NER Washington forum; Antiwar protestor Gary Rader
On one hand I'm very happy to see large segments of the move movement moving from as we say from protest to resistance. But I'm also sorry that other segments of the movement are beginning to move into more violent activities. The voice you just heard was that a former Army Special Forces member Gary writer our guest this week on the again our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This week a continuation of our series of discussions concerning the war in Southeast Asia. Our guest 23 year old Gary Rader will discuss anti-war protest movements. Mr. Rader was recently released from the District of Columbia jail where he was incarcerated as a result of his anti-war activities. He is a former Green Barai and should be able to provide us with a unique glimpse of the dissensions surrounding United States involvement in Vietnam. I'm going to be our public affairs director Bill
Greenwood with me to question Mr. writer is Victor Sussman a staff producer of W am you FM in Washington a former newsman for Washington radio station w w DC and before that associated with NBC News for a first question to ex G.I. Gary writer. Here's Vic Sussman. Gary how long were you in the Green Berets of the Special Forces. I was in the Special Forces reserves I enlisted in September of 1965 with a six year contract and soon after April 15th I said I would say I wrote a letter of resignation to my reserve unit commander. Unfortunately I don't think this act will be recognized by the government itself. Were you considered a green member of the elite. Yes I was a member of the Special Forces group and I wore the green beret as part of my authorized uniform I had not completed my special forces training at the time I left my unit. Why did you join. I joined.
He basically joined the Reserve unit to avoid the draft at that time I had no knowledge of certain deferments and exemptions which might have been available to me and therefore I didn't want to be drafted because I feared that I wouldn't be able to hold up under two years in military service. So I elected to opt out for the six months tour of active duty in the reserves offer. Why did you choose a Green Beret unit that was most of my life I have kind of been a member of shall we say the intellectual elite. I have been a leader on campus politics and that kind of thing and this was just kind of the natural thing to do. You know these were the big boys I figured if I was going to go into the army and attempt to do things their way in to learn what their thing was I might as well take a look at the best. And that's why I joined the Special Forces. What affected the training you received there have been your general attitude. Well the general attitude put it in a nutshell is
I when I think back upon the Army I'm basically horrified the army to me is the most dehumanizing institution that mankind has ever created. That the fundamental purpose of an army is to make soldiers and a soldier is basically an atomic tan or sometimes in my eyes it becomes a kind of a zombie. And in my training. How can I describe it. You were placed in an environment which is unbelievably intimidating Tory and repressive and authoritarian. The slightest act of unconventionality the slightest act of resistance the slightest act of so we say thinking your own mine is instantly crushed and instantly repressed in the verbal ear physically. And you see what the Army has to do is right so you're a college student. You used to kind of independently evaluating your environment making up your own mind. And the army can't hack this. Soldiers aren't allowed to do that. So they've got
to force you to suspend shall we say your intellectual outlook. Say you're a person of some compassion and sympathy toward other human beings. They have to repress that because in time of war you can't afford to. The lapses known as compassion and sympathy. So. They're very good at it. It's amazing it's amazing see what they do is they put you in an environment that is not only physically repressive but is very psychologically and in a very psychologically sound. When I really when I read 1984 and I talk about the psychological techniques I think the Army has learned quite a few things that you're what they have to do is show we say beat down your own self-respect which will lead you. So we say to lead your own path. And they have to beat down your own sense of dignity. That was really the lack of human dignity that bothered me and let me give you an honest some examples like in my reserve unit. Well sometimes they decide to give the new recruits a little problem so they put them under some very arduous physical training
maybe for an hour maybe for two hours and usually at one point the body can only take so much and you just give up you break you can't go any further. So the typical thing was for the sergeant to come up and kick you in the rear and then he would grab you and how you in front of the troops and you would lie on your back wave your arms and legs in the air and say I am a dying cockroach. I am a dying cockroach. Now if this was just an isolated incident like so we say a harmless fraternity prank during Hell Week I might be alright. But this is the norm. You're constantly abused you're constantly debased. And I do a very good job. And I was really in my reserve unit I'd gone through active duty had gone through all of the stuff I had shall we say not learned to live with but I learned to make my own peace with the system. But we had a new batch of recruits and they were undergoing the same type of thing they were undergoing the same repression and the same dehumanization. And I think that really broke my back.
