he jumped the fence of his compound to start an investigation himself.

I said, “Well, I’m here to get a list of names, a list of the prisoners. I’m going to go through the prisoners and I’m going to call out, and I want them to answer.” [The major assigned as prison warden] said, “I can’t do that until the morning.”… I was there about three-and-a-half hours. And an American officer from the embassy, Major Chuck Lane, shows up. And he was …. one of the people who started FRAPH [the paramilitary Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti]. … And he was saying, “You know, the world’s full of hellholes. And why does this one bother you?” I said, “This hellhole is the responsibility of the United States Army. That’s why this one bothers me. The other ones aren’t.”

Rockwood was eventually court-martialed for insubordination and conduct unbecoming an officer. His defense was led by Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General under President Jimmy Carter. Clark successfully beat back a last-minute effort to drop one of the charges, “conduct unbecoming an officer,” which would have prevented Rockwood from giving the reasons for his actions. Rockwood’s defense counter-charged that the Marines, who had operational control of the Haiti mission, had been far too reluctant to take risks on behalf of the Haitians they were there to protect. Clark found perhaps the most compelling witness possible on Rockwood’s behalf: Hugh Thompson, the pilot who had discovered and helped stem the My Lai massacre in Vietnam decades earlier.

When he read in the newspapers of Rockwood’s arrest, Thompson had telephoned immediately and offered to come to Fort Drum to testify. In court, Thompson recounted his actions in March 1968 and added, “I think you have a moral obligation to be a good officer and you need to follow it up and take the consequences. We don’t need a lot of ‘yes men’ in the military. We need somebody who will get the job done and take responsibility.” He said of Rockwood, “I don’t see where what he did warrants conduct unbecoming an officer. … It sounds like he was forced into a no-win situation.”[iv]

After being found guilty, Rockwood was dismissed from the service; although a progressive who passionately believed in the potential of the military to act for good in the world, he was no longer welcome to enact that belief in uniform.[v] Instead, he joined others of the era’s dissenting soldiers, who’d believed similarly in the military’s potential for good, until that belief was sorely tested by their government.

[i]       Interview, August 1999, San Francisco. We also spoke in June of 2006 at Rockwood’s home in San Diego; unless indicated otherwise, quotes in this chapter are from the latter conversation.

[ii]      Dan Coughlin, “The case of Lawrence P. Rockwood.” Haiti Progres, vol. 12, no. 51, 20 March 1995,

[iii]     Rita Beamish, “A Court Martial Over What the Real Mission Was in Haiti.” Associated Press, May 6 1995.

[iv]     Trial transcript provided by Rockwood.

[v]      When he accepted an invitation in 2000 to teach human rights at the School of the Americas, many allies in Veterans for Peace, including Thompson, were aghast. “But I’m not a pacifist,” Rockwood insisted.

Outtake: the first GI organizer I ever met.

stevemorseThose of you who follow me on social media know that The Book is finally headed for bookshelves this fall, as I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Dissenters, Deserters and Objectors in America’s Wars. And the list of important people who didn’t make it into the final draft is impossibly long–which could also be said for most of my drafts.

That list includes Scott Olsen, which is why I featured him at New Year’s, and Edward Snowden, whose own book certainly obviates any need for his inclusion. But I’m still searingly sorry to have lost Steve Morse, who I met when I worked at CCCO — and who first taught me about the GI movement, through his own story.

Thinking about them all, I’ve contemplated starting a podcast or trying to publish these stories separately; these blog posts are just a start. But I owe Steve so much.

To present his story here, I had to go back to my actual first submitted draft, in which my tone and intent feel quite different from what the book became. I still stand by each word. Let’s start with young Morse waking up to learn that the Supreme Court had just ruled in favor of all conscientious objectors to war:

Growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania, Morse had long been told of the generations of Quakers on his mother’s side and a grandfather on his father’s who was a Jesse Macy-style internationalist. “He was a big booster of World War I,” Morse said. Thinking like Macy that his conflict could be actually end all wars, the senior Morse “went up and down the East coast promoting it….Kind of unrealistic,” Morse said quietly.

Morse’s father had been CPS-eligible f during World War II, “but he felt it was important to fight Hitler… He ended up in Hawaii monitoring the phones of Japanese-ancestry people, and not feeling good about it. After the war, he became a more active Quaker — was on peace committees, ban the bomb campaigns, and so on.”

Morse thus arrived at Swarthmore as immune from the war as was possible — which turned out not to be much. Excited by SDS’ political manifesto, rather than feeling the draft board’s guarantee as a relief Morse agonized, wondering whether the student deferment and that CO deferment were both too privileged. He thought about it as he boarded a bus for Washington.

