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January 22, 2011
The story of John and GarettBy Greyhawk
Question from Reason TV: What Happened to the Antiwar Movement?
"They used to be useful idiots," says Glenn Reynolds. "Then they stopped being useful." That's a good short answer. If you'd like an illustration of the point, read on.
Obviously, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the antiwar movement is still around. And it's certainly possible that 2012 - or 2013 - might see its resurgence. But as Reason notes, for now Democrats' involvement in the effort has dropped, and crowds at protests have dwindled. Media interest has vanished, too. All this helps explain why antiwar folks are desperately seeking support from conservative Republicans and
How did things get to this point? What follows is an explanation of what happened to the former military component of the anti-war movement. While a very small percentage of the whole, they were arguably the most important. Their participation inoculated other protesters from claims of not supporting the troops; their authentic voices absolved those who were never there, man, from charges of acting in ignorance of what it's really like. (If I recall correctly, the term "ultimate moral authority" was applied.)
Where are they today? I offered up my own short answer last year: they might be up in your attic or down in your cellar right now. (Take a look and come back if you'd like.) That didn't answer the question how the hell did that happen? This post will.
First (although antiwar groups never bothered) you can separate those "antiwar vets" into two groups - complete and total frauds (more here) and authentic veterans. (Some might argue there are degrees of fraud - but that's beyond the scope of this discussion.) Here we're going to examine the careers of two authentic vets - veterans of both the military and the antiwar movement. Their antiwar careers had two decidedly different endings that will serve to answer the question whatever happened to...? for most of the crowd.
We first met them here back in January, 2006 - at that time they were already veterans of "the movement" - Garett Reppenhagen and John Bruhns. Their mission at the time was to stand up at a Town Hall meeting, praise Congressmen Jack Murtha and Jim Moran for their courageous "antiwar" positions, then feed them Democratic Party campaign talking points.
Here's Bruhns, declaring Iraq an illegal and immoral war:
And here's Reppenhagen, speaking for all his wounded veteran brothers at Walter Reed who he says were now questioning the fraudulent war (presumably they would have been there themselves if they could get out of the hospital):
They weren't the only vets participating in denouncing Iraq and praising the pair of Democrats - but you have to wonder what the rest of that audience might have thought if they were told they were witnessing a choreographed event, with at least one veteran brought in all the way from Colorado for the occasion.
Murtha's response to Reppenhagen is particularly odious in hindsight. In January, 2006 the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, and he was implying that if only the Democrats could take over they could stop the war and investigate exactly who was responsible for the fraud in the first place. By the end of that year they were elected to large majorities in both chambers, but 2007 saw no such "investigation." Instead Democrats gave America one of the most pork-filled defense budgets in history - until the next one. (While few matched Jack Murtha's ability to bring home the war bacon, David Obey, one of the big cash winners in that particular bill, later chastised an "idiot liberal" antiwar Marine mom over the issue.)
But by 2007 - the height of the surge - John and Garett were busy with other projects. They were both part of a Nation magazine article featuring first-hand accounts from Iraq veterans of the horrific atrocities they claimed to have heard about or witnessed while there. Slaughtering children, burning villages, desecrating corpses - The Nation called it "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." Add "since John Kerry's pre-Senate days" (or "outside of Jack Murtha or Jim Moran campaign events") and that might be true.
But Reppenhagen and Bruhns were also entered in a big contest. Sponsored by MoveOn.org and VoteVets, "the public" was allowed to vote for their favorite anti-war veteran, and the winner would get to appear in an "antiwar" political ad on TV - produced by none other than Hollywood's Oliver Stone.
Here's Reppenhagen's contest entry...
...but he's an also ran - the winning contestant was John Bruhns:
(If both messages sound familiar, it's because they're largely sticking to the same script they used in the Murtha/Moran video from over a year before.)
Here's the press release announcing the contest winner.
