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July 26, 2007
Cast of CharactersBy Greyhawk
I actually forced myself to read The Nation's article on atrocities committed by US Troops in Iraq. No surprise, I found some familiar names - they'd appeared in Mudville before. Oddly enough, most of the claims they made back then - some of which were well refuted here - are not included in their latest attacks.
For instance, in The Nation, Spc. Aidan "Coke Bottles" Delgado describes a riot (one he didn't witness, by the way) at Abu Ghraib prison. Judging by their absence, we must assume Delgado has dropped other claims he used to make about his fellow soldiers. Specifically, that they kept empty coke bottles in their Humvees to smash over the heads of Iraqis as they drove by them in the streets.
Jeff Englehart has no real atrocities to describe in this story, just that American troops are ignorant racist thugs:
"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004.
He's really toned down his rhetoric. Back in November, 2005, Englehart made a bit of a name for himself by claiming that his fellow soldiers burned Iraqi Civilians to death in Fallujah using White Phosphorus. That claim - certainly more of an atrocity than any described in The Nation - is surprisingly not noted there.
Some classic Englehart quotes not appearing in The Nation:
Also appearing, "Spc. Garett Reppenhagen, 32, of Manitou Springs, Colorado":
Probes into roadblock killings were mere formalities, a few veterans said. "Even after a thorough investigation, there's not much that could be done," said Specialist Reppenhagen. "It's just the nature of the situation you're in. That's what's wrong. It's not individual atrocity. It's the fact that the entire war is an atrocity."
A long-time anti-war activist and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) member Reppenhagen - although he hails from Manitou Springs, Colorado, is often called upon to make appearances posing as an audience member during John "Jack" Murtha speeches and appearances. Following Murtha's declarations, "audience members" will be invited to address the congressman. Reppenhagen will be one of the first, announce his status as a veteran of Iraq, and praise Murtha for his courage. Here's one such example.
Another such planted soldier at that meeting was "Sgt. John Bruhns, 29, of Philadelphia" - who, in an amazing coincidence, also appears in The Nation's article, revealing the terrors of house raids:
As the Alpha Company team leader, Sergeant Bruhns was supposed to be the first person in the door. Skeptical, he refused. "So I said, 'If you're so confident that there are a bunch of Syrian terrorists, insurgents...in there, why in the world are you going to send me and three guys in the front door, because chances are I'm not going to be able to squeeze the trigger before I get shot.'"So...
As Sergeant Bruhns ran security out front, his fellow soldiers smashed the windows and kicked down the doorsBut in addition to appearing as a random veteran audience member praising John Murtha, other details of his post-military career didn't make the published version of The Nation's hit-piece. He's a favorite of the MoveOn political group:
Sgt. Kelly Dougherty Tells one of the most horrific stories in the piece:
"It's like very barren desert, so most of the people that live there, they're nomadic or they live in just little villages and have, like, camels and goats and stuff," she recalled. "There was then a little boy--I would say he was about 10 because we didn't see the accident; we responded to it with the investigative team--a little Iraqi boy and he was crossing the highway with his, with three donkeys. A military convoy, transportation convoy driving north, hit him and the donkeys and killed all of them. When we got there, there were the dead donkeys and there was a little boy on the side of the road.
She adds that she thinks the vehicles didn't slow down much before they killed them. Dougherty is co-founder and current executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Most of the ex-soldiers appearing in the article are members.
In fact, that's essentially what The Nation's story is - a thinly disguised public relations piece for Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The Nation interviewed fifty combat veterans, including forty soldiers, eight marines and two sailors, over a period of seven months beginning in July 2006. To find veterans willing to speak on the record about their experiences in Iraq, we sent queries to organizations dedicated to US troops and their families, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the antiwar groups Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War and the prowar group Vets for Freedom. The leaders of IVAW and Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of IAVA, were especially helpful in putting us in touch with Iraq War veterans. Finally, we found veterans through word of mouth, as many of those we interviewed referred us to their military friends.Surprise!
This Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions.
As noted previously - at least since John Kerry fled Vietnam. I guess IVAW doesn't hold physical meetings.
Update: Via email, from Paul Rieckhoff of IAVA:
Posted by Greyhawk / July 26, 2007 12:30 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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