The thing that really made me quit was the last meeting of my reserve unit I ever went to. They were having a problem with haircuts because I was growing my hair long and I would refuse to get it cut. And some of the recruits new recruits were observing this and resisting the Army's attempts to get them to wear Crewcuts. So the sergeant in charge of the recruits told them. I thought next man that shows up at another meeting without a proper haircut is going to have a diaper tight on him. And this may sound very fairly harmless except for the next four hours if that man is that that meeting he will be subject to the most unbelievable stream of verbal and physical abuse that you could imagine. And I don't think shall we say very decent qualities in human beings have a very good chance of existing in this kind of environment. That's true the army is not always like that but the army is an institution shall we say committed to militia. Maybe the power discipline method. And I happen to be much more a
follower of the hippies love cooperation ethic and the other thing that bothered me about my military service is I realize looking back upon shall we say my life as a child that I was for all practical purposes a pacifist. I have never been in a fight in my life and as a child I walked away time and time again from fights with the usual allegations of being a coward and all this type of thing because I really honestly never saw any relationship between who won the fight and the truth and I don't think there is such a relationship. And I wanted to the army and you see while you're undergoing all of this the humanization I'm talking about at the same time you were being socialized as far as the positive aspects of the Army you're being trained in hand to hand combat. You're being trained to shoot a rifle you're being trained to in bayonet training and the better you are at it the more praise that is heaped upon you. So the virtues of killing other human beings and maiming other human beings are being instilled. And I was very good at the hand-to-hand combat and I can still I'm a little
rusty since I don't practice this thing but I can kill most anybody on the street in maybe three to five seconds just at the bat of an eyelash. I was very proud of this when I got out of the army. And when I got off active duty I was a tremendously hostile and aggressive and just just really to do something like at any moment at one point at a basketball game I was at my university a person sitting in front of us was giving my roommate a little trouble. And I very nearly lost control I very nearly ruined that guy for life. And at that point I said you know what has happened to you. And maybe this is not the army's fault I'm sure I have these type of things inside of me but I think we do them out. And at that point was when I began thinking about the whole question of violence thinking about the whole question of using power and force among other human beings and over the progress of the summer I have I really believe that my other two sources things as I am now are passive us. I do not believe in the use of force with other human beings the use of
violence I think this achieves nothing. And I think institutions which perpetrate these kind of things are institutions against which I must work. So when I bring my draft card it really didn't have much at all to do about the war in fact at that point I was still making up my mind about the war. It was just I could no longer stomach the thought of another human being being drafted and being forced to undergo this type of treatment and being placed into such an environment. Now many people disagree who've been in the Army with my analysis and many people who have been in the army agree with me. I tend to find that the young draftees who are experiencing it first hand agree with me and the older sergeants in the army that have kind of you know made a better life and don't feel this kind of repression. I guess they've gotten used to this type of treatment. But I burned my draft card because I felt I could no longer cooperate with an institution which would do this to other people. Then very soon after burned my
draft card I decided that the war in Vietnam was just to be just an atrocity that. I was not at that time a pacifist so I still believed in the just and unjust war analysis and I decided that this war was clearly and simply unjust and I felt I could no longer remain a member of the military and live with my conscience. So I wrote my company commander a letter and told him that. And so you know I expect to be court martialled any one of these days although it's very clear why I haven't been so far. Why is it so very clear. Well because politically I'm a very dangerous man. The fact that I was in the Army in particular the fact that I was in the Special Forces makes the press interested in me and makes most people interested in me I have an easier time getting an audience than most people so that. Maybe the situation you may have heard of Captain Levy the guy who refused to train the Special Forces I tell you no man in South Carolina right. Captain Levy's
court martial was one of the biggest mistakes that the military ever made because this has moved and radicalized tremendous numbers of youth in America. We're starting to get in contact with all kinds of people inside the army deservers and it was in just people we talked to on leave the know about Captain Levy. They feel the same way he felt. They were very moved by this man's courage. And I was a bad mistake for the military to do because it's just going to spread dissension in the ranks. Whenever you murder somebody that's what happens. And it's the same situation with me if I'm going to be court martialed they will have a large press following. It will give me an opportunity to expound my views on the Army and on the draft and on the war and this will get coverage and other people will be moved by the fact that I also left the army. Now they could get me off their hands. The thing I don't understand why they haven't done is they can get me out of the hands very easily by since I'm refusing to attend meetings of my reserve unit they can notify my draft board to induct me for two years
