On May 1, in a televised address from Afghanistan, President Obama said, “There will be difficult days ahead. The enormous sacrifices of our men and women are not over.”
That’s an understatement.
In fact the current US policy in the region demands of the Afghan people a massive sacrifice as well.
Without a new strategy — not the slow downsizing of the Afghanistan war over the next decade — there will indeed be difficult days ahead.
Instead of helping, the continued US presence jeopardizes the Afghan people’s future, as it does our future here at home.
The future of the Afghan economy and its people’s aspirations is stalled by the unwillingness to leave sooner rather than later. Corruption and graft are bred by US funding and the occupation.
Furthermore, the US has no clear strategy for a negotiated peace or a framework for sustainable economic development in Afghanistan.
Today, two-thirds of the US people across the political spectrum want the war to end now. In poll after poll they readily connect the government’s ability to deal with the economic crisis in our communities to ending the war.
The longer the troops stay in Afghanistan, the more desperately needed resources will be withheld from our cities, schools, libraries and hospitals.
The projected 2013 price-tag for the war will be $88 billion dollars, while unemployment hovers at 10 percent and triple that among young people of color. The current Pentagon budget is $800 billion a year without a real cut in sight.
As long as the troops stay in Afghanistan, and the US pursues a militarized foreign policy, the possibility of US sustainable economic development and a stronger democracy is as impossible here as it is in Afghanistan.
The White House fact sheet issued along with Obama’s speech emphasized that the Strategic Partnership Agreement itself “does not commit the United States to any specific troop levels or levels of funding in the future, as those are decisions will be made in consultation with the U.S. Congress.” And funding from Congress will be requested on an annual basis to support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of Afghan National Security Forces.”
The agreement just signed leaves us with the yearly Congressional fight over funding the war. A full-throated, massive pressure campaign is needed.
That’s where we have to draw the line and make the fight in the next few weeks to cut the Pentagon budget and for a negotiated peace, not a prolonged downsized war.
The Congressional elections will be the battleground for exerting the popular opinion of ending a war that is not only unwinnable but in fact is a roadblock to both the US and Afghan people from achieving a decent life, schools, healthcare and jobs.
President Obama said in his speech to the nation, “Others will ask why we don’t leave immediately. The answer is also clear: we must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize.”
But the underlying problems in Afghanistan are little served by foreign armies and military “solutions.” The reality is that until the US and NATO forces leave Afghanistan both the Afghan and US peoples will have more than a few difficult days ahead. We’ll have difficult years ahead.
Judith Le Blanc is the Field Director for Peace Action, the largest peace group in the US. She can be reached at: email@example.com.
Excerpts and adaptation:
by Joel Geier
Our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near-mutinous Conditions exist among American forces in Vietnam that have only been exceeded in this century by… the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 and 1917.
– Armed Forces Journal, June 1971
The most neglected aspect of the Vietnam War is the soldiers’ revolt–the mass upheaval from below that unraveled the American army. It is a great reality check in an era when the U.S. touts itself as an invincible nation. For this reason, the soldiers’ revolt has been written out of official history.
The army revolt pitted enlisted soldiers against officers who viewed them as expendable. Liberal academics have reduced the radicalism of the 1960s to middle-class concerns and activities, while ignoring military rebellion. But the militancy of the 1960s began with the Black liberation struggle, and it reached its climax with the unity of White and Black soldiers.
A working-class army
From 1964 to 1973, from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, 27 million men came of draft age. A majority of them were not drafted due to college, professional, medical or National Guard deferments. Only 40 percent were drafted and saw military service. A small minority, 2.5 million men (about 10 percent of those eligible for the draft), were sent to Vietnam.
This small minority was almost entirely working-class or rural youth. Their average age was 19. Eighty-five percent of the troops were enlisted men; 15 percent were officers. The enlisted men were drawn from the 80 percent of the armed forces with a high school education or less. At this time, college education was universal in the middle class.
In the elite colleges, the class discrepancy was even more glaring. The upper class did none of the fighting. Of the 1,200 Harvard graduates in 1970, only 2 went to Vietnam, while working-class high schools routinely sent 20 percent, 30 percent of their graduates and more to Vietnam.
College students who were not made officers were usually assigned to noncombat support and service units. High school dropouts were three times more likely to be sent to combat units that did the fighting and took the casualties. Combat infantry soldiers, “the grunts,” were entirely working class. They included a disproportionate number of Black working-class troops. Blacks, who formed 12 percent of the troops, were often 25 percent or more of the combat units.
When college deferments expired, joining the National Guard was a favorite way to get out of serving in Vietnam. During the war, 80 percent of the Guard’s members described themselves as joining to avoid the draft. You needed connections to get in–which was no problem for Dan Quayle, George W. Bush and other draft evaders. In 1968, the Guard had a waiting list of more than 100,000. It had triple the percentage of college graduates that the army did. Blacks made up less than 1.5 percent of the National Guard. In Mississippi, Blacks were 42 percent of the population, but only one Black man served in a Guard of more than 10,000.
The middle-class officers corps
The officer corps was drawn from the 7 percent of troops who were college graduates, or the 13 percent who had one to three years of college. College was to officer as high school was to enlisted man. The officer corps was middle class in composition and managerial in outlook.
Superfluous support officers lived far removed from danger, lounging in rear base camps in luxurious conditions. A few miles away, combat soldiers were experiencing a nightmarish hell. The contrast was too great to allow for confidence–in both the officers and the war–to survive unscathed.
Westmoreland’s solution to the competition for combat command poured gasoline on the fire. He ordered a one-year tour of duty for enlisted men in Vietnam, but only six months for officers. The combat troops hated the class discrimination that put them at twice the risk of their commanders. They grew contemptuous of the officers, whom they saw as raw and dangerously inexperienced in battle.
