FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Virtues of Mutiny and Desertion

by CLANCY SIGAL

Yesterday was the date in 1945 General Eisenhower authorized the execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik the only American GI ever  shot for desertion in World War Two.   Tonight’s Christmas Eve also marks the famous 1914 “Christmas truce”  when British and German soldiers crossed No Man’s Land to shake hands, play soccer, exchange souvenirs and sing carols to each other.  The High Commands and politicians on both sides swiftly put an end to that foolishness.  Where would such handshakes end?  Peace?  Unthinkable.  The war went on killing many millions.

Just before being strapped to the firing squad post at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines an unrepentant Eddie Slovik told his killers, “They’re not shooting me for deserting the United States Army, thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody and I’m it because I’m an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that’s what they are shooting me for. They’re shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old.”

Eddie had an acute sense of class justice.  He was also scared of dying in the Hurtgen Forest battle which military historians call an “Allied defeat of the first magnitude” because the commanding generals, Eisenhower, Bradley and Courtney Hodges, foolishly insisted on the fatal World War One tactic of hurling American soldiers again and again into what became a butcher’s shop of terrain held, and zeroed in by, the Germans.  No general was ever court martialled let alone shot for his stupidity.  Only poor Eddie had to pay the price.

His widow petitioned seven U.S. presidents to posthumously pardon Eddie; all refused.

(Available are a 1974 made-for-TV movie ‘The Execution of Eddie Slovik’ starring Martin Sheen, and a OR Book Going Rougewonderful Euro co-production ‘Joyeux Noel’ about the 1914 Christmas truce.)

Eddie was very clear that he refused to die in a battle that soon would produce, unnecessarily, 33,000 dead and wounded Americans.  Call it a one man mutiny…or cowardice, depending on your bias.

Front line mutiny is the anti-Christ, a curse word, to rear echelon generals and politicians who send men and now women to their deaths.  Half the French combat divisions mutinied in 19l7 after the bloody failure of the so-called Nivelle Offensive.   Many of the mutineers were veterans of trench warfare who didn’t see any more sense in “going over the top” into storms of deadly German machinegun fire.   The mutinies were kept secret from the public although many mutineers were courtmartialled and shot.  (See Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick’s amazing ‘Paths of Glory’.)

In Staffordshire, England there’s a WW1 ‘Shot At Dawn’ monument honoring the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed for desertion or “cowardice” under fire.  The monument was funded by relatives of the dead soldiers seeking to remove the stigma of coward.  Then-prime minister John Major refused by saying that pardoning the ‘deserters’ would be an insult to those who died honourably on the battlefield.   Ernest Hemingway, in A Farewell to Arms, has a lot to say about this business of dying “honorably”.  His World War One hero, Lt Henry, deserts at the height of a fierce battle.

We know about Vietnam where army, navy and Marine Corps mutinies probably did more to end the war than our peace movement.  Since then the Pentagon wised up and ended the draft in favor of an all-volunteer army which in Bush and Obama’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen nothing like Vietnam’s impressive “GI resistance”.  (Back then, in one year alone, the equivalent of three full combat divisions went “over the hill”.)

There won’t be a Christmas Truce in Syria or Sudan or Central African Republic nor will the Taliban or Sunni-Shiites pause for Yuletide mercy.  Still, I can’t help fantasizing how fewer people would be killed if there were more desertions and more army mutinies whose basic aim always is to remind authorities of the reality of who dies for whom.

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives. Sigal and Doris Lessing lived together in London for several years. 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail