Movie Review: Sir! No Sir!

Sir! No Sir!

Sir! No Sir! tells the story of the GI movement to end the Vietnam War. I found this documentary fascinating for a number of reasons:

  • I realized that, of all the anti-war protestors of the era, those in the military were probably the most influential.
  • I was amazed at how little I had previously known about the GI movement against the war, which according to the film, is due to a bit of revisionist history.
  • Ironically U.S. soldiers do not have many rights, including that of free speech. Someone has to explain to me how this is constitutional.
  • The urban legend that returning veterans were unwelcome and, in some cases, spit on by peace activists was debunked. Another revisionist history fun fact, perhaps?
  • Unlike a lot of movies about this turbulent period in American history, it remained focused on the larger issues of war and peace and didn’t get lost in the comparatively irrelevant “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” experience.

With all that said, the most important thing I took away from Sir! No Sir! was how it could be used as a blueprint for today’s soldiers. Hopefully they will watch it and be inspired to action, because that may be the only way the wars on terror can come to an end.

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3 Responses to “Movie Review: Sir! No Sir!”

  1. Mike Byrnes Says:

    Kevin,

    I too watched Sir! No Sir! and while the points you made were covered in this pseudo-documentary it is far from clear an objective view of the anti-war movement. David Ziegler is hardly an objective source on the Vietnam War and with Jane Fonda’s son as the narrator I did not have to watch this movie to know the story line.

    I served in the US Army during the later stages of the Viet Nam War and will share my perspective with you. I will make several short comments in CAPs below.

    • I realized that, of all the anti-war protestors of the era, those in the military were probably the most influential. THIS IS NOT SUPPORT BY MY OBSERVATIONS AT THE TIME AN BY SUBSEQUENT REVELATION THAT MANY OF THOSE PROTESTING IN UNIFORM WERE NOT IN FACT SOLDIERS. THERE WERE A NUMBER OF MILTARY PERSONNEL WHO WERE MEMBERS BUT THE LARGEST AND BEST KNOWN VETRANS’ ANTI-WAR GROUP, THE VIETNAM VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR, AT IT HEIGHT COULD NOT DEMONSTRATE THAT MORE THAN 1000 ACTUAL VERTRANS COULD BE COUNTED AS ITS MEMBERS.
    • I was amazed at how little I had previously known about the GI movement against the war, which according to the film, is due to a bit of revisionist history. WHEN YOU COMPARE ACTUAL HISTORY TO THE MIS-INFORMATION IN THIS FILM I CAN UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WOULD SAY THIS. MILITARY PROTESTS AGAINST THE WAR RECEIVED MUCH PUBLICITY IN NATIONAL AND LOCAL NEWSPAPERS. WHAT IS AMAZING IS HOW LITTLE ALL OF US KNOW ABOUT EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE BEFORE OUR TIME.
    • Ironically U.S. soldiers do not have many rights, including that of free speech. Someone has to explain to me how this is constitutional. I THINK A LITTLE MORE READING OF HISTORY WOULD ANSWER THIS QUESTION FOR YOU. THE US LEGISLATIVE BODY AND JUDICIAL BODY HAS UPHELD THIS PRINCIPLE FOR MORE THAN 200 YEARS. JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING HAS EXISTED FOR 200 YEARS DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT, BUT ONE WOULD THINK AN IMPORTNAT PRINCIPLE IS INVOLVED HERE. tHE UNIFORMED CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE PROVIDES RIGHTS TO MILITARY MEMBERS. SOME ONE DEEDS TO EXPLAIN TO YOU THE UNIQUE AND SPECIAL CONDITIONS WHICH ARE FOUND ON THE BATTLE FIELD.
    • The urban legend that returning veterans were unwelcome and, in some cases, spit on by peace activists was debunked. Another revisionist history fun fact, perhaps? GLAD YOU PUT THE “PERHAPS?” IN. IM WITNESSED IT HERE IN BRISTOL WITH AN ANTI-WAR PARADE OF STUDENTS FROM ROGER WILLIAMS COLLEGE.
    • Unlike a lot of movies about this turbulent period in American history, it remained focused on the larger issues of war and peace and didn’t get lost in the comparatively irrelevant “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” experience. THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT WAS RIDDLED WITH THE COMPARATIVELY IRRELEVANT VICES YOU MENETIONED. WAR AND PEACE ARE THE KEY ISSUES,BUT SADELY THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS WITH IN OUR CONTROL.
    With all that said, the most important thing I took away from Sir! No Sir! was how it could be used as a blueprint for today’s soldiers. Hopefully they will watch it and be inspired to action, because that may be the only way the wars on terror can come to an end. HISTORY WOULD TELL YOU THAT THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE VIETNAM ERA DRAFTEES AND TODAYS VOLUNTEER FORCE. MOST SOLDIERS DO NOT WANT TO FIGHT, BUT THE VAST MAJORITY PERFORM THEIR DUTY WITH A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY THAT IS ADMIRABLE. THE WAR ON TERROR WILL NOT COME TO EAN END AS LONG AS THERE ARE THREATS TO THE US. THIS MAY NOT BE SOMETHING WHICH IS ENTIRELY WITHIN OUR CONTROL AS MUCH AS WE WOULD LIKE IT OT BE.