Even a majority of officers considered Westmoreland’s tour inequality as unethical. Yet they were forced to use short tours to prove themselves for promotion. They were put in situations in which their whole careers depended on what they could accomplish in a brief period, even if it meant taking shortcuts and risks at the expense of the safety of their men–a temptation many could not resist.
The outer limit of six-month commands was often shortened due to promotion, relief, injury or other reasons. The outcome was “revolving-door” commands. As an enlisted man recalled, “During my year in-country I had five second-lieutenant platoon leaders and four company commanders. One CO was pretty good…All the rest were stupid.”
Aggravating this was the contradiction that guaranteed opposition between officers and men in combat. Officer promotions depended on quotas of enemy dead from search-and-destroy missions. Battalion commanders who did not furnish immediate high body counts were threatened with replacement. This was no idle threat–battalion commanders had a 30 to 50 percent chance of being relieved of command. But search-and-destroy missions produced enormous casualties for the infantry soldiers. Officers corrupted by career ambitions would cynically ignore this and draw on the never-ending supply of replacements from the monthly draft quota.
Officer corruption was rife. A Pentagon official writes, “the stench of corruption rose to unprecedented levels during William C. Westmoreland’s command of the American effort in Vietnam.” The CIA protected the poppy fields of Vietnamese officials and flew their heroin out of the country on Air America planes. Officers took notice and followed suit. The major who flew the U.S. ambassador’s private jet was caught smuggling $8 million of heroin on the plane.
The war was fought by NLF troops and peasant auxiliaries who worked the land during the day and fought as soldiers at night. They would attack ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and American troops and bases or set mines at night, and then disappear back into the countryside during the day. In this form of guerrilla war, there were no fixed targets, no set battlegrounds, and there was no territory to take. With that in mind, the Pentagon designed a counterinsurgency strategy called “search and destroy.” Without fixed battlegrounds, combat success was judged by the number of NLF troops killed–the body count. A somewhat more sophisticated variant was the “kill ratio”–the number of enemy troops killed compared to the number of Americans dead. This “war of attrition” strategy was the basic military plan of the American ruling class in Vietnam.
For each enemy killed, for every body counted, soldiers got three-day passes and officers received medals and promotions. This reduced the war from fighting for “the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese” to no larger purpose than killing. Any Vietnamese killed was put in the body count as a dead enemy soldier, or as the GIs put it, “if it’s dead, it’s Charlie” (“Charlie” was GI slang for the NLF). This was an inevitable outcome of a war against a whole people. Everyone in Vietnam became the enemy–and this encouraged random slaughter. Officers further ordered their men to “kill them even if they try to surrender–we need the body count.” It was an invitation to kill indiscriminately to swell a tally sheet.
Rather than following their officers, many more soldiers had the courage to revolt against barbarism.
Ninety-five percent of combat units were search-and-destroy units. Their mission was to go out into the jungle, hit bases and supply areas, flush out NLF troops and engage them in battle. If the NLF fought back, helicopters would fly in to prevent retreat and unleash massive firepower–bullets, bombs, missiles. The NLF would attempt to avoid this, and battle generally only occurred if the search-and-destroy missions were ambushed. Ground troops became the live bait for the ambush and firefight. GIs referred to search and destroy as “humping the boonies by dangling the bait.”
Without helicopters, search and destroy would not have been possible–and the helicopters were the terrain of the officers. “On board the command and control chopper rode the battalion commander, his aviation-support commander, the artillery-liaison officer, the battalion S-3 and the battalion sergeant major. They circled…high enough to escape random small-arms fire.” The officers directed their firepower on the NLF down below, but while indiscriminately spewing out bombs and napalm, they could not avoid “collateral damage”–hitting their own troops. One-quarter of the American dead in Vietnam was killed by “friendly fire” from the choppers. The officers were out of danger, the “eye in the sky,” while the troops had their “asses in the grass,” open to fire from both the NLF and the choppers.
When the battle was over, the officers and their choppers would fly off to base camps removed from danger while their troops remained out in the field.
Of the 543,000 American troops in Vietnam in 1968, only 14 percent (or 80,000) were combat troops. These 80,000 men took the brunt of the war. They were the weak link, and their disaffection crippled the ability of the world’s largest military to fight. In 1968, 14,592 men–18 percent of combat troops–were killed. An additional 35,000 had serious wounds that required hospitalization. Although not all of the dead and wounded were from combat units, the overwhelming majority were. The majority of combat troops in 1968 were either seriously injured or killed. The number of American casualties in Vietnam was not extreme, but as it was concentrated among the combat troops, it was a virtual massacre. Not to revolt amounted to suicide.
Officers, high in the sky, had few deaths or casualties. The deaths of officers occurred mostly in the lower ranks among lieutenants or captains who led combat platoons or companies. The higher-ranking officers went unharmed. During a decade of war, only one general and eight full colonels died from enemy fire. As one study commissioned by the military concluded, “In Vietnam… the officer corps simply did not die in sufficient numbers or in the presence of their men often enough.”
The slaughter of grunts went on because the officers never found it unacceptable. There was no outcry from the military or political elite, the media or their ruling-class patrons about this aspect of the war, nor is it commented on in almost any history of the war. It is ignored or accepted as a normal part of an unequal world, because the middle and upper class were not in combat in Vietnam and suffered no pain from its butchery. It never would have been tolerated had their class done the fighting. Their premeditated murder of combat troops unleashed class war in the armed forces. The revolt focused on ending search and destroy through all of the means the army had provided as training for these young workers.
Tet–the revolt begins
The Tet Offensive was the turning point of the Vietnam War and the start of open, active soldiers’ rebellion. At the end of January 1968, on Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, the NLF sent 100,000 troops into Saigon and 36 provincial capitals to lead a struggle for the cities. The Tet Offensive was not militarily successful, because of the savagery of the U.S. counterattack. In Saigon alone, American bombs killed 14,000 civilians. The city of Ben Tre became emblematic of the U.S. effort when the major who retook it announced that “to save the city, we had to destroy it.”
Westmoreland and his generals claimed that they were the victors of Tet because they had inflicted so many casualties on the NLF. But to the world, it was clear that the U.S. had politically lost the war in Vietnam. Tet showed that the NLF had the overwhelming support of the Vietnamese population–millions knew of and collaborated with the NLF entry into the cities and no one warned the Americans. The ARVN had turned over whole cities without firing a shot. In some cases, ARVN troops had welcomed the NLF and turned over large weapons supplies. The official rationale for the war, that U.S. troops were there to help the Vietnamese fend off Communist aggression from the North, was no longer believed by anybody. The South Vietnamese government and military were clearly hated by the people.37
Westmoreland’s constant claim that there was “light at the end of the tunnel,” that victory was imminent, was shown to be a lie. Search and destroy was a pipe dream. The NLF did not have to be flushed out of the jungle, it operated everywhere. No place in Vietnam was a safe base for American soldiers when the NLF so decided.
What, then, was the point of this war? Why should American troops fight to defend a regime its own people despised? Soldiers became furious at a government and an officer corps who risked their lives for lies. Throughout the world, Tet and the confidence that American imperialism was weak and would be defeated produced a massive, radical upsurge that makes 1968 famous as the year of revolutionary hope. In the U.S. army, it became the start of the showdown with the officers.
The refusal of an order to advance into combat is an act of mutiny. In time of war, it is the gravest crime in the military code, punishable by death. In Vietnam, mutiny was rampant, the power to punish withered and discipline collapsed as search and destroy was revoked from below.
Until 1967, open defiance of orders was rare and harshly repressed, with sentences of two to ten years for minor infractions. Hostility to search-and-destroy missions took the form of covert combat avoidance, called “sandbagging” by the grunts. A platoon sent out to “hump the boonies” might look for a safe cover from which to file fabricated reports of imaginary activity.
But after Tet, there was a massive shift from combat avoidance to mutiny. One Pentagon official reflected that “mutiny became so common that the army was forced to disguise its frequency by talking instead of ‘combat refusal.’” Combat refusal, one commentator observed, “resembled a strike and occurred when GIs refused, disobeyed, or negotiated an order into combat.”
Acts of mutiny took place on a scale previously only encountered in revolutions. The first mutinies in 1968 were unit and platoon-level rejections of the order to fight. The army recorded 68 such mutinies that year. By 1970, in the 1st Air Cavalry Division alone, there were 35 acts of combat refusal. One military study concluded that combat refusal was “unlike mutinous outbreaks of the past, which were usually sporadic, short-lived events. The progressive unwillingness of American soldiers to fight to the point of open disobedience took place over a four-year period between 1968-71.”
The 1968 combat refusals of individual units expanded to involve whole companies by the next year. The first reported mass mutiny was in the 196th Light Brigade in August 1969. Company A of the 3rd Battalion, down to 60 men from its original 150, had been pushing through Songchang Valley under heavy fire for five days when it refused an order to advance down a perilous mountain slope. Word of the mutiny spread rapidly. The New York Daily News ran a banner headline, “Sir, My Men Refuse To Go.” The GI paper, The Bond, accurately noted, “It was an organized strike…A shaken brass relieved the company commander…but they did not charge the guys with anything. The Brass surrendered to the strength of the organized men.”
This precedent–no court-martial for refusing to obey the order to fight, but the line officer relieved of his command–was the pattern for the rest of the war. Mass insubordination was not punished by an officer corps that lived in fear of its own men. Even the threat of punishment often backfired. In one famous incident, B Company of the 1st Battalion of the 12th Infantry refused an order to proceed into NLF-held territory. When they were threatened with court-martials, other platoons rallied to their support and refused orders to advance until the army backed down.
As the fear of punishment faded, mutinies mushroomed. There were at least ten reported major mutinies, and hundreds of smaller ones. Hanoi’s Vietnam Courier documented 15 important GI rebellions in 1969. At Cu Chi, troops from the 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry refused battle orders. The “CBS Evening News” broadcast live a patrol from the 7th Cavalry telling their captain that his order for direct advance against the NLF was nonsense, that it would threaten casualties, and that they would not obey it. Another CBS broadcast televised the mutiny of a rifle company of the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
When Cambodia was invaded in 1970, soldiers from Fire Base Washington conducted a sit-in. They told Up Against the Bulkhead, “We have no business there…we just sat down. Then they promised us we wouldn’t have to go to Cambodia.” Within a week, there were two additional mutinies, as men from the 4th and 8th Infantry refused to board helicopters to Cambodia.
In the invasion of Laos in March 1971, two platoons refused to advance. To prevent the mutiny from spreading, the entire squadron was pulled out of the Laos operation. The captain was relieved of his command, but there was no discipline against the men. When a lieutenant from the 501st Infantry refused his battalion commander’s order to advance his troops, he merely received a suspended sentence.
The decision not to punish men defying the most sacrosanct article of the military code, the disobedience of the order for combat, indicated how much the deterioration of discipline had eroded the power of the officers. The only punishment for most mutinies was to relieve the commanding officer of his duties. Consequently, many commanders would not report that they had lost control of their men. They swept news of mutiny, which would jeopardize their careers, under the rug. As they became quietly complicit, the officer corps lost any remaining moral authority to impose discipline.
For every defiance in combat, there were hundreds of minor acts of insubordination in rear base camps. As one infantry officer reported, “You can’t give orders and expect them to be obeyed.” This democratic upsurge from below was so extensive that discipline was replaced by a new command technique called working it out. Working it out was a form of collective bargaining in which negotiations went on between officers and men to determine orders. Working it out destroyed the authority of the officer corps and gutted the ability of the army to carry out search-and-destroy missions. But the army had no alternative strategy for a guerrilla war against a national liberation movement.
