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HOME > VIETNAM > COLLAPSE? (2)

"The Collapse of the Armed Forces" (cont'd)

One antimilitary legal effort operates right in the theater of war. A three-man law office, backed by the Lawyers' Military Defense Committee, of Cambridge, Mass., was set up last fall in Saigon to provide free civilian legal services for dissident soldiers being court-martialed in Vietnam.

Besides these lawyers' fronts, the Pacific Counseling Service (an umbrella organization with Unitarian backing for a prolifery of antimilitary activities) provides legal help and incitement to dissident GIs through not one but seven branches (Tacoma, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Monterey, Tokyo, and Okinawa).

Another of Pacific Counseling's activities is to air-drop planeloads of sedition literature into Oakland's sprawling Army Base, our major West Coast staging point for Vietnam

On the religious front, a community of turbulent priests and clergymen, some unfrocked, calls itself the Order of Maximilian. Maximilian is a saint said to have been martyred by the Romans for refusing military service as un-Christian. Maximilian's present-day followers visit military posts, infiltrate brigs and stockades in the guise of spiritual counseling, work to recruit military chaplains, and hold services of "consecrations" of post chapels in the name of their saintly draft-dodger.

By present count at least 11 (some go as high as 26) off-base antiwar "coffee houses" ply GIs with rock music, lukewarm coffee, antiwar literature, how-to-do-it tips on desertion, and similar disruptive counsels. Among the best-known coffee houses are: The Shelter Half (Ft Lewis, Wash.); The Home Front (Ft Carson, Colo.); and The Oleo Strut (Ft Hood, Tex.).

Virtually all the coffee houses are or have been supported by the U.S. Serviceman's Fund, whose offices are in New York City's Bronx. Until May 1970 the Fund was recognized as a tax-exempt "charitable corporations," a determination which changed when IRS agents found that its main function was sowing dissension among GIs and that it was a satellite of "The new Mobilization Committee," a communist-front organization aimed at disruption of the Armed Forces.

Another "new Mobe" satellite is the G.I. Press Service, based in Washington, which calls itself the Associated Press of military underground newspapers. Robert Wilkinson, G.I. Press's editor, is well known to military intelligence and has been barred from South Vietnam.

While refusing to divulge names, IRS sources say that the serviceman's Fund has been largely bankrolled by well-to-do liberals. One example of this kind of liberal support for sedition which did surface identifiably last year was the $8,500 nut channeled from the Philip Stern Family Foundation to underwrite Seaman Roger Priest's underground paper OM, which, among other writings, ran do-it-yourself advice for desertion to Canada and advocated assassination of President Nixon.

The nation-wide campus-radical offensive against ROTC and college officer-training is well known. Events last year at Stanford University, however, demonstrate the extremes to which this campaign (which peaked after Cambodia) has gone. After the Stanford faculty voted to accept a modified, specially restructured ROTC program, the university was subjected to a cyclone of continuing violence which included at least $200,000 in ultimate damage to buildings (highlighted by systematic destruction of 40 twenty-foot stained glass windows in the library). In the end, led by university president Richard W. Lyman, the faculty reversed itself. Lyman was quoted at the time that "ROTC is costing Stanford too much."

"Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice," the antiwar show-biz front organized by Jane Fonda, Dick Gregory, and Dalton Trumbo, now claims over 800 film, TV, and music names. This organization is backing Miss Fonda's antimilitary road-show that opened outside the gates of Ft. Bragg, N.C., in mid-March.

Describing her performances (scripted by Jules Pfeiffer) as the soldiers' alternative to Bob Hope, Miss Fonda says her case will repeat the Ft Bragg show at or outside 19 more major bases. Although her project reportedly received financial backing from the ubiquitous Serviceman's Fund, Miss Fonda insisted on $1.50 admission from each of her GI audience at Bragg, a factor which, according to soldiers, somewhat limited attendance.

Freshman Representative Ronald V. Deludes (D-Calif.) runs a somewhat different kind of antimilitary production. As a Congressman, Dellums cannot be barred from military posts and has been taking full advantage of the fact. At Ft Meade, Md., last month, Dellums led a soldier audience as they booed and cursed their commanding officer who was present on-stage in the post theater which the Army had to make available.

Dellums has also used Capitol Hill facilities for his "Ad Hoc Hearings" on alleged war crimes in Vietnam, much of which involves repetition of unfounded and often unprovable charges first surfaced in the Detroit "Winter Soldiers" hearings earlier this year. As in the case of the latter, ex-soldier witnesses appearing before Dellums have not always been willing to cooperate with Army war-crimes investigators or even to disclose sufficient evidence to permit independent verification of their charges. Yet the fact that five West Point graduates willingly testified for Dellums suggests the extent to which officer solidarity and traditions against politics have been shattered in today's Armed Forces.

