War is hell. So are cover-ups. Just when things are heating up with the Iraq situations along comes a smart, perfectly timed documentary that looks at the quagmire of Vietnam. Smart from start to finish is Sir! No Sir! This independent film, on screen at The Ridge, focuses on the anti-war movement of the late 60s early 70s from an unusual source: disenchanted military personnel.
Director/writer David Zeiger sure does have a knack to get under one’s skin by exposing long forgotten misdeeds and cover-ups from high up. By now everyone knows of the disenchantment over the Vietnam escapade. Few, however, are aware of the anti-war sentiments that were brewing in the trenches of the battlefield and in the barracks of American military personnel, both on the front lines and on the home-front.
Through actual footage of events between 1965 and 1972 Zeiger somehow manages to interview scores of military activists who played central roles in exposing the drawbacks to this U.S military misadventure. Long forgotten are the GI Joes and Janes who stood up against their commanders in a public way, often earning severe reprimands and court martials for daring to question and chastise the policy of their military and political leaders.
Good usage of archival and newsreel footage of government efforts to protest the mass protests of the mid-60s on college campuses and riots in Chicago circa 1968 were only part of the mass mobilization against the military excursion underway in South East Asia. Only in Sir! No Sir we end up going directly to the source of the discontent: combat soldiers who now recall their efforts to drum up support against the war while on active duty.
Present interviews book ended by actual photos of these men and women at antiwar rallies really brings home the point that some sort of cover-up was in play. Archival news footage of the bombings and the protests are masterfully presented in a way that you can’t help but feel for the trauma these objectors faced and cringe at the treatment they suffered when their actions became known to the authorities.
Lots will be learned by watching this documentary. Behind the scenes workings of the military underground press show the widespread support for a halt to hostilities while chats with lead protester Jane Fonda will bring back memories as will her anti-Bob Hope/USO tours of entertainers who wound up doing shows questioning the war.
Bound to stir up controversy concerning the current military operations underway one must fully distinguish between the Vietnam episode and our current battle with terrorists. Though Zeiger does not bring this up there obviously is a marked difference between the blunders of the 60s and the current confrontation we now face where the enemy thinks nothing of killing innocent civilians, children and women with beheading a symbol of their barbaric butchery.