The political impact of the mutiny was felt far beyond Vietnam. As H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, reflected, “If troops are going to mutiny, you can’t pursue an aggressive policy.” The soldiers’ revolt tied down the global reach of U.S. imperialism.
The murder of American officers by their troops was an openly proclaimed goal in Vietnam. As one GI newspaper demanded, “Don’t desert. Go to Vietnam, and kill your commanding officer.” And they did. A new slang term arose to celebrate the execution of officers: fragging. The word came from the fragmentation grenade, which was the weapon of choice because the evidence was destroyed in the act.
In every war, troops kill officers whose incompetence or recklessness threatens the lives of their men. But only in Vietnam did this become pervasive in combat situations and widespread in rear base camps. It was the most well-known aspect of the class struggle inside the army, directed not just at intolerable officers, but at “lifers” as a class. In the soldiers’ revolt, it became accepted practice to paint political slogans on helmets. A popular helmet slogan summed up this mood: “Kill a non-com for Christ.” Fragging was the ransom the ground troops extracted for being used as live bait.
No one knows how many officers were fragged, but after Tet it became epidemic. At least 800 to 1,000 fragging attempts using explosive devices were made. The army reported 126 fraggings in 1969, 271 in 1970 and 333 in 1971, when they stopped keeping count. But in that year, just in the American Division (of My Lai fame), one fragging per week took place. Some military estimates are that fraggings occurred at five times the official rate, while officers of the Judge Advocate General Corps believed that only 10 percent of fraggings were reported. These figures do not include officers who were shot in the back by their men and listed as wounded or killed in action.
Most fraggings resulted in injuries, although “word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies or in bivouacs of certain units.” The army admitted that it could not account for how 1,400 officers and noncommissioned officers died. This number, plus the official list of fragging deaths, has been accepted as the unacknowledged army estimate for officers killed by their men. It suggests that 20 to 25 percent–if not more–of all officers killed during the war were killed by enlisted men, not the “enemy.” This figure has no precedent in the history of war.
Soldiers put bounties on officers targeted for fragging. The money, usually between $100 and $1,000, was collected by subscription from among the enlisted men. It was a reward for the soldier who executed the collective decision. The highest bounty for an officer was $10,000, publicly offered by GI Says, a mimeographed bulletin put out in the 101st Airborne Division, for Col. W. Honeycutt, who had ordered the May 1969 attack on Hill 937. The hill had no strategic significance and was immediately abandoned when the battle ended. It became enshrined in GI folklore as Hamburger Hill, because of the 56 men killed and 420 wounded taking it. Despite several fragging attempts, Honeycutt escaped uninjured.
As Vietnam GI argued after Hamburger Hill, “Brass are calling this a tremendous victory. We call it a goddam butcher shop…If you want to die so some lifer can get a promotion, go right ahead. But if you think your life is worth something, you better get yourselves together. If you don’t take care of the lifers, they might damn well take care of you.”
Fraggings were occasionally called off. One lieutenant refused to obey an order to storm a hill during an operation in the Mekong Delta. “His first sergeant later told him that when his men heard him refuse that order, they removed a $350 bounty earlier placed on his head because they thought he was a ‘hard-liner.’”
The motive for most fraggings was not revenge, but to change battle conduct. For this reason, officers were usually warned prior to fraggings. First, a smoke grenade would be left near their beds. Those who did not respond would find a tear-gas grenade or a grenade pin on their bed as a gentle reminder. Finally, the lethal grenade was tossed into the bed of sleeping, inflexible officers. Officers understood the warnings and usually complied, becoming captive to the demands of their men. It was the most practical means of cracking army discipline. The units whose officers responded opted out of search-and-destroy missions.
An Army judge who presided over fragging trials called fragging “the troops’ way of controlling officers,” and added that it was “deadly effective.” He explained, “Captain Steinberg argues that once an officer is intimidated by even the threat of fragging he is useless to the military because he can no longer carry out orders essential to the functioning of the Army. Through intimidation by threats–verbal and written…virtually all officers and NCOs have to take into account the possibility of fragging before giving an order to the men under them.” The fear of fragging affected officers and NCOs far beyond those who were actually involved in fragging incidents.
Officers who survived fragging attempts could not tell which of their men had tried to murder them, or when the men might strike again. They lived in constant fear of future attempts at fragging by unknown soldiers. In Vietnam it was a truism that “everyone was the enemy”: for the lifers, every enlisted man was the enemy. “In parts of Vietnam fragging stirs more fear among officers and NCOs than does the war with ‘Charlie.’”
Counter-fragging by retaliating officers contributed to a war within the war. While 80 percent of fraggings were of officers and NCOs, 20 percent were of enlisted men, as officers sought to kill potential troublemakers or those whom they suspected of planning to frag them. In this civil war within the army, the military police were used to reinstate order. In October 1971, military police air assaulted the Praline mountain signal site to protect an officer who had been the target of repeated fragging attempts. The base was occupied for a week before command was restored.
Fragging undermined the ability of the Green Machine to function as a fighting force. By 1970, “many commanders no longer trusted Blacks or radical whites with weapons except on guard duty or in combat.” In the American Division, fragmentation grenades were not given to troops. In the 440 Signal Battalion, the colonel refused to distribute all arms. As a soldier at Cu Chi told the New York Times, “The American garrisons on the larger bases are virtually disarmed. The lifers have taken the weapons from us and put them under lock and key.” The U.S. army was slowly disarming its own men to prevent the weapons from being aimed at the main enemy: the lifers.
Peace from below–search and avoid
Mutiny and fraggings expressed the anger and bitterness that combat soldiers felt at being used as bait to kill Communists. It forced the troops to reassess who was the real enemy.
In a remarkable letter, 40 combat officers wrote to President Nixon in July 1970 to advise him that “the military, the leadership of this country–are perceived by many soldiers to be almost as much our enemy as the VC and the NVA.