“I remember seeing the World War II and Korea vets at the head of the demonstration,” Morse added. “It was very powerful.” The April 17 march drew a then-unprecedented 25,000 to the Capitol, and lit the match for many more to come. Staughton Lynd, who wrote about the event a few months later for the pacifist magazine Liberation, articulated a vision half-poet and half-prankster, in which the usual means of influence had been rendered irrelevant.

It seemed that the great mass of people would simply flow on through and over the marble buildings … nothing could have stopped the crowd from taking possession of Its Government. Perhaps next time we should keep going …. One can now envision a series of nonviolent protests which would. question the legitimacy of the Administration’s authority where it has gone beyond constitutional and moral limits, and might, if its insane foreign policy continues, culminate in the decision of hundreds of thousands of people to recognize the authority of alternative institutions of their own making.[i

Lynd’s vision, which took Gandhi’s principles to a hyper-American, Beat extreme, articulated a future that SDS and much of the “new Left” was busy trying to enact. It also got Lynd in trouble at Yale for being a flagship “commie,” the F.B.I. having reopened his Army file. The day aftet the march, J. Edgar Hoover issued an announcement that “Communists [had] participated in the student march on Washington in April and were striving to start other demonstrations against United States foreign policy.”[ii]

As 1965 ended at Swarthmore College, Steve Morse was as conscious of the class gap between students and soldiers as anyone. He’d spent a “pretty influential” summer working for SDS’ Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP).[iii] And he was about to leave the college that was his best shelter from the war.

“At ERAP we were trying to build an interracial movement of the poor,” Morse said. “It mostly didn’t work, but the failures were interesting.” When he returned to school in the fall, Swarthmore suddenly felt a staid backwater compared to the fervor that was popping in the rest of the country. He also “didn’t quite know what I wanted to do.”

He could major in mathematics, but the poetry of higher math interested him less than the practical calculations used by engineers “The kind of math that I was interested in seemed oriented to war.” Morse found himself listening “pretty intently” to Bob Dylan’s song Tombstone Blues, its signature line“the geometry of innocent flesh on the bone.”[iv] He left Swarthmore and headed to San Francisco, of course, his new 1-O draft card in hand.

While he did some antiwar work, he said, mostly he had arrived just in time for the Summer of Love. “I was twenty years old,” Morse said. “For a while I was living nowhere and just hanging around the Haight, showing up at meetings of the tenants union…. sort of a hippie,” he half-smiled.[i]

The Bay Area was by then abuzz with antiwar organizing, including some directed at those in uniform. That summer in Berkeley SDS’ Bill Callison founded The Bond, the first alt-weekly in the country directed at people in uniform.

There was a moment in the early stages of the anti-war movement when some anguished demonstrators blamed everybody they perceived as ‘in the military’ for the atrocities that were happening in Vietnam. The movement corrected this error, and found a large anti-war constituency among the enlisted, who were mostly draftees….In June, 1966, the first of many anti-war G.I. newspapers, called The Bond, was published by civilians, edited by yours truly. [ii]

Callison was careful to eschew any labels. “The Bond is published by socialists, but is not associated with any socialist or communist organization, either officially or unofficially.” Its posture was, however, mighty similar to that of SDS: “We believe that the best way to end war, poverty, and racial injustice is for the people of the United States to take the productive machinery of society out of the hands of its present owners and to own and manage it for themselves.” And the paper’s first issue sounded a little academic, like the more political of Berkeley’s underground papers:

Dissatisfaction with the war in Vietnam, racism in America, and the functioning of American society generally has increased tremendously in the last two years, especially among the victims of the system— black people and poor people – and young people who are hip to what’s happening. People are beginning to evaluate the whole society and to understand their position in it, and they are demanding some basic changes.

The men in the Armed Forces, who are mostly young victims of the system, are naturally no exception to this process of ferment. In fact, for servicemen the urgency of getting information and of organizing to protect themselves is very great, since they face the possibility of being sent to Vietnam to be killed or maimed before they have a chance to figure out the issues.

So far the peace movement which is centered mainly around college campuses, has ignored and often alienated the people who will actually have to fight the war in Vietnam. At the same time the military authorities have attempted to isolate and suppress dissent among enlisted men. Therefore the full strength of servicemen standing up together to defend their rights has not even begun to be felt.

