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Gibson writes: " Another American sniper became so disgusted by what he had done that he started the first-ever antiwar blog, and is actively encouraging his fellow soldiers to use their First Amendment rights to speak out against what he calls an 'illegal occupation' in Iraq."

Garrett Reppenhagen of Iraq Veterans Against the War. (photo: CQ Roll Call)
Garrett Reppenhagen of Iraq Veterans Against the War. (photo: CQ Roll Call)


The American Sniper You Didn't Hear About

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

27 January 15

 

ne American sniper called Iraqi natives “savages,” compared them to American welfare recipients, and bragged about looting their homes after killing them. Another American sniper became so disgusted by what he had done that he started the first-ever antiwar blog, and is actively encouraging his fellow soldiers to use their First Amendment rights to speak out against what he calls an “illegal occupation” in Iraq. Guess which one had a blockbuster movie made about him, and which one got ignored?

Between February 2004 and February 2005, Garett Reppenhagen was a sniper in Iraq’s Diyala province, serving as a cavalry scout with the U.S. Army. It was his job to conceal himself near roadsides and kill anyone he saw planting IEDs. He was also ordered to wait in fields and target Iraqi insurgents pulling up in pickup trucks to launch mortars on American bases. While Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who killed over 160 people during his time in Iraq, relished in pulling the trigger and wrote “I only wish I had killed more” in his memoir, Reppenhagen became increasingly more remorseful after each kill.

“Every time I pulled the trigger, I had to really convince myself that I was saving a buddy of mine. And it got increasingly difficult,” Reppenhagen told an audience at Colorado College in May of 2011.

Reppenhagen came from a military family – his father was a Vietnam veteran, and his grandfather served in World War II. He enlisted in 2001 and was stationed in Vilseck, Germany, with the 2-63 Armored Battalion, 1st Infantry Division. Between 2002 and 2003, his division was stationed in Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission. After completing international interdiction training at the NATO Special Forces School in Steton, Germany, he was deployed to Iraq in 2004. During that time, Reppenhagen learned that most of the men in his division were serving simply because a recruiter had bullied them into joining to get out of a bad economic situation. One of his fellow soldiers from Los Angeles had joined the military to get away from the gangs in his neighborhood. Another man from Ohio joined because the factory in his rust belt town had shut down and jobs were scarce.

“It was just 2 months of basic training for a cavalry scout, and out we come,” Reppenhagen said. “They’re just like you. They were given a bad haircut and an M-16 in their hands and they’re scared shitless.”

As Zaid Jilani recently wrote, the film “American Sniper” uses clever editing to suggest that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9/11: In one scene, Chris Kyle is watching the 9/11 attacks unfold on TV. In the next scene, Kyle is seen deploying to Iraq. But unlike Kyle, Reppenhagen became aware that he and his division were risking their lives in Iraq for fabricated causes, and actively started speaking out against the war.

“It was the conduct of the war that really started turning me, and the fraudulent causes that sent me there that really put me over the edge,” Reppenhagen said. “There were no ties to 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction.”

Reppenhagen later started the first-ever antiwar blog, which was called “Fight to Survive.” It became a place where he and his fellow soldiers could share combat experiences with the world that would shape their view of the war and make the case for their outspoken opposition.

In one blog entry from November 13, 2006, a soldier who identifies only as “Hellblazer” wrote a detailed post about a skirmish that erupted in the city of Ba’Quba in 2004. After an hour of receiving gunfire from all sides and getting orders to “shoot anything the [sic] moved,” Hellblazer noticed an insurgent with an AK-47 run out from a corner across a nearby street. Despite Hellblazer’s chasing him with machinegun fire, the Iraqi made it to another corner and out of sight. But one of the targets in the gun’s wake was a trailer that had been riddled with Hellblazer’s bullets.

