- The Vietnam war was not stopped by large, legal protests
alone - it was stopped by the very GIs who were ordered to fight it.
- The American military in Vietnam was mostly made up of
working class conscripts and enlistees; their officers, on the other hand,
tended to be from the middle and upper middle class. The officers - or
"lifers" as they were called derisively - often put their men
in deadly situations, in order to get promotions. This was not the only
source of tension. GIs increasingly resented the fact that they had been
lied to; they were not defending democracy in South Vietnam, they were
defending a hated police-dictatorship.
- In the U.S., some young workers were becoming radicalized
by the ghetto uprisings and wildcat strikes, and came into contact with
left-wing ideas through the student anti-war movement. Other young workers
drafted in these years were radicalized after they went into the army -
when they came into conflict with the "lifers" and were forced
to defend a government that the Vietnamese didn't want to defend.
- In 1968, in the wake of the Tet offensive, tensions within
the army exploded. Drug use and AWOLs skyrocketed.
- Mutinies erupted over the next two years and spread from
individual units to whole companies. One Pentagon official admitted that,
"mutiny became so common that the army was forced to disguise its
frequency by talking instead of 'combat refusal'".
- "Fragging" - the GI term for using violence
against their officers for their behavior - was extremely widespread in
Vietnam. The army still cannot account for how 1,400 officers and non-commissioned
officers died. This number, combined with the official fragging statistics,
suggests that 20 to 25 percent of all officers killed in the war were killed
by their men, not "the enemy".
- In addition to widespread individual and collective rebellion,
rank-and-file GI papers sprang up on bases, ships, and in units in the
field. The roughly 200 papers were enormously popular, because they told
the stories of soldiers' struggle in the language of soldiers - and were
produced by soldiers themselves. Vietnam GI, a national paper with a circulation
of 10,000 - most of it in Vietnam itself - carried stories of technicians
sabotaging bombs, exposed Nixon's peace initiatives as the fraud they were,
and interviewed soldiers about their experiences in "the Nam".
- As the war within the army grew more intense, many soldiers
began to realize that their real enemies were the "lifers," politicians,
Pentagon brass, and corporations, not the Vietnamese people. The slogan
of the U.S.'s brutal war - "search and destroy" - became "search
and avoid". Patrols into the field deliberately evaded contact with
the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA),
and night patrols would halt and take up positions a few yards beyond the
base perimeter. Another tactic was for a patrol to secure a safe place
in the jungle and camp there.
- In this way, GIs declared their own cease-fire with the
NLF. In fact, the NLF and the NVA were ordered not to fire on U.S. troops
wearing red bandanas and peace signs, unless fired upon first. Two years
into the tremendous soldiers' upsurge, GI combat deaths were down more
than 70 percent from the 1968 high.
- The war was ended from below - and because it coincided
with urban uprisings, wildcat strikes, and mass protests in the U.S, the
American ruling class decided it would rather keep Detroit and lose Vietnam,
rather than lose Detroit over Vietnam. This is why Washington has been
reluctant to use working class troops as cannon fodder for its economic
and political domination of the globe ever since.
- The soldiers' revolt in Vietnam showed that people in
the military can become a major force in fighting against war and occupation.