Among the sincere young socialists handing out the Bond in Oakland was Steve Morse, the Quaker SDS member who’d by then passed out of his Summer of Love phase.  Morse had by then fallen in with the Progressive Labor Party (long split from the CP for the latter’s flirtation with electoral politics and “class enemies”). Sincere in wanting to end the war, Morse’s group felt that appealing to soldiers was part of their strategy to cultivate working-class revolutionaries.

At first, Morse wrote years later, outreach to these armed proletarians wasn’t easy. “When I tried to distribute [the Bond] to GI’s, the MP’s would escort me out in a matter of minutes.” Eventually, he added, “I had better luck at the Service Clubs. I met a guy who was trying to organize in the Navy. We became friends and from him, and reading in the Bond about activists within the military, I absorbed the notion of resisting from within.”[iii]

From the beginning, the papers’ news pages told of courts-martial, starting with the Fort Hood Three and Howard Levy. They wrote about the GI coffeehouses where soldiers could hang out, drink coffee, rap about politics and the war, started by SDS’ Fred Gardner. In June 1968, Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis started a fund called “Support Our Soldiers.” to support the papers, coffeehouses, and servicemen’s groups like GI’s United, the Navy’s Movement for a Democratic Military, or the American Serviceman’s Union (ASU). ASU’s Andy Stapp, stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, had joined the Army intentionally to organize from within, and encouraged others to do the same — especially among members of Young Americans Against War and Fascism, as did the Progressive Labor Party (e.g. Oakland’s Steve Morse). When tossed out for organizing, Stapp had moved to New York, became more firmly associated with Workers World and taken up The Bond from its Berkeley founders. This gave the paper a harder-left feel than the base papers or Sharlet and Tom Barton’s Vietnam GI.

 Skip ahead to 1970, when the movement had matured:

The national Armed Forces Day, traditionally celebrated across America, was at some U.S. bases the first annual Armed Farces Day. At Fort Bragg, 700 GI’s marched through the base, addressed by Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland at the rally’s end. Phil Ochs, in his now-trademark gold suit, asked over his guitar “Who’s the criminal here?” at Grand Forks Air Force Base. And at Fort Lewis, 20 miles from Seattle, Steve Morse, no longer a Quaker CO, appeared before a special court-martial for distributing seditious material. Instead of a term in the brig, Morse was soon headed to Cambodia as a member of K-Troop, 11th Cavalry Division.

Morse had already been in uniform for six months, most of it in the stockade. When his term of alternative service ended the prior year, he’d finally enlisted in the Army as the PL was urging. “I messed up up part of the aptitude test,” Morse remembered, to keep from becoming some “isolated Army clerk.”

My enlistment involved tricky questions: how to be effective in stopping the war and building an anti-imperialist movement, and how to keep the faith with the non-privileged of my generation and with myself. What if I were sent to Vietnam? If I went and were put into combat, would I refuse? Under what circumstances?Would I even have the chance to refuse if things got hot and heavy? Could I avoid putting my fellow soldiers in jeopardy, yet also contribute as little as possible to the war effort (or hinder it)? […] I felt then that we who were white, male, and over 20, who had some experience in protest, who knew something about the war, who could talk to people and had the commitment to resist ought to consider joining. It was an unsatisfactory option, but how problematic was every choice we had at the time!

[i]

Morse approached this project in a spirit resembling Abbie Hoffman’s. “I was AWOL a week before I showed up for AIT at Fort Ord,” he remembers, and arriving at the overseas replacement Barrack at Fort Lewis his arms were more full of agitprop than infantry gear. “Seeing the stockade as no worse than Vietnam infantry, I wasn’t subtle about passing out leaflets or circulating petitions,” he writes. “I did this for ten days before they caught up with me.”

As an overseas embarkation point, the Ft. Lewis stockade contained a few prisoners who had refused orders to Vietnam and Korea. I plugged into an existing network of resisters. We smuggled in books, organized, and looked out for each other. For April 15, we gathered 100 signatures on a petition protesting the imperialist war in Vietnam, and carried out a fast. We had “revolutionary training” — gymnastics and political discussion every evening for a week — until the guards broke it up and threw Freddy, who led the gymnastics, in solitary confinement.

While the stockade was harsh including “beatings and food deprivation in solitary confinement,” said Morse, it was also boot camp for organizing: “the only institutional situation I have ever been in that had such a community of resisters.”

