To some viewers, “Sir! No Sir!” will come off as a surefire liberal manifesto, but to those who really know what we’re talking about, “Sir! No Sir!” is a documentation of a group of soldiers who served their country, but then decided they just couldn’t do it anymore because it was unjust, so they stood up for their rights and decided they would fight no longer, and were crucified at the stake. Along with it came a domino effect of more and more protestors, gathering of activist organizations, and incidents that would further test their wills. But they stood up for their beliefs, and in that process, they became real heroes that chose not to kill. And yes, there are the ever present parallels to the Iraq war.
The government lied to America to enter in to Vietnam and pointed success towards the body count of the Vietnamese they’d slaughtered days before, much as what has happened today. Though “Sir! No Sir!” would possibly choose not to be put in to correlation with the Iraq war the obvious analogous allusions are there. After the Tet offensive in 1968, and the utterly brutal incident known as the My Lai Massacre, many of the soldiers serving for their country realized that this was not a war, yet a goal put upon by the government simply for their own means, and “Sir! No Sir!” presents two parties of soldiers. One party realized this war was a fraud and chose not to fight, while the other could not take the brutality of it all and chose not to fight any longer. They weren’t soldiers who pulled out of combat, but men asked to be killers, not to mention men, many of whom, hadn’t achieved the civil rights of an organization who felt they weren’t equal in society, but equal enough to die for them.
Zeiger’s documentary, along with charismatic narration from actor Troy Garity, is a tight, engrossing and excellent chronicle of the movement made by these heroic men who chose to question authority instead of falling in line. Thomas Jefferson said that the best form of patriotism is dissension, and it’s a safe bet that the men interviewed here are in fact patriots, and true patriots. They were not mindless war machines to be used as their commanders had thought, and showed that they chose not to murder innocent people for the sake of a meaningless conflict. Interviewed here is one of their most ardent and vocal proponents: Jane Fonda. Oddly though, they never take umbrage to her involvement in the Hanoi Jane incident, and it’s never explored, thankfully, but we do explore how she voiced her support, and how she put on shows for the protestors.
But “Sir! No Sir!” is a documentary based not on people who chose to speak out, but on people whom discovered that the cause they supported was in vain. To be disillusioned with your government who you believed would do you good, and to find out they’ve lied to you and asked you to pick up a weapon and kill people you’ve never met, to people who’ve done you no harm is what’s really the heartbreaking aspect of “Sir! No Sir!” All of these soldiers were valiant in their efforts to not fight in a war they felt was a deceitful practice in government fraud, and they succeeded through all the hardships. But the focus later changes to those who fought all the way through and discovered in the end, much too late, that their battle was for nothing. Because, the worst punishment a man can endure is regret.