After the 1970 invasion of Cambodia enlarged the war, fury and the demoralizing realization that nothing could stop the warmongers swept both the antiwar movement and the troops. The most popular helmet logo became “UUUU,” which meant “the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful.” Peace, if it were to come, would have to be made by the troops themselves, instituted by an unofficial troop withdrawal ending search-and-destroy missions.
The form this peace from below took came to be called “search and avoid,” or “search and evade.” It became so extensive that “search and evade (meaning tacit avoidance of combat by units in the field) is now virtually a principle of war, vividly expressed by the GI phrase, ‘CYA’ (cover your ass) and get home!”
In search and avoid, patrols sent out into the field deliberately eluded potential clashes with the NLF. Night patrols, the most dangerous, would halt and take up positions a few yards beyond the defense perimeter, where the NLF would never come. By skirting potential conflicts, they hoped to make it clear to the NLF that their unit had established its own peace treaty.
Another frequent search-and-avoid tactic was to leave base camp, secure a safe area in the jungle and set up a perimeter-defense system in which to hole up for the time allotted for the mission. “Some units even took enemy weapons with them when they went out on such search-and-avoid missions so that upon return they could report a firefight and demonstrate evidence of enemy casualties for the body-count figures required by higher headquarters.”
The army was forced to accommodate what began to be called “the grunts’ cease-fire.” An American soldier from Cu Chi, quoted in the New York Times, said, “They have set up separate companies for men who refuse to go out into the field. It is no big thing to refuse to go. If a man is ordered to go to such and such a place, he no longer goes through the hassle of refusing; he just packs his shirt and goes to visit some buddies at another base camp.”
An observer at Pace, near the Cambodian front where a unilateral truce was widely enforced, reported, “The men agreed and passed the word to other platoons: nobody fires unless fired upon. As of about 1100 hours on October 10,1971, the men of Bravo Company, 11/12 First Cav Division, declared their own private cease-fire with the North Vietnamese.”
The NLF responded to the new situation. People’s Press, a GI paper, in its June 1971 issue claimed that NLF and NVA units were ordered not to open hostilities against U.S. troops wearing red bandanas or peace signs, unless first fired upon. Two months later, the first Vietnam veteran to visit Hanoi was given a copy of “an order to North Vietnamese troops not to shoot U.S. soldiers wearing antiwar symbols or carrying their rifles pointed down.” He reports its impact on “convincing me that I was on the side of the Vietnamese now.”
Colonel Heinl reported this:
That ‘search-and-evade’ has not gone unnoticed by the enemy is underscored by the Viet Cong delegation’s recent statement at the Paris Peace Talks that Communist units in Indochina have been ordered not to engage American units which do not molest them. The same statement boasted–not without foundation in fact–that American defectors are in the VC ranks.
Some officers joined, or led their men, in the unofficial cease-fire from below. A U.S. army colonel claimed:
I had influence over an entire province. I put my men to work helping with the harvest. They put up buildings. Once the NVA understood what I was doing, they eased up. I’m talking to you about a de facto truce, you understand. The war stopped in most of the province. It’s the kind of history that doesn’t get recorded. Few people even know it happened, and no one will ever admit that it happened.
Search and avoid, mutiny and fraggings were a brilliant success. Two years into the soldiers’ upsurge, in 1970, the number of U.S. combat deaths were down by more than 70 percent (to 3,946) from the 1968 high of more than 14,000. The revolt of the soldiers in order to survive and not to allow themselves to be victims could only succeed by a struggle prepared to use any means necessary to achieve peace from below.
The army revolt had all of the strengths and weaknesses of the 1960s radicalization of which it was a part. It was a courageous mass struggle from below. It relied upon no one but itself to win its battles.
The only organizing tools were the underground GI newspapers. But newspapers became a substitute for organization.
The hidden history of the 1960s proves that the American army can be split. But that requires the long, slow patient work of explanation, of education, of organization, and of agitation and action. The Vietnam revolt shows how rank-and-file soldiers can rise to the task.
Our movie industry has created some memorable monsters on screen. But Hollywood, and the major music labels, also helped create a very real kind of monster – copyright trolls who coerce settlements from Internet subscribers using intimidation and our out-of-whack copyright laws. Last Friday, EFF Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen took the witness stand in AF Holdings v. Does to explain to a federal judge why BitTorrent users should be able to hold on to their constitutional rights when targeted by trolls. Although some courts have put the brakes on the trolls’ schemes, there’s no Hollywood ending in sight yet. As the entertainment industries continue to push for ever-stronger copyright through treaties, private agreements, Congress and state legislatures, it’s time to ask – how will Hollywood help protect us from the trolls?
The current crop of copyright trolls sue anywhere from 20 to 5,000 “John Doe” defendants in a single lawsuit, pinned to a list of Internet Protocol addresses that they claim to have seen downloading copyrighted movies using BitTorrent. Then, with the courts’ permission, they send subpoenas to Internet service providers for the names and addresses of subscribers. The trolls then send threatening letters, demanding settlement payments to “make this go away” or face being dragged into court – often in a faraway state. Over 200,000 U.S. residents have been caught up in these suits, with many undoubtedly settling simply to end the harassment.
The trolls are, of course, following a trail blazed by the major music labels through the Recording Industry Association of America. Beginning around 2003, they sued about 35,000 people, using the courts’ subpoena powers as a private investigation service to find names and addresses. The RIAA ended its lawsuit campaign in 2008, apparently realizing the damage that suing its own fans had done to the industry’s image.
It was perhaps inevitable that the vacuum would be filled by opportunists with no public image to protect. Since 2008, troll lawyers have sued about six times more people than the RIAA ever did, and pursued them even more aggressively, probably netting millions in settlements. Some have faced court settlements for cutting corners in court procedure, and one was even caught practicing law without a license. But this scheme wouldn’t be a viable business model without the draconian imbalances of U.S. copyright law and legal precedent that the entertainment industries and their lobbyists have pushed through Congress and the courts.
