About the Book (and this site)

Before the U.S. Constitution had even been signed, soldiers and new veterans protested. Dissent, the hallowed expression of disagreement and refusal to comply with the government’s wishes, has a long history in the United States. Soldier dissenters, outraged by the country’s wars or egregious violations in conduct, speak out and change U.S. politics, social welfareContinue reading “About the Book (and this site)”

“The present is a moving target.”

I wrote that years ago when I was first drafting the book’s final chapter, as the “Bradley Manning” story became the complex reality that is Chelsea Manning, as new dissent appeared daily and what had seemed pretty black and white under George W. Bush moulted into a sinister purple glow under Obama. Now, this second,Continue reading ““The present is a moving target.””

Leo Tolstoy, Phil Ochs, Joan of Arc and other ghosts

On Twitter awhile back, I saw a challenge: “Describe your job in four words. I answered: “I talk to ghosts.” I mostly meant as a gonzo-historian, something I specialized in long before the Internet : the smell of microfilm rolls of decades-old newspapers still in my nose. Now, give a woman JSTOR ass and goodContinue reading “Leo Tolstoy, Phil Ochs, Joan of Arc and other ghosts”

The day I finally met Chelsea Manning

Updated to add this link, in which Chelsea Manning spoke more clearly about her case than she felt able to do at Penn. (Forgive the deadname in Atlantic’s title; it was before she came  out to the world as the assured young woman you see above. The photo above was taken on November 29, 2017,Continue reading “The day I finally met Chelsea Manning”

How could you run, when you know?

A journo friend of mine adapted the lyrics of the song above to mark last weekend’s explosion, as well as covering those events for Souciant. Like  many who weren’t there, I feel the least i can do is reflect here/ As a super-late boomer (the Obama generation), I’ve spent much of my life feeling I missedContinue reading “How could you run, when you know?”

VIDEO: Millennials and conscience

Some video reminders why this book has to exist. A simple question, posed 6 years ago by a respected journalist to an author, was already being answered Chelsea Manning, soon to be echoed by the voices of the whistleblowers above. I discovered the first as I was reshaping – for the last time, I hope!Continue reading “VIDEO: Millennials and conscience”

Intro, continued

After that loooong deconstruction of the book’s title… The following pages offer an idiosyncratic path from the country’s beginnings to the 21st century. Our guides: a handful of soldier-dissenters, who nudged that arc of history toward something resembling peace and justice. In the 1990s, when I was on staff at the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, I used to half-joke that “ifContinue reading “Intro, continued”

this is joe from gainesville

On a Joe Haldeman kick, for reasons perhaps obvious to some of you. After all, there’s that subtitle on my book, the next stop on my introduction exploration: From the French and Indian War to the Forever War. That section of the title has been a shape-shifter. When I first proposed it in 2007 itContinue reading “this is joe from gainesville”

Dissentire via souldine: notes toward a new introduction

I find myself wishing I could defer to Ochs’ elegant summations: “The young land started growing, the young blood started flowing” for the War of 1812, or “the final mission to the Japanese sky…I saw the cities burning” for World War Two.

For all this powerful poetry, Ochs knew there was much more inside that iconic dissenter’s story. He knew from his own dad, who’d come home broken and abusive after World War II; he knew from the Vietnam veterans who jammed his concerts. He had no idea, of course, of the wars to come, or that his own music would be sung by that iconic soldier in the 21st century.