minus the six months I was already on active duty. And then if I refuse induction which I would it's a civilian matter. I think other than the law of the law so this law is going to be very complex in my case. But right now. I don't know the state of the movement as far as receipts. How can I explain it. The problem is with the young men in America. If he's faced with first of all a tremendously difficult ethical dilemma he's faced with the war. If he is opposed to the war which he is usually convinced is absolutely wrong that the war can be attacked on four or five counts in the Nuremberg accords that it can be attacked as being a crime against peace in terms of being waged in violation of international treaties this being the Geneva Accords and the UN conventions. It can be attacked on the basis of war crimes in terms of deliberate shooting of civilians napalming a civilian built villages
wanton bombing of civilian villages as happening in North Vietnam wanton destruction of rice crops as we admit we're doing in South Vietnam. And you know knowledgeable knowledge of the fact that prisoners are being tortured by the ARVN in a number of areas. All of these are classified as war crimes only addition. The mass deportation of large segments of the civilian population which is what the pacification programs some segments of it are all about. These countries refugee camps that we have that's also a war crime under the Nuremberg Accords. So according to the Nuremberg records with which I agree a human being first duty is to humanity. And when a nation is involved in policies of war which are crimes against peace which are war crimes it is not sufficient to say. As a defense that you were only obeying orders when you were only obeying the laws of your country. That is my reading of the Nuremberg courses that you must do everything within your power and your own individual set of
ethics to stop the government doing what it did so that I'm faced with a young man who doesn't believe in the war and is about to be drafted is faced with either participating what to him is a colossal illegality or participatory an act of civil disobedience an act of refusal to go into the army and hopefully a willingness to pay the price for that although some people I don't think a young man should be. Let's put it this way. With the draft in the situation now that even a person who is opposed to the war. Lyndon Baines Johnson is telling him sorry about that son you're going to go fight in my war. This is the kind of horror which just it's ridiculous. So I don't feel these men should be prosecuted if they decide to go to Canada or something like that to avoid prosecution. That's all right with me. I rather they would stay and go to jail because this is where the fight is. Rather they would go to jail and get out and come back into the movement. But let me talk a little bit about what's happening with draft resisters
in America see the basic. There's always a few of us. We're all in this ethical dilemma. But only a few people will really act out of that ethical dilemma and that most people will. It's a hard thing to decide that you're going to go to jail for three to five years. So most people go to jail except when you begin building a movement when you begin building a mass consciousness. So what's happened in America is that a large segment of the students who feel that the government is blind to any type of reason to any type of protest or any type of dissent students who have demonstrated and written letters to congressmen and written letters to editors and educated and everything else for several years now but this is how it started out this is how the draft resistance movement started you had a handful of these students there were a sense of absolute frustration. That they felt the dissent against the war in Vietnam was no longer sufficient that their job was to do what they could to stop it which meant for them in
analyzing shall we say the military chain the weakest link is not the Pentagon or the CIA or General Motors or Dow Chemical. It's conscripted manpower. And I felt that the only hope they saw was to somehow build a movement that enough the young men in the United States would resist the draft. The army was unable to get enough people to fight the war. Now this is a long range thing. But these are I was about one hundred fifty men last April 15th and I was not one of those people feeling that situation I myself had just become disgusted just about the draft burned their draft cards in New York City on April 15th and that was the beginning. Up until then. Acts of draft card burning or draft induction refusal have been very sporadic and have been very pretty martyr type thing. But that was the first mass action and out of that a lot of things happened
out of that. Several draft resistance unions began growing up and most of the major cities in the United States like in my situation six of us in Chicago burner draft cards and April 15. We came back to Chicago got together started talking and out of that has come one of the largest draft resistance groups in America the Chicago draft resisters and we were the original organizers. And then a group out of Berkeley called the resistance got started and they set a date October 16th. And over the summer. And a tremendous number of college campuses and then in the ghetto and down in the working class areas you had organizers running around talking about the draft particularly talking to students about the two of us the students are the most knowledgeable about the war and saying you realize when you keep that to us a black man in the ghetto was going to Vietnam you realize that by cooperating with this institution the draft and retaining your to us you are here we say you are an act of complicity with the war in Vietnam and the