For starters, the statutory penalty for sharing even one copyrighted work – say one song – is as much as $150,000. It’s no surprise that many people choose to settle for several thousand dollars rather than risk a bankrupting court judgment – even if they broke no law. The entertainment industries insist that we need these gargantuan penalties to deter infringement, but the same “statutory damages” provisions are the knobby club in the hands of the trolls.
Then there’s the legal doctrine of “secondary liability.” The movie and recording industries are constantly pressing for broader liability for intermediaries, Internet sites and services, and makers of tools and software. Copyright trolls use these concepts to disregard actual copyright infringers and instead go after the owners of Internet accounts, who are often easier to find. The trolls suggest, using the rhetoric of secondary liability, that merely allowing others to use one’s Internet connection, or operating an open Wi-Fi node, makes one liable for any copyright infringement. This isn’t the law, but the trolls don’t warn their marks about that. Often, even those who understand secondary liability, or can afford hiring a lawyer, choose to pay a settlement for someone else’s alleged infringement rather than risk a lengthy and expensive trial, even if they would prevail.
Then there’s the very concept of lawsuits aimed at dozens or thousands of “John Doe” Internet account holders. Plaintiffs in these suits often group together Internet users from all over the country and obtain their identities from ISPs by court order. Doing this requires trampling on jurisdiction rules that keep people from being unfairly forced to defend themselves far from home, joinder rules that guarantee every defendant is treated as an individual, and the First Amendment, which gives us a right to communicate anonymously. The RIAA’s lawsuit campaign also disregarded these legal safeguards. After the RIAA opened this door, the trolls lumbered in.
Finally, the entertainment industries have spent decades, and millions of lobbying and advertising dollars, to promote the simple but flawed idea that if copyright law promotes creativity, then ever-more-extreme copyright law will promote even more. According to this philosophy, the importance of preventing even the most inconsequential copyright infringement justifies chilling free speech, unmasking anonymous Internet users, wholesale regulation of the Internet … and setting loose the trolls. This worldview was on full display at a hearing last week in the D.C. federal district court, when ISPs, assisted by the EFF, tried to quash subpoenas for Internet users’ identities. EFF’s Seth Schoen matched wits with pornography financier AF Holdings’s expert on the workings of BitTorrent and Internet forensics, and the plaintiff’s attorney defended his litigation tactics as an acceptable way to “stop piracy.”
Although there will always be people willing to use the legal system as part of a shakedown, copyright trolls are a monster created in Hollywood. Naturally, the entertainment industry’s spokespeople, lobbyists, and other mouthpieces don’t discuss how the laws, treaties, court precedents, and private enforcement agreements they spend millions to promote will be misused by opportunists. But when the next SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, TPP, graduated response agreement, or state-level copyright bill comes along, let’s ask Hollywood and its allies how they plan to keep trolls confined to the big screen.
- ISPs Ask Judge To Quash Subpoena In Troll Case — Or Let Them Appeal (eff.org)
- EFF Backs ISPs in Battle to Quash Copyright Troll Subpoenas (eff.org)
- Copyright-trolls: mind your own extra-judicial business, court says (arstechnica.com)
- Die, Troll, Die (wired.com)
- Judge rejects copyright trolls’ BitTorrent conspiracy theory (arstechnica.com)
In our drones report, we discuss the coming onslaught of domestic drones and the weak state of the privacy laws that should protect us, and we outline our recommendations for protections that Congress and local governments should put in place.
But if nothing is done, how might things go? Let’s take a look at how police drone use could unfold:
- The FAA’s new rules go into effect. Acting under orders from Congress, the FAA in coming months and years will significantly loosen the regulations that have been holding back broader deployment of drones. Starting later this year, for example, the FAA must allow any “government public safety agency” to operate any small drone (under 4.4 pounds) as long as certain conditions are met.
- More and more police departments begin using them. The FAA’s new rules allow for the release of pent-up demand among police departments for cheap aerial surveillance. Ownership of drones quickly becomes common among departments large and small. Organizations are formed by police drone operators, who exchange tips and advice. We also begin to hear about their deployment by federal agencies, other than on the border.
- We start to hear stories about how they’re being used. Most departments and agencies are relatively careful at first, and we begin to hear stories about drones being put to use in specific, mostly unobjectionable police operations such as raids, chases, and searches supported by warrants.
- Drone use broadens. Fairly quickly, however, we begin to hear about a few departments deploying drones for broader, more general uses: drug surveillance, marches and rallies, and generalized monitoring of troubled neighborhoods.
- Private use is banned. A terrorist like the pilot who crashed his plane into an IRS building in Texas uses an explosives-laden drone to try to attack a public facility. In response, the government clamps down on private use of the technology. The net result is that the government can use it for surveillance but individuals cannot use it to watch the government.
- Drones become able to mutually coordinate. Multiple drones deployed over neighborhoods can be linked together, and communicate and coordinate with each other (see this video for an early taste of what that could look like). This allows a swarm of craft to form a single, distributed wide-area surveillance system such as that envisioned by the “Gorgon Stare” program.
- The analytics gets better. At the same time, drones and the computers behind them become more intelligent and capable of analyzing the video feeds they are generating. They gain the ability to automatically track multiple vehicles and bodies as they move around a city or town, with different drones handing off the tracking to each other just as a mobile phone network passes a signal from one cell to another as a user rides down the highway.
- Flight durations grow. Technology improvements (involving blimps, perhaps, or solar-power innovations) allow for drones to stay aloft for longer periods more cheaply, which becomes key in permitting their use for persistent surveillance.
- The cycle accelerates. The advancing technology incentivizes agencies to buy even more drones, which in turn spurs more technology development, and the cycle becomes self-perpetuating.
- Laws are further loosened. As drones get smarter and more reliable and very good at sensing and avoiding other aircraft, FAA restrictions are further loosened, permitting even autonomous flight.
- Pervasive tracking becomes common. Despite opposition, a few police departments begin deploying drones 24/7 over certain areas. The media covers the controversy but Congress takes no action, and eventually it becomes old news, and the practice spreads until many or most American towns and cities are subject to the practice.
- Technologies are combined. Drone video cameras and tracking analytics are combined or synched up with other technologies such as face recognition, gait recognition, license-plate scanners, and cell phone location data.
- The data is mined. With individuals’ comings and goings routinely monitored, databases are able build up records of where people live, work, and play—what friends they visit, bars they drink at, doctors they visit, what houses of worship, or political events, or sexually oriented establishments they go to—and who else is at those places at the same time. Computers comb through this data looking for “suspicious patterns,” and when the algorithms kick up an alarm, the person involved becomes the subject of much more extensive surveillance.
Ultimately, such surveillance leads to an oppressive atmosphere where people learn to think twice about everything they do, knowing that it will be recorded, charted, scrutinized by increasingly intelligent computers, and possibly used to target them.
I’m not sure how realistic this scenario is. Perhaps it is far-fetched (I hope so). But the questions to ask are: which of the above steps is unlikely to take place, and why? And if we don’t end up in the situation described, how close will we get?
- FAA approves spy drones to fly US skies (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US: Congress Trying to Fast-Track Domestic Drone Use, Sideline Privacy (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- An Alabama Police Department Has No Idea Why It Owns Two Drones [Drones] (gizmodo.com)
- Drones invade campus (salon.com)
- FAA To Rule On Domestic Drone Guidelines By May 14 (inquisitr.com)
It seems that the government’s thirst for high tech surveillance can’t be quenched. First, came the NSA’s warrantless wiretap program. Then it was CISPA. Now, its warrantless video surveillance in the home. And just like we stood up against the NSA and CISPA, yesterday we told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that invasive warrantless home video surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment.
Ricky Wahchumwah, a tribal member of the Yakima Nation, was suspected of selling bald and gold eagle feathers, as well as the feathers and pelts of other migratory birds, in violation of federal law. As part of its investigation, an undercover agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service went to Wahchumwah’s house, pretending to be interested in buying feathers and pelts. Wahchumwah let him in his house, not knowing that the agent was secretly recording everything with a tiny video camera hidden in his clothes. The agent proceeded to capture two hours of video of Wachumwah’s home, including interactions between Wachumwah and his partner and children, and was even left alone by Wachumwah for periods of time, who did not suspect he was being recorded.
Charged with violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Lacey Act, Wahchumwah moved to suppress the video evidence as an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. The trial judge denied his motion, ruling that since Wahchumwah let the agent into his house, and the agent could testify to everything he saw in the house, Wahchumwah had no expectation of privacy. Wahchumwah appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit, and we filed an amicus brief supporting him.
As we explain in our brief, a video camera can capture far more detail than a human eye. And unlike the human mind, a video camera doesn’t forget. After all, if an officer’s observations were sufficient, there would be no need for the video camera in the first place. Building on the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Jones, which ruled the Fourth Amendment prohibited the warrantless use of GPS surveillance to monitor a person’s car on public roads for 28 days, we make two main arguments.
First, the initial appellate opinion in Jones issued by the D.C. Circuit (at the time called United States v. Maynard) explained that although a person may reveal discrete parts of his movements when driving in public, “the whole of one’s movements over the course of a month is not actually exposed to the public because the likelihood anyone will observe all those movements is effectively nil.” While the Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. Circuit under a trespass theory instead, the D.C. Circuit’s astute point applies equally to video surveillance. Even if Wahchumwah permitted the undercover agent into his home, it would be extremely unlikely that Wahchumwah, or anyone else, would expect that his house guest was secretly video recording every little detail. And that meant even if Wahchumwah consented to the agent entering his house, he certainly did not consent to secret video surveillance.
Second, as Justice Sotomayor said in her concurring opinion in Jones, the fact that technology allows the government to cheaply and efficiently aggregate data in ways that were impractical in the past has the potential to “alter the relationship between citizen and government in a way that is inimical to democratic society.” While it is technically possible to follow someone for 28 days continuously, it is expensive and difficult. GPS technology now allows the government to track someone wherever they go and as long as they want, all from the comforts of the police station. A video camera does the same thing. Sure, its possible for someone to enter a house and write down everything they remembered seeing hours later when they leave the house. But a video camera is capable of aggregating an enormous amount of data that would be difficult for human senses to replicate. When a video camera secretly enters the home, it can capture things like the mail on your coffee table, the books on a shelf, or the pictures on your wall. And the whole point of a camera is to record and save for another day, allowing the government to not have to rely on the human mind’s tendency to forget. It can rewind again and again to examine every minute detail of the house.
In the past, such intensive video surveillance was reserved for serious, violent crimes. Today, its being used by Fish and Wildlife officers to investigate misdemeanors. A search warrant requirement strikes the right balance between the government’s need to investigate crime, and the public’s right to privacy — particularly in the home, the most private of all places. Hopefully, the Ninth Circuit will reverse the trial court, and eradicate this invasive warrantless surveillance once and for all.
- Ninth Circuit Upholds Immunity for Telecommunications Companies that Assisted in Warrantless Wiretapping (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
The Jerusalem City Council has decided to demolish seven buildings in the Silwan neighborhood, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Old City in Occupied East Jerusalem, as part of its plan to build the “King David Park” in this Palestinian area.
The Israeli army has posted eviction and demolition notices on several homes and buildings in Silwan, granting the residents 30 days to file appeals and grievances according to Fakhri Abu Diab, member of the Popular Committee for Defending Silwan, in East Jerusalem,
The “King David Park” Plan was announced by Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, two years ago after the City Council decided to demolish 22 Arab homes under the pretext that they were built without construction permits.
The Israeli plan led to Palestinian, Arab and international condemnation, but Israel disregarded the outrage and said that the project will serve the city.
The “King David” Park plan is part of ongoing Israeli violations targeting the Palestinians, their property and their lands in Occupied East Jerusalem. These violations include the demolition of dozens of Arab homes, forcing the Palestinians out of their homes to replace them with settlers, and the ongoing construction and expansion of Israeli settlement in and around the city.
In other news, Israeli soldiers destroyed agricultural dwellings, barns and wells southeast of the West Bank city of Hebron at dawn on Wednesday. The Israeli Army claimed that the structures were built without construction permits. A member of the Al-Rajabi family stated that the Army has twice invaded his land and demolished his property in the past three years.
- Video shows UK-manufactured JCB equipment destroying Jerusalem playground (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jerusalem Family Displaced, Home Handed To Settlers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UN: Israel displaced 67 Palestinian refugees over week (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian Family loses property ownership case in Israeli court (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Ethnic Cleansing in a Zionist Fairyland (alethonews.wordpress.com)
HEBRON – Israeli authorities demolished a water well in a village east of Hebron on Wednesday, locals said.
Officials accompanied by soldiers tore down the well belonging to Saeed Jaber in Baqaa village, residents said.
Palestinian Water Authority chief Shaddad Attili warned earlier this year that Israel was systemically destroying well and rainwater harvesting cisterns to forcibly displace Palestinian communities who depend on them for their basic water needs.
At least 25 Palestinian wells and 32 Palestinian cisterns were demolished in 2011, he said.
Last week local director of the UN’s humanitarian agency Ramesh Rajasingham said that more than 1,500 Palestinians have lost their homes as a result of demolitions and evictions since the beginning of 2011.
Palestinians can only build on one percent of the Israeli-controlled zone Area C in the West Bank, most of which is already built up, while settlements continue to expand in the same zone, the UN says.
- The right to water: Water cistern demolitions in Hebron area (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli demolition ‘displaces 120′ in Hebron village (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers Raise Israel’s Flag On Top Of Ibrahimi Mosque (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Soldiers Invade Homes In Hebron, Jewish Settlers Attack Young Man (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hebron teen ‘shot by Israeli settler’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Brutality: Violent arrests of Palestinians in Hebron and disappearance of Dutch volunteer (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli occupation authority demolished 20 Palestinian homes in West Bank last week (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In the context of normalizing relations with the Israelis, a Lebanese association in California was hosting a joint event with an Israeli council to raise funds.
The declared aim of the “charity fundraiser” event organized by the Lebanese Social Club (LSC) at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) along with the Israeli Leadership Council was to raise funds for “the disadvantaged children of Israel and Lebanon.”
The group is part of the Lebanese Collegiate Network (LCN), which Al-Akhbar newspaper revealed earlier this month is heavily sponsored by the CIA, leading to claims that it was little more than a recruitment center for the American spy network.
The tagline for the “Night of the Arts” event, scheduled for May 6 in the Ackerman Student Union at UCLA, says it “will be a grand celebration of the culture, passion, and ethos of the Israeli and Lebanese peoples.”
It adds “all profits will be divided equally 50/50 among orphanages in Israel and Lebanon,” without mentioning the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation in recent decades.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said the government was to look into the legality of the event under Lebanese law. “We will investigate whether the Lebanese Social Club consists of Lebanese citizens or Lebanese Americans,” he said.
The Israeli Leadership Council, which is co-organizing the event, aims at “building an active and giving Israeli-American community in order to strengthen the State of Israel.” The group also has a close relationship with the “Friends of the IDF” charity.
Event co-organizer Patrick Malkoun, from the university’s Lebanese Social Club, said he had not been aware of any legal issues concerning Lebanese citizens having dealings with Israelis.
“We are all here as college students to prove our worth in this world, what we can do in the business world. If we can put on events, if we can put on charity fundraisers, if we can contact people to show off communication skills and business skills,” he said.
Samah Idriss, Director of the Campaign to Boycott Israel Supporters in Lebanon, said the group’s decision undermined attempts to isolate the Zionist entity.
“At a time when tens of artists and thousands of people around the world are boycotting Israel, a bunch of “Lebanese” students attempt to normalize relations with Israel. I hope Lebanese students at UCLA who know the meaning of national dignity stand up to those Israeli-Lebanese,” he said.
Following the article, Al-Akhbar has learned that a board member of the group has resigned. “The CIA taints the LCN in the perspectives of those in Lebanon, and even many people here. CIA associations damage the credibility of anyone and everyone in the Lebanese public sphere, especially in light of recent events,” the board member said in a resignation letter obtained by Al-Akhbar.
“The very fact that the CIA is one of the largest LCN donors has created a negative stigma that will follow the LCN. I hereby resign and call on those within the LCN to boycott this organization if they share similar opinions to mine,” it added.
Africa’s largest mobile telecommunications company, the MTN Group, is reportedly in danger of being subjected to sanctions by the United States over its telecom activities in Iran and Syria.
According to a report published by the South Africa-based Mail and Guardian newspaper on April 30, US President Barack Obama issued an executive order last week that allowed American authorities for the first time to impose sanctions on individuals or entities providing technological services to Iran and Syria.
Under the order, the new sanctions would include a US visa ban and financial restrictions against agencies and individuals.
The South Africa-based MTN Group had announced in early March that it had no plans to abandon its operations in Iran despite facing difficulties over the US-led sanctions against Tehran.
“We are guided by [the] South African government policies internationally, in the same way US companies are prohibited from doing business in Iran. Unless the government says (otherwise), we will just have to manage,” the company’s boss Sifiso Dabengwa said.
The United States has already subjected to sanctions foreign entities that are in various forms of business with Iran.
On March 30, US President Barack Obama gave the green light for the previously-announced sanctions against foreign banks and other financial institutions by or through which Iran’s oil is purchased.
- White House sets sights on evaders of Iran, Syria sanctions (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- South Africa Must Resist Sanctions on Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)