  2. bristolbullraker Says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for posting the first (real) comment on the site! While our opinions obviously differ on some issues, I think your intelligence and perspective are very valuable to the discussion. As such, I’d like to try to address the points you’ve made.

    * Your comments on the one-sided nature of the film are well taken. Indeed, the facts and opinions presented defend an anti-war position, but that doesn’t necessarily make the movie a “pseudo-documentary”. I’m curious as to whether you spotted factual errors and if you suspect they were made intentionally by the filmmakers.

    * I’m not sure if I’d label the idea that the GI anti-war movement is lost to history as “misinformation”. Granted I’m no expert on (nor was I alive during) the Vietnam War, but I had never really heard much about these protesters. And, as a fairly bright individual, you think I would’ve heard something… I mean, other than from John Kerry attack ads. 😉

    * I agree with you that many people don’t know much about events prior to their lifetimes. But, then again, many people don’t know much. Period. I wouldn’t be too hard on us youngsters though. Contemporary history and civics aren’t taught that much (if at all) in school anymore. For the most part, what I know about modern American history, I’ve had to learn on my own. And, with at least one (frivolous) topic, I think I’ve done a pretty darn good job: Go ahead. Just ask me a question about old-time baseball! 🙂

    * The that’s-just-the-way-it’s-always-been argument is hardly ever convincing on its own. I fail to see how allowing soldiers to speak freely (“unique and special conditions” aside, such as legit classified data) is a bad thing. I think it would improve morale and open up the relationship between the military and civilian populations. Actually, I bet more able bodies would sign up if they knew their basic rights, like free speech, weren’t going to be suspended.

    * I’m fascinated by your story of the spitting RWC student protesters at an anti-war parade in Bristol. Do you have a rough timeframe for this event and/or know if it was written up in the Phoenix? If we find an article, we could send it to the person doing the research into the “myth”. I’d be interested to see his response.

    * I’m with you on the “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll” thing. It totally trivializes an important part of our history, but it seems like that’s all we ever hear about with regard to that era. However, doesn’t this just support even more the idea that the impact of the GI anti-war movement may have been supressed over time?

    * I concur that our soldiers are admirable for performing their duty, but I also feel people like Iraq Vets Against the War are just as admirable for speaking out in opposition to the war on terror.

    * There are many differences between today’s soldiers and those in Vietnam. One big difference is that they are now facing revolving door deployments so we can avoid a draft… because our leaders know what kind of resistance they’ll face trying to institute one.