So, there he was - on top of the heap of anti-war vets and assured of a bright future. But there was a problem, and it was a big one. Not only was he a real veteran, John Bruhns actually was anti-war, and that was about to prove a huge embarrassment to his many supporters and sponsors. Within weeks of his big TV debut, Bruhns would go "off the reservation" - and he did it with a confession titled "The anti-war phonies" in the Philadelphia Daily News. (Now gone - but viewable here). Excerpt:
And with that, any chance he had at a future in the "anti-war community" was gone. He was still anti war, and he was still allowed to contribute occasional blog posts at The Huffington Post, but within a few weeks of the Dawn of the Age of Obama he was gone - an unperson.
You won't find Garett Reppenhagen at anti-war rallies these days either, but the former E4/milblogger/"first IVAW active duty member" and "chairperson of the board"/"Vice President of Public Relations for Nobel Prize winning Veterans For America"/"associate director at the Alliance for Security"/who-knows-what-else member's fate was decidedly different than that of the once "more popular" Bruhns. Reppenhagen stayed firmly "on the reservation" (from 2008: Reppenhagen confesses to killing innocent Iraqi's here, and speculates on the future of "GI resistance" here) and the payoff was revealed within a month of Obama's November victory.
That's from a December '08 issue of the execrable Thomas Barton's communist fraudvet newsletter "GI Special". In reality, "what VGA is all about" is having veterans install insulation in attics and cellars at taxpayer expense.
"We think veterans are uniquely qualified to lead the environmental restoration here at home," said Kirsten Maynard of Veterans Green Jobs. "Not only have they seen environmental destruction across the world; they also have technical skills and other kinds of work skills that allow them to do the really tough work that needs to be done - like go into homes and crawl in the attic and the basement. They've been trained by the military to do it, and they actually feel comfortable being in that kind of environment."
"VGA has just received a generous start-up grant that will cover roughly half of our total expenses for 2009." Reppenhagen wrote. And more was to follow. In addition to your money (stimulus funds - "Veterans Green Jobs has a contract with the Governor's Energy Office to weatherize 1,700 homes in 18 months, leveraging stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act") Wal Mart gave them 750K to launch an "academy" to train vets how to install that insulation. ("For years, Wal-Mart has been a target of environmentalists who argue that the company's rapid expansion in the last quarter century has destroyed countless trees...") By November, 2010 the group could boast of creating "about 100 jobs." (Or at least "more than 60.")
Mike Flaherty got one of them. Here he is in a New York Times story from August, 2008 - he's protesting the Iraq war at an IVAW-sponsored Rage Against the Machine concert during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
And here he is in September 2009...
...when he was "among four veterans chosen to attend a town-hall meeting on the green economy as part of a task force hosted by Vice President Joe Biden."
Could that be this one? If so, Reppenhagen offered reassuring words for those who might be annoyed by that bogus "middle class bourgeoisie" emphasis: "I've dedicated myself to the antiwar movement and debated tactics and strategies for the most effective way to end armed conflict," he said at the time, adding that in addition to many other Utopian goals it could achieve, his organization was a great "counter-recruiting" tool. "Veterans Green Jobs provides a realistic alternative to military enlistment," he wrote at warresisters.org. "In these difficult economic times, many service members don't recognize stable opportunities outside of military service that can provide for them and their families." [By way of explaining why the peace movement's "rhetoric often indirectly demonizes our troops."]
They'd been "laying the groundwork for two years," Reppenhagen said in announcing his post-antiwar activist career back in December, 2008. "With the Obama administration already vocally promoting green jobs," he added, "Veterans Green Jobs Alliance is well-positioned to leverage resources" to achieve success.
"Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure that more of our veterans can enter the new energy economy. They will create a new 'Green Vet Initiative'" the future President pledged during his campaign. While the effort had some rough patches, Politifact calls that "a Promise Kept."
So if you're really wondering what happened to the antiwar movement, check your attic and your cellar. They've been put away for now (with you paying the storage fees), but the wars continue and they're always available - if the need arises in the future.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 22, 2011 12:10 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...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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