If all that sounds a little overheated now, it didn’t to many at the time, when Nixon’s “secret plan” to end the war meant escalated bombings and passing the ground war on to the decimated South Vietnamese Army while infiltrating leftists and churches at home. If in 1968 students taking over universities had felt they were changing the rules of the game, by 1970 those same people were asking one another in sober conferences “Would you personally be willing to die for the revolution?” recalled Dave Zeiger, who ran Fort Hood’s Oleo Strut coffeehouse with Dave Cline.[ii]

Different coffeehouses, Zeiger added, had “different political tendencies”; the Oleo Strut favored “early Maoist thinking, “ especially since one of the co-founders had “been in Panthers when he was drafted, started a black GI group.” Fort Lewis had its own underground paper, Fed Up, and its own coffeehouse, the Shelter Half at 5437 South Tacoma Way. Arriving there after a year in the Fort Riley stockade, Morse thus found in his fellow prisoners a ready market for The Bond and his lefty antiwar talk. By then, of course, the Army was well aware of organizers like Morse, and his trial was part of the cat-and-mouse game both sides knew well:

The military leadership was faced with the widespread breakdown of its authority, a deteriorating fighting force in Vietnam, and political dissidence throughout its ranks. Its response was twofold: more repression, and the development of a strategic approach to the problem. The repression was most intense on individual GIs.

Pvt. Gypsey Peterson, who had helped create the FATIGUE PRESS at Fort Hood, was sentenced to eight years at hard labor for possession of an amount of grass so small it “disappeared” during analysis. Two black marines, William Harvey and George Daniels, were sentenced to six and ten years at hard labor for rapping against the war in their barracks. Privates Dam Amick and Ken Stolte were sentenced to four years for distributing a leaflet on Ford Ord. Pvt. Theoda Lester was sentenced to three years for refusing to cut his Afro. And Pvt. Wade Carson was sentenced to six months for “intention” to distribute FED-UP on Fort Lewis….

A number of factors helped to weaken this repressive power. Media coverage, public protest, and the growth of GI resistance all played a part. The key factor was that political GIs continued to be dangerous in the stockades, and after numerous stockade rebellions the military often chose to discharge dissidents and get rid of them all together.[iii]

Morse’s special court-martial was part of a two-prong strategy: a six-month sentence followed by orders to Cambodia which he was expected to refuse. During the two-day proceeding, he writes, “I proved that there was no realistic mechanism for getting approved by the command structure to distribute literature, that the regulation was selectively enforced [and] got Major Cox to admit that he had no legal basis for placing me in pre-trial confinement,” he writes. After two months Cox commuted the rest of Morse’s sentence and issued orders for Vietnam, assuming the strange Quaker-lefty soldier would refuse, setting him up for a five-year sentence.

Instead, Morse accepted, “figuring I could oppose the war over there, too.” After three weeks in Vietnam, Morse was sent to the field with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Cambodia — which wasn’t bad, he said, as organizing opportunities go:

I was thrown in with two guys who were quite hostile to me, and combat conditions kept us from socializing much with others. Three days after getting to the field, I received 25 copies of Challenge, PLP’s newspaper, with the words REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST on the masthead and above that the title GI’s Destroy Stockades, referring to a long article about my court-martial. I wasn’t a happy camper: I was scared. But the stress of being a protester in combat distracted me from worrying about actually being killed.

As time went on, Morse added, he found that much of K-Troop was already anti-war already. “The Army kind of saved me by sending me back,” he said. At twenty-four, he said, he was older than most others, which “made it a little easier…. People didn’t think I was a flake for my views, [and] I had the space to talk about politics and stuff.” The troop’s platoon sergeant, a “sad guy” known to the men as Platoon Daddy, regularly told him not to talk “like that.” So did did their lieutenants, one of whom made the mistake of adding: There are three things you shouldnt talk about to the men: politics, religion and sex. “I laughed at him.”

Between being older and college-educated, Morse was also in demand by both lieutenants for chat about the war. One, who was a history major, openly said I want to talk politics with you. “He was a hawk,” Morse said. “I felt not engaging them was the smart thing to do. They weren’t really open to listenng. And besides, I wanted to be more enigmatic than that to people in power.” So Morse stayed with his unit, still a “buck private” because of all his dissent-demerits. When they walked on point, he was torn about what to do with his gun. “I didn’t want to put anyone in danger,” he said. “Mostly, I shot at the ground.”

While Morse was busy figuring out how to be an actual soldier, Veterans Against the War was beginning to rediscover what it could mean when hundreds of soldiers speak with one voice — as in Princeton in 1780, as in the World War I “bonus march.”

*****

While Morse was busy figuring out how to be an actual soldier, Veterans Against the War was beginning to rediscover what it could mean when hundreds of soldiers speak with one voice — as in Princeton in 1780, as in the World War I “bonus march.”