“Now falling out from behind this trailer was the body of a teenage boy. The void in his chest replaced what was once his heart and his body convulsed slightly as his nerve endings fired their last. His body lay there in the filthy dirty street, muddy water surrounding him from the drainage of the nearby houses … Nausea filled my stomach and a cold feeling overtook my flesh. How long had he been behind that trailer? Had he been there through the whole mess? Not to [sic] long afterwards, an older man emerged from around a corner, immediately collapsing nest [sic] to the young man’s body.”

– Excerpt from The Day That Haunts Me, by “Hellblazer”

During his 2011 lecture at Colorado College, Reppenhagen noted that 18 veterans commit suicide every day (now 22 veteran suicides per day), and that more veterans have committed suicide after returning from combat than have been killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined. He theorizes that atrocities like the Haditha massacre of 2005 and the slaughter of Iraqis at a canal in 2007 are perpetrated by veterans who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury re-deploying again and again, making them less stable in battle.

Reppenhagen's theory was sadly and ironically proved by the death of famed "American Sniper" Chris Kyle. It wasn't an insurgent in a foreign battlefield who ended Kyle's life in February of 2013, but a traumatized veteran named Eddie Ray Routh, at a shooting range in Texas. In the June 2013 issue of The New Yorker, Routh was profiled as a troubled young man who succumbed to his inner demons after a tour of duty. His father recalled one telephone call from Iraq in which Routh hinted that he had killed a child.

“More veterans are killing themselves than are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Reppenhagen said in 2011. “You think they’re coming home because they’re proud of what they did? 3rd Brigade just came back to Fort Carson two weeks ago, and six of them killed themselves already.”

After his honorable discharge in 2005, Reppenhagen became the first active duty member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Since then, IVAW has simultaneously become a vast antiwar movement and a support community for returning veterans who are proud of serving their country, but want to express their opposition to the acts carried out around the world in their name.

“There are ways to resist this war within army regulations. You still obtain your rights as a citizen,” Reppenhagen said at a lecture in March of 2008. “You’re able to use those rights, and you should, since you’re the one sacrificing to protect those rights. It’ll be a shame if the actual use of your First Amendment right becomes unpatriotic.”

Today, IVAW is in 48 states, Washington D.C., Canada, and military bases around the world, including Iraq. Its members advocate for full funding of the office of Veterans Affairs, full quality healthcare (including mental healthcare) and full benefits for veterans when they return from duty. While IVAW reaches out to returning veterans, Reppenhagen is quick to separate their methods of engagement from military recruiters.

“We’re not gonna come out and recruit soldiers and veterans. We’re not going to try to trick you into joining us. But we will ask you,” Reppenhagen said.

“There’s a lot of pride in joining our army, our corps,” he continued. “We can fight for a cause that will change America and the world for the better and stop these occupations.”



Carl Gibson, 27, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nonviolent grassroots movement that mobilized thousands to protest corporate tax dodging and budget cuts in the months leading up to Occupy Wall Street. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary We're Not Broke, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Carl is also the author of How to Oust a Congressman, an instructional manual on getting rid of corrupt members of Congress and state legislatures based on his experience in the 2012 elections in New Hampshire. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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+165 # Thinking 2015-01-27 14:34
Thank you for presenting another side of the story -- one that isn't getting told.

Apparently killing each other, even our "enemies", isn't compatible with our deepest nature. This gives peace a real chance.
 
 
+5 # ritawalpoleague 2015-01-30 06:45
Thank you, Thinking. If only the vast majority of this, today's U.S. of (greed and need for power over all) A.(ddiction) would 'think' as do you, with ethics, compassion, and empathy, we might just be able to overcome and.....

UNDO THE EVIL, ENDLESS WAR COUP D'ETAT !
 
 
+123 # Billy Bob 2015-01-27 15:04
Apparently, Reppenhagen didn't get the memo. According to some of the comments I've read recently (on other RSN articles about Chris Kyle), it's an insult to all of the military to ask any of the questions Reppenhagen's been asking.

