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WHY SOLDIERS WILL JOIN US

 

To remove the rich from power in the United States we need to persuade a critical mass of members of the American military forces to refuse to obey orders to attack the egalitarian revolutionary movement and instead use their weapons to help defend this movement from those who would attack it. A big  reason for believing this is possible is that in 1975 the American ruling class was forced to withdraw from Vietnam in ignominious defeat because American GIs refused orders to fight the Vietnamese peasants in the National Liberation Front.

 

If American GIs refused to attack Vietnamese peasants--foreigners about whom they had no prior knowledge and about whom they had been drilled with racist "kill the gooks" propaganda in their boot camp training--think how much more likely it is that GIs in the future will refuse to attack fellow Americans calling for an egalitarian society that the GIs themselves want too.

 

The story of the GIs' refusal to fight in Vietnam is told in the book, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War, by David Cortwright, first published in 1975 and re-published in 2005.

 

The following are excerpts from this book. The same story, however, is presented by Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr. in his article in the Armed Forces Journal, 7 June, 1971, titled "The Collapse of the Armed Forces" online here.

 

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[start of exerpts]

[pg. 269-70] Officially, the Army denied that it had a problem with GI resistance, but behind the scenes military officials were sufficiently worried to commission two major studies of opposition in the ranks. The studies were produced in 1972 and 1971 by the Research Analysis Corporation, a Virginia-based think tank that frequently served Army needs. The two reports, Determination of Potential for Dissidence in the U.S. Army and Future Impact of Dissident Elements Within the Army...provide remarkable insight into the startling dimensions of GI resistance, depicting a movement even more widespread than those of us involved at the time thought possible.

 

The studies documented the pervasiveness of resistance through a survey of 844 soldiers at five major Army bases in the continental United States... The survey found that during the height of the GI movement in 1970-71, one out of every four enlisted persons participated in dissident activities, with an equal percentage engaging in acts of disobedience. The combined results showed a startling 47 percent of low-ranking soldiers engaging in some form of dissent or disobedience, with 32 percent involved in such acts more than once. If frequent drug use is added as another form of resistance, the combined percentage of soldiers involved in disobedience, dissidence, or drug use came to an incredible 55 percent. The Army's own investigation thus showed that half of all soldiers were involved in some form of resistance activity--a truly remarkable and unprecedented level of disaffection. ...

 

The Army's study...confirmed what GI activists themselves understood. Contrary to popular impression, soldier opposition was far more concentrated among volunteers than among draftees.

 

[pg 261-2] A decade after the publication of Soldiers in Revolt, its central thesis was confirmed by former Army Captain Shelby Stanton in his book The Rise and Fall of an American Army...Stanton was a wounded combat veteran who offered a startling picture of the crisis that gripped the U.S. military in Vietnam. His battlefield history, drawn from official military unit archives, chronicles nearly all the bloody combat actions of the war...Stanton documents the depletion of U.S. military strength and the disintegration of morale within the ranks. He also provides important data on the extent of combat refusals.

 

[pg. 267-9] Within Vietnam itself, the disintegration of morale and discipline sapped the very heart of military capability. Here is how Stanton describes it:

 

Serious disciplinary problems resulted in disintegrating unit cohesion and operational slippages. In the field, friendly fire accidents became more prevalent as more short rounds and misplaced fire were caused by carelessness. There was an excessive number of "accidental" shootings and promiscuous throwing of grenades, some of which were deliberate fraggings aimed at unpopular officers, sergeants, and fellow enlisted men.

 

"Fragging," of course, was a new word, coined from the lexicon of GI despair and resistance, meaning an attack with a fragmentation grenade. According to the Army's own statistics, there were 551 fragging incidents in the years 1969-1972, resulting in eighty-six deaths and over 700 injuries. Approximately 80 percent of the victims in these attacks were officers and non-commissioned officers. These statistics are probably understated, since they do not include shootings with firearms. Whatever the exact numbers, the prevalence of fragging indicated an army at war with itself. Gung-ho officers, eager to push their men into battle, often became the victims of assault by their own men. Stanton reveals that after the bloody ten-day battle of Hamburger Hill in May 1969, embittered troops placed a notice in their underground newspaper offering a reward of $10,000 for fragging the officers in charge. ...

 

In the elite 1st Cavalry Division alone, supposedly one of the Army's premier units, there were thirty-five instances of refusal to fight during 1970. Some of these incidents involved entire units. This was an extraordinarily high number of combat refusals, an average of three a month in just one division...These figures do not include the presumably more frequent incidents of combat avoidance, in which units consciously avoided engagement with the enemy. All of this suggests that when commanders sent forces into battle, they had to worry not only about what the other side would do, but what their own troops would not do. In the face of such pervasive non-cooperation, combat effectiveness crumbled.

 

In Vietnam, an American army that was supported by the most lavish firepower in military history, that never lost a battle, nonetheless lost the war. Vietnam confirmed that military and technological power alone can never assure victory if the cause is unjust and lacks popular support. This is a lesson that haunts the United States today in Iraq. The American war effort in Indochina was doomed from the outset. It faced the impossible task of attempting to reverse a deeply entrenched, popularly supported national revolution. The war never had the understanding and necessary political support of the American people. Ultimately it lost the support and cooperation of its own troops. GI resistance seriously impeded the operational capacity of the U.S. armed forces. Combat refusals, unauthorized absences, fraggings, widespread indiscipline, racial rebellion, antiwar organizing, underground newspapers--all combined to undermine military effectiveness and purpose. The Army had to withdraw from Vietnam to save itself. This was a key factor in the U.S. defeat. The resistance and dissent of ordinary GIs made the Vietnam War unwinnable and changed the course of history.

[end of excerpts]

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In 1970 U.S. postal workers waged a nationwide strike. It was a "wildcat" strike, meaning that the official postal worker union opposed it and tried to stop it. President Nixon called in military troops to sort the mail. But, as reported here, "stories commonly told of troops unable to master mail-sorting in a few days but also sympathetic to strikers—some of whom had been called up as reservists and were working next to them." No doubt much of the inability "to master mail-sorting" was due to sympathy for the strikers and unwillingness to scab on their strike. This illustrates that it is one thing for the rulers to give orders to soldiers, but it is something altogether different for the orders to be obeyed.

 

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