Steve’s activism afterward could be another book; the ms. never contained scenes of math teacher Morse showing up at a CCCO open house in the 1990s and getting recruited for the Board, and co-founding a team of vets who volunteered on the GI Rights Hotline. Or when, as CCCO staff, he received a call from the girl who recruited him, with the words “I’m writing a book about you!”

It still is, Steve. And I hope you can hear your voice whispering out of each printed page.

 

 

[i] Steve Morse, “Odyssey of Conscience,” Objector, op.cit.

[ii] Personal interview, February 2006.

[iii] Matthew Rinaldi, “The Olive-Drab Rebels.”

[i] Ibid.

[ii] Posting to Berkeley listserv of Antiwar.com, late 2004.

[iii] Steve Morse (with Chris Lombardi), “Odyssey of Conscience: From Civilian CO to Cambodia.” The Objector (50th Anniversary Issue), Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, November 1998.

[i] Staughton Lynd, “Coalition Politics or Nonviolent Revolution?”, Liberation, June-July 1965. Via Gaddis Smith, “Yale and the Vietnam War.” Paper presented at the University Seminar on the History of Columbia University, 1999. Accessed at http://beatl.barnard.columbia.edu/cuhistory/yale.htm in January 2009.

[ii] RED ROLE IN PROTEST CHARGED BY HOOVER, New York Times, June 2, 1965, p. 52 in Food/FamilyFurnishings section.

[iii] Dat book on ERAP etc….

[iv] Personal interview, Oakland, CA., January 2006.

 

[i] Personal interview, Oakland, October 2007.

[ii] Lew Thomas, “Report on the American Antiwar Movement,” Socialist Workers Party memo,International Socialist Review, January 1968. Via NYU Tamiment Libraries ,Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL). Acccessed at http://marxists.anu.edu.au/history//etol/document/swp-us/awar.htm in January 2009.

[iii] Ibid., p. 194.

[iv] Staughton Lynd, “Coalition Politics or Nonviolent Revolution?”, Liberation, June-July 1965. Via Gaddis Smith, “Yale and the Vietnam War.” Paper presented at the University Seminar on the History of Columbia University, 1999. Accessed at http://beatl.barnard.columbia.edu/cuhistory/yale.htm in January 2009.

[v] RED ROLE IN PROTEST CHARGED BY HOOVER, New York Times, June 2, 1965, p. 52 in Food/FamilyFurnishings section.

[vi] Dat book on ERAP etc….

[vii] Personal interview, Oakland, CA., January 2006.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Posting to Berkeley listserv of Antiwar.com, late 2004.

[x] Steve Morse (with Chris Lombardi), “Odyssey of Conscience: From Civilian CO to Cambodia.” The Objector (50th Anniversary Issue), Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, November 1998.

[xi] Steve Morse, “Odyssey of Conscience,” Objector, op.cit.

[xii] Personal interview, February 2006.

[xiii] Matthew Rinaldi, “The Olive-Drab Rebels.”

[i] Personal interview, Oakland, October 2007.

[ii] Lew Thomas, “Report on the American Antiwar Movement,” Socialist Workers Party memo,International Socialist Review, January 1968. Via NYU Tamiment Libraries ,Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL). Acccessed at http://marxists.anu.edu.au/history//etol/document/swp-us/awar.htm in January 2009.

[iii] Ibid., p. 194.

[iv] Staughton Lynd, “Coalition Politics or Nonviolent Revolution?”, Liberation, June-July 1965. Via Gaddis Smith, “Yale and the Vietnam War.” Paper presented at the University Seminar on the History of Columbia University, 1999. Accessed at http://beatl.barnard.columbia.edu/cuhistory/yale.htm in January 2009.

[v] RED ROLE IN PROTEST CHARGED BY HOOVER, New York Times, June 2, 1965, p. 52 in Food/FamilyFurnishings section.

[vi] Dat book on ERAP etc….

[vii] Personal interview, Oakland, CA., January 2006.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Posting to Berkeley listserv of Antiwar.com, late 2004.

[x] Steve Morse (with Chris Lombardi), “Odyssey of Conscience: From Civilian CO to Cambodia.” The Objector (50th Anniversary Issue), Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, November 1998.

[xi] Steve Morse, “Odyssey of Conscience,” Objector, op.cit.

[xii] Personal interview, February 2006.

[xiii] Matthew Rinaldi, “The Olive-Drab Rebels.”

