Sir! No Sir! Reviews
Unfortunately, the American public is prone to blackouts in their memory of history and our country. Thank the media for brainwashing the sense out of all of us. The more things change, the more they stay the same.[/size][/font]
This movie is mostly comprised of interviews with a smattering of men and women who took part in the protests and were subsequently jailed. They'd all come to the conclusion that the war was immoral based on the atrocities they'd witnessed in Vietnam. There are also a bunch of clips of Jane Fonda both during the war on her FTA ("Free" the Army) tour [color=black][font=Tahoma]?[/font][/color] the evil twin of Bob Hope's USO roadshow [color=black][font=Tahoma]?[/font][/color] and now, looking much older and talking about how cool things were back then. No sightings of 80s legwarmer-clad, workout video Jane.
Despite the fact that I'm very interested in the whole Vietnam-era protest movement culture and that much of the information presented here was brand new to me, this movie never really grabbed me. I think part of the problem is that my natural skepticism kept kicking in [color=black][font=Tahoma]?[/font][/color] if the GI protest movement was really as widespread as this movie would have us believe, why are we just hearing about it now, over 30 years after the war ended?
The other problem is that regardless of how interesting the topic may be, just watching one guy after another drone on about his experiences during the war is enough to lull a person to sleep after a while. And that person would be me. "Blah blah blah Vietnam"...ZZzzzz. I couldn't have been out for more than a minute or two when I was awakened by somebody's cell phone.
This film isn't without its compelling moments. After one rousing old clip in which a solder demands that we get our troops out of a whole list of foreign countries, the rest of the audience spontaneously broke into applause. All eight of them. But still. Maybe I would've clapped too if I were the clapping sort. But alas, I'm not. The people on the screen can't hear us and I'm not too keen on expressing solidarity with my fellow audience members. They can't even remember to turn off their cell phones. Completely ruined my nap.
The film could've done with a bit more footage from the Vietnam days and a bit less reminiscing but I don't imagine that very much exists. A much better movie, in my opinion [color=black][font=Tahoma]? with plenty of old footage [color=black][font=Tahoma]?[/font][/color][/font][/color] is [i]Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, [/i]which focuses on Kerry's post-Vietnam role in the peace movement. The subjects aren't exactly the same, of course, but there's quite a bit of overlap. Whereas I thought [i]Sir! No Sir![/i] was merely interesting, the Kerry film was actually quite moving. Unfortunately, I was the only person in the whole country to see it so he lost anyway. What's the use?
One part of the "official" history remains unchallenged, that the anti-war movement expressed popular discontent with the political and military policies of the Johnson and Nixon administrations, but more importantly, applied selective, constant pressure on both administrations to end the Vietnam War. How much that pressure expedited the end of the war is open to debate, but Nixon running for re-election in 1972 on a "secret plan" to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam certainly isn't. Nixon's plan involved the phased withdrawal of U.S. ground troops, many of them near mutiny, replacing them with a South Vietnamese Army backed by U.S. air power. That policy slowed the disintegration of South Vietnam for several years, and, while it saved American lives, it didn't spare the Vietnamese (North and South) nor the Cambodians or the Laotians (Nixon invaded both countries).
Nixon's policy choices in the early 1970s grew out of the concern that American troops had lost the will, the morale to fight against the North Vietnamese and their supporters in the South. That concern, in turn, grew out of the anti-war movement [i]within[/i] the U.S. military, or so [i]Sir! No Sir![/i] argues, beginning early in the war, with the resignations of individual officers, like Donald Duncan, a decorated member of the Green Berets, who resigned in 1966 after more than a year in Vietnam. Duncan wrote a seminal article in Ramparts Magazine that voiced the concerns of officers and soldiers serving in Vietnam (e.g., the lack of clarity or endpoint to the mission, the collateral damage that resulted in high civilian death tolls, and, of course, the high death and injury rates of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam). Another officer, Howard Levy, a dermatologist drafted to train medics in Vietnam, refused to carry out the training. He was court-martialed and served three years in prison.
Director/writer David Zeiger argues that the 1968 Tet Offensive (a massive coordinated attack by the North Vietnamese on U.S. forces that caused panic in Washington and major disillusionment within the military) was also a turning point in the burgeoning GI anti-war movement. Director David Zeiger focuses on the so-called "Presidio Twenty-Seven," AWOL (away without leave) U.S. soldiers who openly joined peaceful, anti-war demonstrations. They were arrested and thrown into the Presidio stockade in San Francisco where, due to a combination of poor facilities and mistreatment, they continued their opposition to the war. As a result, several of them tried for mutiny (far more serious than the AWOL charges that sent them to the brigade).
As the war went on, groups formed across the country, including the well-known Vietnam Veterans Against the War that staged demonstrations in front of the White House (the famous image of soldiers chucking their medals over a makeshift wall came at the end of one mostly peaceful demonstration which also led to several members of the group testifying before Congress). The GI groups began participating in public rallies, on their own and with other groups, including the general anti-war movement. The GI movement culminated in the controversial "Winter Soldier Investigation," a three-day conference where soldiers described their participation in the mistreatment of the Vietnamese, up to and including war crimes (controversial due to the incendiary charges aired at the hearings, which many Americans failed to believe, and questions about the veracity of some of the ex-soldiers who testified or the lack of corroborating evidence to support their claims).
Zeiger wanted to also address what he considers the myth of anti-war activists spitting in disgust and calling out ?baby killer? at returning U.S. servicemen. Zeiger?s research finds that the story hardened into accepted fact without substantiation. None of the contemporaneous news sources describe any such incident, let alone incidents. If the incident happened, it?s lost in time, but the usual version of the story involves anti-American hippies, San Francisco International Airport, the returning servicemen, the spitting and the name calling. Zeiger suggests that even if an incident did happen, it was local and infrequent (if it was repeated at all). As [i]Sir! No Sir![/i] takes pains to point out, the peace movement was focused on ending the war and bringing the troops home (the disgust and revulsion was saved for the military leaders and the politicians who conducted the war).
Whether [i]Sir! No Sir![/i] gets much play in the redder parts of the United States is highly unlikely. Vietnam, like the Civil War that preceded it by a century, split the country into two groups, two memories, two narratives about the Vietnam War (the second narrative is not surprisingly missing from [i]Sir! No Sir![/i]). These two narratives, about how and why we entered the Vietnam War, why we fought, and more importantly, why we lost, have come back to haunt us in Iraq. The lack of unity, the desire to fight and win a ?lost? war has led the current political administration into another war, another occupation. Public opinion has turned against the occupation of Iraq, but the demonstrations have been sporadic, and nothing approaching a GI movement has been formed (not yet at least). If anything, [i]Sir! No Sir![/i] reminds us of the obligation politicians and citizens alike owe to servicemen and servicewoman, to fight only when we must, because if we don?t, they will be facing the consequences, mental, physical, and emotional, for years to come.