Editors’ Note: This article was sent to us by an airman stationed at a weather station in Florida. His name has been omitted to protect him from reprisal.
A few months ago it seemed that the military was more up-tight than usual. As it turned out, this is the understatement of the year.
I have a VW mini-bus that is painted with pop art, stars, signs of the zodiac, etc. In the rear window, I had painted an anti-war symbol.
When I left the weather station the other day, I was greeted by an airpoliceman who asked for my name, rank, number, etc., explaining that a list was being compiled of those displaying antiwar symbols.
I really wasn’t too anxious to be on anyone’s list, so I contacted the O.S.I. (Security Fuzz) to find out what the hell was happening. After some subtle evasion, I was invited to come over for a talk.
When I entered the building, things just didn’t look right. I was taken to a room by two agents, one military, one civilian and told to sit down.
After showing me their identification, one began to read Article 31 from the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which outlines the rights of the accused. I still wasn’t sure what was going on, so I declined the service of an attorney.
From memory, I’ll try to reproduce the conversation that followed.
AGENT: Why do you have a peace symbol on display? Is it just a joke?
ME: No, it’s not a joke. It’s just a symbol of my convictions. I don’t believe in wars.
AGENT: Do you know what your job is as a member of the Air Force?
ME: Yes, I do. As it says on the sign at the main gate, “Peace is Our Profession.”
AGENT: Beyond that, you are a member of an organization that must be prepared to wage a nuclear war against the communist world. We hope that such a war never happens, but we must be ready to act if it does come to that.
ME: Not by my hand. I won’t have anything to do with that.
AGENT: Don’t you realize that as a weatherman, you support long range bombers with forecasts for re-fueling areas as well as weather support for the missile complex?
ME: My job has nothing to do with that. I make no forecasts and the missiles aren’t concerned with weather. If I thought that I played any part directly in the deployment of the bomb, I would refuse to do it.
AGENT: That’s why we’re concerned.
ME: Are you concerned with my loyalty or with the symbol itself? What is it that you are afraid of?
AGENT: Here’s the problem. The country today is in bad shape. There is anarchy in the streets and colleges. We have economic problems. People are even doubting our leaders.
The country is ripe for a communist take-over. The only hope we have left is the bomb. When people see you as a member of the Air Force, with a peace symbol on display, they feel that even that hope is lost.
ME: I don’t believe in a worldwide communist conspiracy and I don’t see how a hydrogen war can offer any hope to anyone. This conversation is getting a little strange. Am I being charged with anything?
AGENT: Not yet. The communist conspiracy is a fact and some patriots feel “Better dead than Red.” You have three alternatives: 1) Remove the symbol, 2) Remove the vehicle from the base, 3) If you don’t do one of the two, you will be court-martialed.
ME: In the event of a court martial, what in the hell would you charge me with? To me, the only thing un-American that has occurred is what’s going on right now. I can’t believe that my country has come to this paranoia.
AGENT: You would be charged under Article 134. (I have read this Article. It’s a catch-all pile of shit that is so vague that it would be unconstitutional in any civilian court.) The gist of it is “Spreading disaffection and conduct disparaging to the Air Force.
ME: If I remove the symbol will it make everyone happy again?
AGENT: There will still be an investigation.
That’s about it. It was difficult to settle on any one emotion while this was going on, so I think I hit them all—anger, disbelief, humor, etc.
I felt that there were three quotes from Bob Dylan that would have been relevant to the scene.
You know something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones.
A hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
See Fifth Estate’s Vietnam Resource Page.