students began to respond to this. So on October 16th. Well between October 16th and October 20th approximately fifteen hundred draft cards were returned to the United States federal government. Now in the Nov. 7 Boston was somehow the city that was really breaking out. On November 17th in Boston apparently several hundred more will be return and under summer 4th which is the next day. Several thousand draft cards will be returned. Like a typical places mile school Northwestern we had one draft card returned on October 16 from Northwestern there are at least 20 for December 4th and the thing will grow nothing will build whether we'll ever build large enough I have no idea but for many of the youth also are great numbers of the youth are alienated from them. They have to kind of plead with the big brother to plead with Lyndon Baines Johnson to stop the war. It's ridiculous that they don't believe in a society based on that type of thing
where you have to convince big brother not to do nothing not take part with his type of policies they much prefer to take the law into their own hands. What you're saying what I'm trying to say is that this is a serious step and this is not the draft card burner is not some cad who burned his draft card in order to make himself a hero before the crowd. It's a very serious move and people go to jail for draft card burning but it comes out of a sense of absolute frustration as if there is nothing left to do. And the really disturbing thing is that certain segments of the movement. That you know certain segments of the movement are becoming they believe in violence are becoming convinced that nothing short of saying guerrilla warfare is going to enable the United States to get out of Vietnam. Yeah let's talk about that from well let's talk about your personal philosophy about violence and pacifism. I find it interesting that you discovered you were a pacifist only after you'd been trying to kill. Well I say not that I discovered it was simply
the army gave me such a beautiful introduction to violence and to killing and to the type of attitudes that are associated with this type of thing that I was very disturbed I was just very disturbed by that type of thing so when I got out of the army I just I began going to places like the FSE and I read some of the American Friends Service Committee and I read some of their stuff and I read the life of Gandhi and I read very deeply in the New Testament Christ because he was an amazing radical he was a great guy. And after a while I find decided these people were right Mike. And there's a constant internal dialogue going on within the movement. It's like say the peace movement is becoming like the civil rights movement the civil rights movement is now split. And to the moderates the integrationists And shall we say radical pacifist who don't believe in the use of force and those that do believe in violence. Many of the black nationalists and many of the snick oriented people now fortunately most of these people are still doing a lot of talking and nothing much is
happening. See my own feeling is that nothing can be attained out of violence when you resort to violence you reap actions. All right Gary. Last April when you when you spoke to some troops last April. Well I have a press release here that says oh this is a penny this is at the Pentagon when you made this statement right. Lately I've been doing some thinking about exploiting animals. And last week I decided it is unfair for one animal man to exploit others. So I've decided to become a vegetarian and I wish some of you guys might give that some thought too. Yeah I wish anybody would give some thought to that. This is a well are you a vegetarian. Oh yes. And you become a vegetarian rather than. Kill animals or have animals kill for you. Yes yes. Well inconsistency always bothers me. OK you're wearing leather boots. Yeah I'm wearing a leather belt right. You're wearing a wool jacket right. Now the thing was at the time I made this decision I had leather boots a leather belt and a
wool jacket. These animals were already dead and I will continue to wear these things until they are worn out. But I will never again buy another leather purse or shoes I will never again buy another leather belt or a piece of wool. You know it's that type of situation I see no sense in discarding these items now that I already have them but I'm certainly not going to purchase any more in the future. Have you stopped eating eggs cottage cheese you know that these are the vegans and it's the situation. See the vegans or people that and I agree with them that they don't believe in the Mesta cation of animals. Mike I am kind of horrified by zoos when I see them now they're very similar to prisons the same thing locking. Human beings are animals in cages. But they don't believe that mankind has a right to dest domesticated animals that they should run wild. That's why you won't wear wool. You don't have to kill a sheep to get its will but you have to domesticated. That's why people don't drink milk because they don't feel that cows should be locked up on farms and do you know
