Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever

Photo by Anna Hanks | CC BY 2.0

It was a small office on an upper floor of an office building in the hundred-year-old downtown of Laurel, MD. Laurel was the closest town to the sprawling Fort Meade, an Army post opened during World War One and expanded ever since. By the time the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) had opened their Laurel office, the fort had played host to the National Security Agency (NSA) for more than ten years. As a child of a military man, I had spent many hours at Fort Meade, swimming in the pool, accompanying my parents while they shopped at the commissary and Post Exchange, camping in the woods there, and using the Post Library. I had even been in the audience at military ceremonies in the parking lot of the NSA complex.

In 1975, when I first became aware of the Laurel VVAW office, I no longer had a military dependent’s ID card. Therefore, I could no longer enter Fort Meade or any other military establishment unless my father was with me. This was fine, since the way I felt about the military by then was worse than just negative. Indeed, it was at an April 1975 protest against military recruitment on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus that I found out about the Laurel VVAW branch from an active duty GI at the protest.

I only visited that office a couple times before it closed a dozen or so months later. The closure was related to internal political struggles inside the organization and a lack of interest in the group after the final victory of the Vietnamese over the US and Saigon forces in May 1975. The internal struggles had been ongoing for at least three or four years. Marxist-Leninist elements among the group’s membership had grown to comprise a significant minority of the rank and file, while more liberal elements (represented best perhaps by John Kerry) were leaving the group as it became more radical. This turn toward the left can be seen in the slogan adopted by the national leadership: “We’ve carried the rich for 200 years; We won’t fight another rich man’s war.” It was also apparent in their newspaper and literature, which had taken a clear leftist anti-imperialist slant. The shift towards Marxist-Leninism in the VVAW meant a reduction in its membership. This scenario played out across the United States in other antiwar and antiracist organizations. In place of a broad-based popular movement, numerous smaller and often sectarian groups sprinkled the landscape.

I first met and worked with antiwar GIs in what was then called West Germany. After my father returned from his tour in Vietnam in early 1970 (I always thought calling those assignments “tours” was pushing it), he was sent to Frankfurt am Main. As his family we went with. Within two months of our arrival, the US invaded Cambodia and Germans joined the worldwide surge of protest against the invasion. I marched several blocks with a massive crowd of antiwar protesters as it made its way to the headquarters of the US Army’s V Corps. That building was the same one where my dad worked. Talk about bringing the war home.

The first time I actually conversed with antiwar GIs, though, was at a rock concert the following winter. A couple of them were waiting in the crowd for the gates to the Frankfurt Kongresshalle to open. While they waited, they passed out copies of a mimeographed newsletter called FTA-Heidelberg. Like any half-aware military dependent teen, I knew FTA meant Fuck the Army. The Heidelberg part of the title denoted the origin of the paper. After all, there were several such newsletters with the same name. These mimeographed broadsides were part of a much broader underground newspaper movement in the US military. This was in turn part of the even larger US underground press of the time. When the gates to the concert hall opened, I joined the GIs in the rush towards the door and we smoked some hashish once we were inside. I took a dozen or so copies of the FTA paper and went to find my friends. That was how I became a distributor for the GI underground press. Every time it was published, a GI involved with the paper would find me at the library on base or at the Post Exchange cafeteria and hand me a couple dozen copies. I would then leave single issues in various locations on base. Given that the military brass did not understand the GI resistance and therefore resented (and even feared) it, a more public means of distribution would have carried some kind of repercussion.

Like most other institutions of the US power structure, the military recovered from those heady days of resistance. Although there are occasional moments where the troops challenge their role as hit men (and women) for the US empire, a combination of the end of the draft, the ongoing economic crisis, and an expensive, insidious recruitment campaign that targets children and adults has pretty much diffused any organized GI resistance. Indeed, many polls taken of US residents maintain that the military is one of the few government institutions that is respected by a majority of those polled. While these results are certainly cheered by the Pentagon and the war machine it is part of, they also create a greater potential for military abuses by those in power, no matter what their political party. Furthermore, these results emphasize why the military should be challenged more than ever—both from within its ranks and from the population at large.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail