Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]