what happened last time when it isn't milk. You know what happens to a cow when he wasn't really aware of this depends on cows that run wild. See a cow that is milk. I don't know if we want to get into this a cow for a while I'm trying to find about the OK you know just as I callate fresh is when it has a calf after the calf is nursed just sufficiently to so we say remain alive it is taken from the mother and then the mother goes in mouse I worked on a dairy farm many summers and this is the situation and that's how you get milk after the cow is fresh. So if you do not remove the calf when the mother than the calf you know as nature works that the calf drains off the mother's milk until it ceases just like human beings. And it's the same situation with chickens. The people you have to domesticate chickens to get the reg but let's move on about this is just let's let's talk about eyepiece for a moment I would agree with the vegans. I'm just not I'm not ready yet to make that step. You're also not a celibate either as Gandhi was and has no rights. I understand the celibacy argument and I had a long talk about that last night and
again I moved on an intellectual basis but not yet on an emotional I suppose that will come. I was moved emotionally about killing animals. And I think I would be moved emotionally about domesticating animals but it's kind of I'm convinced intellectually but I don't feel that motivation to do that kind of thing you know yet what happens to your legs. What are your next moves. Well I have a subpoena out for me in November 29. To appear before a grand jury investigation in New York City about the draft card burnings last fall which is a very surprising move on their part. In Chicago the Federal DA has told us that we're not prosecuting draft card burners anymore they're just been too many of them the law isn't enforceable so they wait until you refuse induction. But they've decided to prosecute 150 people or at least some segment of them the burner draft cards in New York City which is probably a wise move because most of us have become leaders and organizers and they want to pick us off. So I'm supposed to
appear before them I don't know if I will if I do I will plead the Fifth Amendment. I may not I may non cooperate with them and refuse to stand before the court. And for that I'm liable to contempt of court citation. But assuming I somehow get out of that then I'll simply go back to Chicago and continue my organizing efforts. You know for draft resistance in Chicago. What you're saying then is that we all have a volunteer army in this country right. Yeah my own attitude is simply for you saying that you're saying we should have no army at all. I'm saying we should have no army but you. But at this time it should be voluntary see. How can I say I'm not going to convince Congress to disband an army. And I happen to believe in the radical analysis the only way that mankind is going to get rid of armies is when an individual human being transforms themself enough that he refuses to bear arms against somebody else. So if there were no army I would still continue to. If there was a war going on I would still continue to you know
try to organize people to refuse induction into the army. I mean to refuse to enlist in the Army but I truly think if you're going to have an army and you are going to retain some semblance of democracy in a country that if the government wants to fight a war. It should call upon the young men of that nation to respond and if the young man in a case where it's obviously shall we say a just war using the just unjust war analysis like World War 2. Presumably they will respond quite and they will as bare arms. What if I don't read to me that's real democracy in effect if you have an unjust war like the war in Vietnam or most of the people drafted would not fight because they don't believe in the war. And if you're not able to raise a large enough army to fight the war I think that tells you something about the justice of the war you understand. I just cannot conceive of a government deciding for a young man. One of the most important ethical decisions in his life which is whether or not to kill another human being or even whether or not
to be trying to kill another human being. It just to me I agree with Senator Taft. The late Senator Taft of Ohio that the draft to me always as a youth I was a very conservative person for a long time. In fact I made the transition from a young conservatives who are young radical with very few changes in position. But I was opposed to the draft as a youth because I always felt that was simply a totalitarian coercive institution that had no place in a democratic state. Gary I wish we had more time to go in because but our time is up. Thank you. Thank you very much. You've been listening to a discussion of the protest movement surrounding American involvement in Vietnam. Our guest has been Gary rater a former Army Green Barai and now a vocal participant in American anti-war activities questioning Mr. Rader has been w a amuse staff producer and former Washington newsman Victor Sussman. This program was produced for national educational radio by WMU
- NER Washington forum
- Antiwar protestor Gary Rader
- Producing Organization
- WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Former Army Special Forces member Gary Rader, a former Green Beret, discusses his antiwar activism. Part 2 of 4: War in Vietnam.
- Other Description
- Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
- Public Affairs
- Media type
Host: Greenwood, Bill
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Speaker: Rader, Gary E.
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-41 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “NER Washington forum; Antiwar protestor Gary Rader.” 1967-12-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dr2p9j27>.
- APA: NER Washington forum; Antiwar protestor Gary Rader. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dr2p9j27