Outtake: Scott Olsen, who almost died for Occupy

Eight years ago this week, a NYPD riot at New York’s Zuccotti Park evicted the last remaining Occupy Wall Street activists. That year had seen an incredible amount of movement-building, with organizing from coast to coast–including by dissenting veterans.  Below, a vigil for Iraq vet Scott Olsen at Occupy Oakland.occupyoaklandvigil

In 2011, Obama’s Afghanistan “surge” came and went without accomplishing its goals, making the projected 2014 end date of the war feel questionable. The exit of troops from Iraq set the stage for a far-more-developed debate about services for veterans, and Iraq Veterans Against the War initiated its first “Project Recovery” campaign, demanding that a PTSD diagnosis automatically preclude a return to the war zone. They also linked up with local social-justice struggles, such as Occupy Wall Street and its “Occupy” off-shoots—including Marine Scott Olsen, whose treatment at Occupy Oakland by that city’s police would make the latter notorious and deepen Olsen’s commitment to dissent.

Olsen had joined IVAW soon after coming home: His doubts about the war had begun in his first tour, at the border town of Qay’im, after “conversations with other Marines, and with some Iraqis, through “witnessing some of our actions and inactions, through putting my life on the line and seeing my brothers lose their lives that they had put on the line—for what? Where are these liberated Iraqis? Where is their democracy and right to self-determination? What have we done? And what are we still doing here?” His second tour, as part of the troop-withdrawal phase, made him close to cynical, since his Kilo Company had one specific assignment: the opening of Al-Anbar Province’s massive K3 Oil Refinery. Joining IVAW, “it felt good to know that I wasn’t the only Iraq vet who felt betrayed, ripped off, or used.”[i]

Olsen kept in touch with IVAW when he moved to San Francisco to take a software job. Rather than immerse himself in Northern California’s tech scene, Olsen found himself also drawn to Occupy San Francisco, one of a dozen such encampments that had sprung up after the takeover of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan on September 17, 2011.

Created to protest rising income inequality, Occupy had from its start been welcomed by the more left-leaning soldier-dissenters. Vietnam veteran Bill Perry had traveled from Philadelphia to join the original, growing encampment at Zuccotti Park, and stayed there until the encampment was evicted by the NYPD around Thanksgiving; by then, the Occupy movement had metastasized, with similar encampments from coast to coast. The San Francisco camp, with its collective breakfasts and speak-outs, was regularly evicted. Across the Bay Bridge, a more militant, diverse group occupied Oakland’s City Hall and regularly threatened to close the busy Port of Oakland.

None of which had escaped the national-security state; the Department of Homeland Security was publishing a weekly national “intelligence report” with FBI-generated data on encampments from Boston to California. Police chiefs across the nation held conference calls to share strategies on how to combat the smelly, not-quite-violent masses. Police departments deployed their most militarist riot gear when evicting protesters—as Scott Olsen learned in Oakland, on October 25, 2011.

The resulting scene, immortalized on cell phone video, would be used as evidence in Olsen’s lawsuit against the City of Oakland. Between the wall of helmeted police and the mass of blue-jeaned Occupiers was a steel police barrier in front of two IVAW members: Joshia Shepherd,  in Navy service uniform, and the less-imposing Olsen in a Marine Corps fatigue jacket. As the sun set behind them, police warned the remaining protesters to disperse or else. Then the video shifts as protesters scatter and begin to scream, “[Olsen]’s been hit!” They carry the young man, bleeding from the scalp, to the side and wait until paramedics arrive.

Olsen had been hit and nearly killed by a tear gas canister thrown by police. When released from hospital he was, for a long time, unable to speak. But he did recover, and stayed involved with IVAW; I met him in 2014 at the group’s tenth-anniversary gala, not long after the City of Oakland agreed to a $4.5 million settlement in his case. I told him about the book, and the likelihood he was in it; I’m still sad that my editor’s very smart cuts included his story.    When I come to the Bay Area, I hope he’ll join me in honoring his role in an important movement.

Chelsea Manning’s Lawyer Objects to Selective Use of Her Words

Late to this, but essential reading.

Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Attorney at Law

Note: The Washington Post refused to publish the following article to correct their records

Chelsea Manning’s lawyer says the DOJ ‘bent over backwards’ to accommodate her medical needs.” I never expected to make headlines for the Washington Post, but I ought to have guessed that if I did, it would involve a misrepresentation in service of my frequent adversary, the United States government. As the lawyer referenced in Eugene Scott’s column, allow me to clarify: in his attempt to shed light on the Trump administration’s ban on trans people in the military, Mr. Scott has merely engaged in an exercise in extreme point-missing. After conceding that this administration’s policies on the rights of trans people are as hazy as they are hostile, Mr. Scott tries to find hope for trans soldiers in, of all places, the state’s successful bid to put my transgender client behind bars.

“Last month,”…

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Working back from these notes, could you grok the story?

Here’s the current endnotes from the Vietnam chapter — including interviews with folks who have since died. Wondering if they make a narrative of themselves.

Alexa Gagosz, “MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, Vietnam resistors tell their stories.” Suffolk Journal, April 15, 2010.

United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965)

Lawrence Baskir and William Strauss,   Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation (Random House, 1978).GU_Library_Piles_of_Books_on_the_floor

Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July (McGraw-Hill, 1976)  p.83.

 

Personal interview, Philadelphia, January 30, 2009.

William Short and Willa Seidenberg, A Matter of Conscience (Addison Gallery Press, 1991).

Telephone interview, January 6, 2009.

Margaret Butler, who served 1967-1969, In Memories of Navy Nursing: The Vietnam Era (Maryanne Gallagher Ibach, Ed). Material developed for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, Washington, D.C.

“The military used all of the [TV] footage at my court martial — evidence I really was guilty. “Short and Seidenberg, Matter of Conscience.

“You Want a Real War Hero?” Vietnam GI, August 1969.

Vietnam GI, August 1968.

Leslie Gelb et al, “U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deployments, 1965-1968.” Volume Four, The Pentagon Papers.

N. L. Zaroulis and Gerald Sullivan, Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963-1975 (Doubleday, 1984), p. 70.

Moser, The New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent During the Vietnam Era (Rutgers University Press, 1996), p.82.

The Oak’s prose would not have been out of place in the AVC Bulletin, the newspaper of the starry-eyed  New Dealers of the 1945 American Veterans Committee. “We at Oak Knoll feel it imperative that other members of the armed forces and civilians become aware of dissent within the military. Therefore, we decided to promulgate our views, situations, conditions through this newspaper.”

Short and Seidenberg.

       The Ally (Berkeley), August 19, 1968.

Andrew Hunt, The Turning: a History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (NYU Press, 1990), p.30

Jack Hurst, “Viet Mother Warns GI – And Dies.”

William Perry, Testimony, Winter Soldier Hearings, February 1971

Interview, January 30, 2009.

From 1962 to 1971, the United States dumped nineteen million gallons of herbicides over Vietnam, destroying nearly five million acres of countryside as part of its defoliation campaign to deny enemy combatants protective cover.

The Old Mole, June 20-July 3, 1969, p. 2.

Bill Perry. Facebook photo caption, September 7, 2015.

William Sloane Coffin, Once to Every Man: A Memoir ( Athenaeum, 1977), p. 299.

The Moratorium event in England was at a safe-house for deserters.  run by an American World War II veteran named Clancy Sigal, at Number 56 Queen Anne Street. In Europe,  “there was a feeling that the Vietnam war was somehow a fascist war, and that anything to help American soldiers resist that war was good,” Sigal told me.  The overcrowded apartment was “a wonderful mix of AWOL soldiers, their girlfriends, and some lost souls,” he wrote years later for the London Review of Books. “Simply put, my new job was to smuggle American deserters in and out of the United Kingdom, help arrange false papers, find safe houses in the UK, ‘babysit’ our less stable ‘packages’ (AWOLs in transit), personally accompany those too shaky to travel alone.” By the end of 1968, the project had evolved “a classically English accommodation with the various secret services who kept tabs on us at one time or another.”

Elizabeth Kolbert et al, “Moratorium.” The New Yorker, October 25, 1969, p. 54.

 

Seymour Hersh, “Lieutenant Accused of Murdering 109 Civilians.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 13, 1969, p. A1.

“I got to like [McCarthy] a lot…He opposed the war, and he said as much.” Landau, Saul, “Seymour Hersh.” The Progressive, May 1998. Via The Free Library (October 1)(accessed March 07, 2009)

Testimony at the court martial of William Calley, 1971. Accessed via the University of Missouri: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mylai/Myl_hero.html#RON

Via Kendrick Oliver, The My Lai massacre in American history and memory (Manchester University Press, 2006), p. 47.

Seymour Hersh, “Ex-GI Tells of Killing Civilians at Pinkville.”

Duncan, op. cit.

Interview, Boston, MA, March 2007.

Charles C. Moskos and John Whiteclay Chambers, The New Conscientious Objection: From Sacred to Secular Resistance (Oxford University Press US, 1993), p. 43.

“GI Justice in Vietnam: An interview with the Lawyers Military Defense Committee.” Yale Review of Law and Social Action (2:1) Article 3 (1972) Yale Review of Law and Social Action, Vol. 2 [1972], Is. 1, Art.

Moser, p.107.

Quoted in Jean-Jacques Maurier (ed.), The Last Time I Dreamed About the War: Essays on the Life and Writing of W.D. Ehrhart (McFarland, 2014).

