Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sir, No Sir!

Tonight on Countdown, Keith Olbermann had an interview with an active-duty U.S. Marine who is speaking out against the Iraq War. The transcript isn't yet available on the MSNBC web site, but here's the gist: Sergeant Liam Madden is one of a growing number of active-duty rank-and-file military personnel who are are sending "protected communications" to individual members of Congress, urging them to bring the Iraq War to an end. In Sgt. Madden's view, "There is no benefit to the parties involved, including the American servicemembers, the Iraqi people, and the American people. This is a war for no benefit, in my eyes." White House Press Secretary Tony Snow cast aspersions on these brave troops who are serving or have served in Iraq, saying that these anti-war soldiers are "going to be able to get more press than than the hundreds of thousands who have come back and said they are proud of their service." As Sgt. Madden clearly demonstrates, it is entirely possible to be proud of your service in the military while at the same time speaking out against the misbegotten, misguided, mismanaged mission in which you are deployed — just as it is possible to love America while speaking out against some of the actions taken in our name.

In the Vietnam War, one of the elements that is often overlooked is the extent to which active-duty servicemembers took leading roles in the anti-war movement. The documentary Sir, No Sir! tells their story, beginning with soldiers at Fort Hood, which by an odd coincidence is just about next door to President Bush's ranch in Texas. The troops spoke out, and increasingly refused orders to fight in Vietnam. According to Pentagon records, there were 503,926 "incidents of desertion" between 1966 and 1971. In many cases, entire units refused to mobilize. Iraq Veterans Against the War is offering free copies of the DVD to anyone who has served in the military since 9/11 (see IVAW.org for details). One other little detail: Sir, No Sir! documents that the story of a returning Vietnam veteran being spat upon when he arrived back in the United States is almost certainly a complete fabrication.

Soldiers in a time of war still have not only the right but the obligation to speak out when they believe their orders are illegal or immoral. I salute Sgt. Madden and other troops with the courage to publicly oppose this war.

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