“Including the corpses, pal.” Notes from this week in soldier-dissent

A flyer/ad directed at troops concerned they’ll be deployed against protests in the wake of George Floyd. Of the 3 orgs in the caption, two are my former employers (sorta).

Last year, I joined the board of the Center on Conscience And War, feeling the need to help the last org standing after the death of my former employer, the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors. I had no idea the org would soon need to respond to the first CONUS deployment against US citizens in a half-decade. Or that this year would turn out to so closely resemble the last time that happened. A year when so many were saying “Enough! No more!” in response to police killings of Black women and men.

In this fraught time, I’ve felt compelled to leave soldier-dissent behind and use my small talents on behalf of Black lives and to uplift Black voices and stories, but soldiers (in the broadest possible sense) keep dragging me back here. In the past week alone:

  • Two long-overdue responses to the epidemic of military white supremacy, from the Pentagon and from Germany, the latter dissolving an entire SOF company so riddled with Nazis it can’t be saved.
  • In the Washington Post, Greg Jaffewrites about the triply-betrayed platoon whose commander, Clint Lorance, was pardoned by Trump after/for his unspeakable crimes.
  • And speaking of triply betrayed, the death of PFC Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood calls forth the ghosts of LaVa Johnson and other women left for dead by the military machine. I keep thinking about a father of one of is them passing out photos of his uniformed daughter, from before she ended up dying under suspicious circumstances. The fact that noticing this still counts as dissent is gutting.

Not to mention the media clinging to generals who stood up to Trump. Fred Kaplan as the expert on this at Slate? We can do better than that.

And the post title? From the quote I’ve used as an avatar for decades, from the great John Berryman:

— It takes me so long to read the ‘paper,
said to me one day a novelist hot as a firecracker,
because I have to identify myself with everyone in it,
including the corpses, pal.’

Photo: A flyer/ad developed for outreach to troops subject to CONUS deployment during the protest,

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.


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.

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,”…

View original post 621 more words

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…

View original post 1,292 more words

Are lefty milpods the next whistleblowers, or “fortresses on a hill?”

Newsies._LOC_nclc.03503(Photo, via Library of Congress; Some is of the “newsies,” the children peddling newspapers around city streets, when people still paid some money for words on paper.)

Maybe both.

As I write this I’m listening to Eyes Left, which explicitly IDs as a “Socialist Military Podcast.” Last night, I was catching up with Lions Led by Donkeys, claimed on Twitter as “the only podcast for laughing at the failures of military history. Hosted by  and  produced by  Speaking of Twitter, I’m explicitly chatting there with Fortress on a Hill, in response to the question I asked in the last post. I’m working to follow their advice, and focus on the most powerful experiences relayed by soldier-dissenters. But right now, I want to finish writing about this particular circle of e-griots, and why it’s hard to pull away.

  • Fortress on a Hill first caught my attention with their interview with Joe Kassabian, which was more informative than most I’d heard elsewhere. But what elevated them for me was this one, which first introduced me to Rosa del Duca:  The hard path of resistance” panel included some who reminded me of my first Hotline clients back in the day, young (mostly) men who had diverse ways of deciding that they needed AR 600-43 of the Universal Code of Military Justice. The episode also highlighted an ironic truth, re 9/11/01: for one of the panelists it was “the day my dad enlisted,” a date that was only an echo when he did. (Of course, being me, I wanted to reach out to every single one, including the one whose case is still waiting for approval before he can be released; “Can’t I find a place for JJ Rodriguez somewhere in the book?” but that way lies madness. )
  • Breaking Cadence, del Duca’s pod (on hold for awhile), is the one most specifically focused on CO stuff, and featured folks I remember from back in the day, like Vietnam veteran Gregory Ross or current GI Rights coordinator Siri Margerin. Her chat with attorney Steve Collier, on habeas corpus claims, brought back memories of working for him, while highlighting the too-often-forgotten story of Stephen Eagle Funk.
  • Also on the list of CO podcasters is the singular Logan Isaac, whose podcasts range from Red Letter Christians to Ponder XChange, and whose tagline is “Creating a Martial Hermeneutic.” I’ll write more about Isaac later, since podcasting’s only a fraction of what he’s doing now; but Ponder Xchange is good for those who need a basic education of what GI Rights are all about.
  • Joe Kassabian’s pod, named for the troops misled into fighting World War I, would be foe the gonzo-historian in me even if I didn’t know and admire him otherwise. I was fascinated by his War of 1812  series, though it intercepts only partly with my book’s sections on those same years. But as a J-school graduate, I was blown away by its explication of the 2014 Mahmudiyah murders, whose understanding shamed that of most civilian journos. I was therefore completely unsurprised by how Joe scooped entirely the corrupt operators in the hyper-lethal Yemen War, before the usually-reliable lefty media even thought to look there.
  • Which leads me to the tremendously addictive Hell of a Way to Die, which today featured Nate Bethea’s story of how he left the military just soon enough to keep his G.I. Bill and snagged an interview with the oft-mentioned-here Joe Haldeman. But it crosses over from interesting to essential listening when stuff like military’s white supremacy problem surfaces, as in last month’s “Bad News: The Coast Guard is Now Fash, Too.” I’ve listened to that episode three times, so I don’t forget everything noticed here.
  • But if you want to hear the most antifa stuff in a veteran-run podcast, Eyes Left is probably your first stop. Spencer Rapone, who made national headlines last year as the “Commie Cadet,” joins Mike Prysner, who many of us met at Winter Soldier 2008. It’s the perfect spot to explore the legacy of Vietnam-era OGG Andy Stapp,  and deconstruct the actually-fascist Trump border deployment. Prysner’s organization March Forward is focused on helping active-duty folk resist, so they were my first stop when the Venezuela coup started.