The Action Groups

Not unsurprisingly, the end-product of the atmosphere of incitement of unpunished sedition, and of recalcitrant antimilitary malevolence which pervades the world of the draftee (and to an extent the low-ranking men in "volunteer" services, too) is overt action.

One militant West Coast Group, Movement for a Democratic Military (MDM), has specialized in weapons theft from military bases in California. During 1970, large armory thefts were successfully perpetrated against Oakland Army Base, Fts Cronkhite and Ord, and even the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, where a team wearing Marine uniforms got away with nine M-16 rifles and an M-79 grenade launcher.

Operating in the middle West, three soldiers from Ft Carson, Colo., home of the Army's permissive experimental unit, the 4th Mechanized Division, were recently indicted by a federal grand jury for dynamiting the telephone exchange, power plant and water works of another Army installation, Camp McCoy, Wis., on 26 July 1970.

The Navy, particularly on the West Coast, has also experienced disturbing cases of sabotage in the past two years, mainly directed at ships' engineering and electrical machinery.

It will be surprising, according to informed officers, if further such tangible evidence of disaffection within the ranks does not continue to come to light. Their view is that the situation could become considerably worse before it gets better.

Tough Laws, Weak Courts

A frequent reaction when people learn the extent and intensity of the subversion which has been beamed at the Armed forces for the past three or more years is to ask whether such activities aren't banned by law. The answer is that indeed they are.

Federal law (18lUSC 2387) prohibits all manner of activities (including incitements, counseling, distribution or preparation of literature, and related conspiracies) intended to subvert the loyalty, morale or discipline of the Armed services. The penalty for violating this statute is up to ten years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Despite this tough law, on the books for many years, neither the Johnson, nor so far, the Nixon administration has brought a single prosecution against any of the wide range of individuals and groups, some mentioned here, whose avowed aims are to nullify the discipline and seduce the allegiance of the Armed forces.

Government lawyers (who asked not to be named) suggested two reasons for failure to prosecute. Under President Johnson, two liberal Attorneys General, Messers. Ramsey Clark and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, were reportedly unsympathetic to military pleas for help and in general to prosecutions for sedition of any kind. Besides, the lawyers said, the courts have now gone so far in extending First Amendment shelter to any form of utterance, that there is doubt whether cases brought under this law would hold.

Whatever the reason--and it appears mainly to be disinclination to prosecute or even test existing law--the services are today being denied legal protection they previously enjoyed without question and at a time when they need it worse than ever before. Continuing failure to invoke these sanctions prompted one senior commander to comment bitterly, "We simply can't turn this thing around until we get some support from our elected and appointed civilian officials."

One area of the U.S. government in which the Armed forces are encountering noticeable lack of support is the federal judiciary.

Until a very few years ago, the processes of military justice were regarded as a nearly untouchable preserve which the civil courts entered with reluctance and diffidence.

Plagued by a new breed of litigious soldier (and some litigious officers, too), the courts have responded by unprecedented rulings, mostly libertarian in thrust, which both specifically and generally have hampered and impeded the traditional operations of military justice and dealt body blows to discipline.

Andrew Stapp, the seditious soldier who founded the American Serviceman's Union, an organization aimed at undermining the disciplinary structure of the Armed forces, last year had his well earned undesirable discharge reversed by a U.S. judge who said Stapp's right to unionize and try to overthrow the Army was an "off-duty" activity which the Army had no right to penalize in discharging him.

Libertarian Supreme Court Justice W.O. Douglas has impeded the Army in mobilizing and moving reservists, while his O'Callaghan decision not only released a convicted rapist but threw a wrench into military jurisdiction and court-martial precedents going back in some cases nearly two centuries.

In Oakland, Cal., last year, a federal court yanked some 37 soldiers from the gangplank of a transport for Vietnam (where all 37 had suddenly discovered conscientious objections to war) and still has them stalled on the West Coast some 18 months later.

The long-standing federal law against wearing of Armed forces uniforms by persons intending to discredit the services was struck down in 1969 by the Supreme Court, which reversed the conviction of a uniformed actor who put on an antimilitary "guerrilla theater" skit on the street in Houston, Tex. As a result the Armed Forces are now no longer able to control subversive exploitation of the uniform for seditious purposes.

Tactics of Harassment

Part of the defense establishment's problem with the judiciary is the now widely pursued practice of taking commanding officers into civil courts by dissident soldiers either to harass or annul normal discipline or administrative procedures or the services.

continued in part 3