General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.
-- Bertolt Brecht, untitled poem
Politicians got us into the Vietnam War, but they were not the ones to end it. This most unpopular incursion was stopped by a combination of citizen action and opposition within the military itself -- the kind of opposition that led to more than 500,000 "incidents of desertion" between 1966 and 1971, and troops in the field that simply refused to kill any more.
Filmmaker David Zeiger left college for Texas in the late '60s to help in the military antiwar effort in Oleo Strut (named for a shock absorber in helicopter landing gear), a coffee house outside Fort Hood frequented by military personnel, which became one of many headquarters and distribution points for underground antiwar newspapers.
"Sir! No Sir!" is his story, and the wider saga of the little known inside opposition that helped end the war.
Among those opposed were Louis Font, the first West Point graduate to refuse to serve. And nurse Susan Schall, court-martialed for making antiwar comments while in uniform. And Dr. Howard Levy, a dermatologist drafted to train Green Beret medics, who spent three years in prison for desertion.
Some of this information will probably be familiar to many. Most of it was news to me, largely because I spent those years out of the country and didn't hear much about happenings in the U.S. (or in Vietnam, for that matter).
I didn't know, for example, that in addition to the tank episode for which Jane Fonda is still being pilloried, she and Donald Sutherland did many off-base USO type shows. They were called FTA (f*** the a rmy) and not allowed on base, but they performed close to many bases in Nam, to crowds of sympathetic soldiers.
Filmmaker Zeiger says the reason for the delay in making this film was the fear that audiences would ho-hum it as just another film about the '60s. But 9/11 changed that, and the incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq make it more relevant than ever.
Whatever political side you're on, you owe it to yourself to see "Sir! No Sir!"