All of the above are worth your time, or at least mine. If, like me, you’re more the bookish sort, you might find yourself filling your shelf or Kindle with titles like Breaking Cadence, Kassabian’s Hooligans of Kandahar, Danny Sjursen’s Ghost Riders of Baghdad, or Matt Gallagher’s Kaboom after hearing some of these. Either way, these newsies are carrying gold, and deserve all the respect you have.



The Necessity of Moral Resistance in the Face of Militarism

Thanks, Matthew Hoh. I’m still sorry I missed this event, but hope this spreads the word.

Matthew Hoh

This past weekend I spoke as part of the Poor People’s Campaign event: The Necessity of Moral Resistance in the Face of Militarism. Reverend William Barber was, of course, the main speaker, and if you are uncertain as to how war and militarism play a role in the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign or in the way war and militarism have always played an oppressive and devastating role in our society, then please listen to Reverend Barber’s sermon as he clearly and definitively explains those two things. My talk, on the effect of war on veterans, is here below, while Reverend Barber’s sermon and the comments from Phyllis Bennis are in the Youtube clip below. Wage Peace.

View original post

Veteran Suicide is More From Guilt Than From PTSD

I’ve been looking for this video since March, when Matthew Hoh and so many others we know here spoke at Berlin’s Elevate Festival.They even Skyped in Dan Ellsberg. And I love their panel tag: “40 Years of Whistleblowing, Friom Pentagon to Panama Papers.”

Matthew Hoh

It’s been almost five months since I’ve written anything, and this post is not going to contain much of my writing, but rather sharing with you a note RootsAction sent out to its vast membership containing a clip of me in a talk I gave in London at the end of February:

It should be noted that traumatic brain injury, which in some studies has been found to be present in more than 20% of Afghan and Iraq veterans, and from which I suffer from, also has a very real and significant link to suicide in veterans.

The full video of the talk in London is found below. That talk, titled: “War, Journalism and Whistleblowers — 15 years after Katharine Gun’s Truth Telling on the Verge of the Iraq War”, included Katharine Gun, Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack, Silkie Carlo, Norman Solomon and Duncan Campbell, all of whom are really incredible and brave…

View original post 608 more words

Monday morning Winner whispers: a looooong road to #Justice4Reality?

I’ve spent the week waiting for a ruling on the Miranda issue raised in that February hearing, but Reality Winner’s counsel has not been. On Good Friday, the same day all counsel met for a status conference call, the defense gave notice that they intend to subpoena basically everyone with jurisdiction over U.S. cybersecurity or elections.

I’m trying to turn this news, via Politico, into an assortment of tea leaves re the Miranda issue. But it does at least seem that an avalanche of discovery cases may be a gold mine for investigative  reporters looking into Russiagate and the 2016 election. And for those of us looking at the blurred lines between military and civilian justice.

Talk about a wake-up call.

Windup_mpalarm_clock (1)

My letter to Reality

IMG_20180309_092047.jpgIt appears that I won’t get that phone interview with the main character in my upcoming story. In my effort to do so, I sent the following letter, with a SASE, to the place where she’s being detained. Posting it below, and hoping she still appreciated hearing from me.

Reality Winner, 3342,

Lincoln County Jail

P.O. Box 970, Lincolnton, GA  3081

Dear Ms. Winner,

I’m sending this on International Women’s Day, which feels appropriate: you’re a woman of great courage, as well as strength and energy.

You don’t know me yet, but I was one of those wearing carnations at your hearing last week. I’m grateful that your family welcomed me to “Stand With Reality,” and encouraged me to write to you. They know that I’ve spent the past 10 years writing a book about veterans, some as young as you. A few have had experiences similar to yours, too — and cheered me on as I headed to Georgia for last week’s hearing. I’m hoping that you’ll write back to me, and eventually consider calling me collect so you don’t have to write responses to my questions,

Getting ready to write this, I reread your Twitter feed, to get a sense of your voice. Much of what you RTed felt like it could have been mine, especially the stuff about Standing Rock. And your election night post was pure poetry.

And your mom knows I really felt it when I learned your bio-dad died six months before The Troubles. My wife’s dad died last spring, and she’s only now having times when she doesn’t grieve him every day. (The sweetest guy in the world, a Coast Guard vet and retired firefighter, he also died of COPD, so I even know a little of how those final weeks felt.)

I’d love to hear more about  Mr. Winner. Some of the questions that popped in my mind  How did he react when you joined the Air Force? Did you share thoughts about the 2016 election, while it was going on?  Was it his COPD that trapped him in a wheelchair? Were you able to be there when he died?

I’m curious about a lot more, of course — from how it felt to go from Texas to Monterey to Fort Meade– Did you miss the South, is that why you chose Augusta when you were discharged?– to how a brilliant desk-jockey like you stayed a jock, from playing soccer school to Crossfit and yoga. Did you take up Crossfit at DLI or at Fort Meade? And why CF AND yoga? To me they seem like opposite approaches to fitness. Why do both?

If I were a potential student (and a lot younger ;-), how would you explain the combination? Did you need both to manage the stress of your AF missions? I’ve read and thought a lot about movement, especially dance,  as a way to know who we are. Is that why you like to teach it?

I’m sorry if that’s too many questions; I know answering them on paper likely feels like work.  I’d be deeply honored to hear from you. I hope the weather down in Augusta has gotten less swampy, though even that sounds awesome right now from my snowy Philadelphia street.



Chris Lombardi

Chris L