    * And last but not least, the phrase “the war on terror won’t end until the threats are gone” is problematic. First off, Iraq was simply not enough of a threat to warrant a war there. We were led into it on false premises. Secondly, the threat of terror affects all nations so the US shouldn’t be trying to fight it alone. The fact that we are suggests our officials may have less than ideal motives, including the ability to fight the enemy on their terms (which has excluded diplomacy and included things like torture and indiscriminant bombings) and the takeovers of Middle Eastern infrastructure by US companies. Thirdly, our presence in the region is viewed as meddlesome and is helping terrorist recruitment efforts, thus extending the war.

    Please understand that I am in no way attempting to disparage the men and women in the armed forces. I have several family members who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Plus I work in the defense industry, so I have a lot of respect for the military… honestly, I might have made a better soldier than a peace activist! 🙂

    All that said, I think it’s the duty of Americans to constantly question what is being done in the name of our country because I reject the notion that we don’t always control the issues of war and peace. Our soldiers are in an untenable position because our leaders have put them there… and I feel it’s up to us to try and help them!

    Thanks for reading the Bull Raker blog, Mike!

  3. Michael Byrnes Says:

    Kevin,

    Thanks for your reply. Below are my brief comments on your replies.

    * Your comments on the one-sided nature of the film are well taken. Indeed, the facts and opinions presented defend an anti-war position, but that doesn’t necessarily make the movie a “pseudo-documentary”. WHEN I THINK OF DOCUMENTARY I THINK OF SOMETHING THAT COVERS BOTH SIDES OBJECTIVELY.

    * I’m not sure if I’d label the idea that the GI anti-war movement is lost to history as “misinformation”. KEVIN, I THINK IF YOU SCANNED THE NYT OR ANY OTHER NEWSPAPER FROM 1968-1974 YOU WOULD FIND MUCH INFORMATION ON THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT AND THE MILITARY COMPONENT OF IT.

    * The that’s-just-the-way-it’s-always-been argument is hardly ever convincing on its own. I WAS NOT SAYING THAT ITS ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY BUT THAT THIS PRINCIPLE HAS SURVIVED CHALLENGES OVER MORE THAN 200 YEARS INDICATES THE LOGIC OF THIS POSITION. PERHAPS YOU MIGTH DISCUSS WITH RELATIVES THAT HAVE SERVED.

    * I’m fascinated by your story of the spitting RWC student protesters at an anti-war parade in Bristol. I DID NOT SAY THE RWC STUDENTS SPIT ON ANYONE BUT THEY WERE DEFINATELY NOT WELCOMING TO RETURNED VETS. THIS EVENT HAPPENED SOME TIME IN MAY 1971.

    * There are many differences between today’s soldiers and those in Vietnam. THE BIG DIFFERENCE IS THAT TODAYS YOUNG AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN GENERAL TAKE GREATER PRIDE IN THEIR SERVICE AND JOIN THE MILITARY VOLUNTARILY .

    * First off, Iraq was simply not enough of a threat to warrant a war there. IN HIND SIGHT I AGREE. NOT ONLY THAT THE MAIN EFFORT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RESOLVING THE WAR IN AFGAHNISTAN. WE SHOULD NOT HAVE GONE TO WAR IN IRAQ, BUT ONCE THERE WE HAD TO FIND A WAY OUT THAT LEFT IRAQ AND AMERICA IN A BETTER POSITION THAN WHEN WE ENTERED. iT TOOK THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO LONG TO ACHIEVE THAT RESULT. HAVING SAID THIS THERE ARE MANY FOLKS WHO WISH TO DO US GREAT HARM. WE CAN WISH AWAY THE TERRORIST THREAT BUT I FEAR IT IS NOT THAT EASY.

    * Thirdly, our presence in the region is viewed as meddlesome and is helping terrorist recruitment efforts, thus extending the war. ATUALLY THE MID EAST IS SPIT. THERE WERE AN NUMBER OF ARAB COUNTRUIES THAT PRIVATELY WERE STRONGLY ENCOURAGING OUR ENTRY IN IRAQ. SEE BING WEST’S BOOK ON IRAQ.

    * Just ask me a question about old-time baseball! SAW YOU ARTICLE ON YOUR BLOG. WELL DONE!

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