Stephen Pogust, “G.I. March is ‘Disgusting’ to N.J. Town.” Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 4, 1970.

FBI files,  Via Gerald Nicosia, “Veteran in Conflict.” LA Times, May 23, 2004. Accessed 12/2008 at http://www.baltimoresun.com/topic/la-tm-kerry21amay23,0,3459649,full.story.

Van Devanter, Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam (University Massachusetts Press), p. 231.

Anthony B. Herbert. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/anthony-b-herbe-key-figure-in-vietnam-war-crimes-controversy-dies/2015/02/26/3e6ab864-bd05-11e4-bdfa-b8e8f594e6ee_story.html

Telephone interview, February 2009.

“ANTI WAR GROUP HEARS OF ‘CRIMES.’ “New York Times (1857-Current file); Dec 2, 1970; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2005), pg. 15.

Winter Soldier Testimony, read into Cong. Record. : “[soldiers] stabbed her in both breasts, spread-eagled her and shoved an E-tool up her vagina, an entrenching tool, and she was still asking for water.”

 

David Halbfinger, “Kerry’s Antiwar Past Is a Delicate Issue in His Campaign.” The New York Times, April 24, 2004.

Michael Kranish, Brian C. Mooney, Nina Easton, John F. Kerry: the complete biography by the Boston Globe reporters who know him best (Public Affairs, 2004). pp. 120-121 The sight of a clean-cut lieutenant speaking so, flanked by two nodding generals, put Kerry higher up on the commander-in-chief’s enemies list, with Nixon aides “expressing exasperation that more wasn’t being done to undermine Kerry and the other VVAW organizers.”

Michael Kranish et al, “With antiwar role, high visibility” Boston Globe, June 16. 2003.

“A thousand drug addicts camping out,” Bill Perry chuckled when asked what that week was like. “Honestly, there were maybe 200 guys really driving it politically — and a lot of them were drama queens, if you know what I mean. The rest of us……” Perry may have been at least partially right in his assessment, at least if the veterans’ drug use were anywhere near that of the troops they had been.  Even something as relatively gentle as marijuana might spread a haze over memories of the camp veterans set up on the Mall, cheered by sympathetic legislators from Bella Abzug to George McGovern and Edward Kennedy.

 

Robert Heinl, “The Collapse of the Armed Forces.” Armed Forces Journal, June 7, 1971. Accessed via reprint from Prof. Grover Furr, Montclair State University, Montclair, N.J.

For more on that predecessor, see Adolph Reed, “Fayettenam:1969 Tales from a G.I. Coffeehouse.” Originally in CCCO’s magazine The Objector in 1996, now included in Class notes : posing as politics and other thoughts on the American scene (New York: New Press, 2000)

Steve Hassna, “VVAW History: San Francisco Vets Day Parade 1972.” The Veteran, Spring 1997.

Memo July 1974, VVAW FBI Files, Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Personal interview, August 7, 2009.

 

VVAW mag The Veteran. (That Arkansas VVAW member turned FBI informant who’d sparked the Gainesville trial was forgiven in later years because of his illness; he even had pasted to the wall of his office. “PVS Kills.”)

 

Ron Kovic, interview by Waldo Salt, November 8, 1974, transcript, Waldo Salt Papers, Research Library, University of California Los Angeles. Via Jerry Lembcke,From Oral History to Movie Script: The Vietnam Veteran Interviews for ‘Coming Home’.” The Oral History Review, 26: 2 (Summer – Autumn, 1999), p. 76. Accessed via http://www.jstor.org/stable/3675590

 

 

A Story and a Book

A piece I’m hoping to include in the summer issue of Democratic Left, whose working theme is “Building a Future Without the Gangsters of Capitalism.”

The War Resisters League Blog

by Matt Meyer

[This article was originally published on ‘New Clear Vision on February 15th, 2012.]

On the Nature of Violence and Nonviolence

Amidst a bombardment of Black Bloc commentary, questions about the militarized nature of tear-gas toting police, and the ever-frustrating all-too-abstract dialogues about the meanings of nonviolence, violence, strategy, tactics, and principles, comes a simple story (and a complicated book) straight out of Occu-politics. First, though, some defining of terms:

Nonviolence (a term some have called ‘a word seeking to describe something by saying what it is not’) is used in as wide a variety of ways as there are flavors of ice cream. For some, it is strategic and revolutionary, for others principled and philosophical; for some it is a way of life and for others a mere tactic. For most practitioners, it is an often-tantalizing combination of the above. Our story will…

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