FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Virtues of Mutiny and Desertion

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. 

More articles by:

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savoir
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail