Anti-war dissent grows in the US military

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A Secret History of Dissent in the All-Volunteer Military

By Dahr Jamail, Tomgram, June 30, 2009

The All-Volunteer Force (AVF) exists for a reason captured in a study by Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., author of the “definitive history of the Marine Corps,” published in Armed Forces Journal in 1971. The U.S. military in Vietnam was at that moment at the edge of chaos. As Colonel Heinl put it, it was experiencing “widespread conditions… that have only been exceeded in this century by the French Army’s Nivelle mutinies of 1917 and the collapse of the Tsarist armies [of Russia] in 1916 and 1917.”

In fact, statistics flowing back to Washington about the American war machine in Vietnam then pointed toward an unimaginable nightmare. Drug use was rampant; desertions stood at 70 per thousand, a modern high; small-scale mutinies or “combat refusals” were at critical, if untabulated, levels; incidents of racial conflict had soared; and strife between “lifers” and draftees was at unprecedented levels. Reported “fraggings” — assassination attempts — against unpopular officers or NCOs had risen from 126 in 1969 to 333 in 1971, despite declining troop strength in Vietnam. According to Colonel Heinl’s figures, as many as 144 antiwar underground newspapers were being published by, or for, soldiers. And most threatening of all, active duty soldiers in relatively small numbers (as well as a swelling number of Vietnam veterans) were beginning to actively organize against the war.

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