This IS the other side of the story, and I'd like to hear more about it. It's the perfect answer for all of the mindless worshippers who feel it's their duty to question the patriotism of anybody who'd dare call someone like Kyle what he was - a psychopath.
 
 
+13 # Linda 2015-01-27 18:45
Billy Bob ,
You can read a whole lot more about it if you follow the link and click on “Fight to Survive.” in the article .
 
 
+86 # dickbd 2015-01-27 15:48
I really appreciate Reppenhagen's work and this article about him. The only thing with which I would disagree would be his implication that soldiers in Iraq were protecting our rights. I don't think he would agree with it either if he thought it through.

Certainly, the invasion of Iraq didn't do anything to protect our freedoms. One of the problems with military actions, besides the immorality and the destruction of lives, is that they abridge our freedoms. Look how Obama has used the Espionage Act more than any other president.

Finally, it can't be repeated enough: Our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have been completely counterproducti ve because they have created more terrorists. And why wouldn't they? Any country always hates invaders . . . and occupiers.
 
 
+41 # bigkahuna671 2015-01-28 10:36
dickbd - I totally agree. I served nearly two full tours (21 mos) in Vietnam and when I came home, a little older, a little wiser, I realized we were being used. WE were NEVER attacked. I always supported my fellow servicemen but lost all respect for LBJ and Tricky Dick (tho' I never had ANY respect for him to begin with). When we got involved in Afghanistan, with the knowledge that they had allowed bin Laden safe sanctuary and training camps for his "soldiers," I questionably supported the invasion with the belief that we should go in, get bin Laden, and get out. The Middle East is mired in 7th century ways of thinking and we'll NEVER change them, so staying any longer was out of the question. The invasion of Iraq was a farce from the time General/Preside nt Cheney ordered Dubya and Rummy to start convincing everyone it was OUR war to the day we finally pulled troops out, for the same reason I presented above about the ME. If it's their goal to kill one another off, let's step out of the way 'cause it's not OUR war. Whenever the economy goes down, whenever the military-indust rial complex finds themselves making less $$$/promotions, you can count on a war being started for some specious reason. Beat the drums, declare some guy is a dead hero and we need to stand up for him, and you'll get a lot of redneck Americans who've forgotten the last time we got used.
 
 
+69 # Saberoff 2015-01-27 16:04
Now wouldn't this have made a picture-show!!

Eastwood? Someone should kick him in his boney ass while he's still standing; let him know where he's coming from.

And those poor, proud movie-goers...

I'm so glad to see the current negative commentary now coming out, over this awful, sickening jingoism.
 
 
+17 # James Marcus 2015-01-27 17:09
His Services are sorely needed...In TEXAS! The Bush Family is 'In Need'.....
and , possibly, Washington D.C., for the Rest of the Bushniks
 
 
+34 # elkingo 2015-01-27 17:16
And killing does fuck you up. Read "On Killing" by Lt. Col. "Somebody". And Saberoff, right on the nail again.
 
 
+31 # MMBJack 2015-01-27 18:38
Clint Eastwood is one of several famous actors always Republican first last forever. Love of war is a serious disease like love to carry a gun in public.
 
 
+54 # Linda 2015-01-27 18:39
Now this is the kind of man I would call a hero . Someone who although he was doing what he was ordered to do his conscience knew it was wrong and it lead him to do the right thing. This is so totally opposite of what Chris Kyle was and would do. The part of Chris that was suppose to be human was missing a conscience.Hero 's have a conscience !
 
 
+20 # futhark 2015-01-27 19:40
When I read stories like this one, I often think of the Hessian mercenaries who came to British North America to fight against the dirty, hungry, and disorganized insurgents in 1770s and 1780s. How they must have looked down at their opponents, who did not respect the convention of war at the time to march into battle in formation, but instead cowardly hid behind trees and other cover, picking off their comrades one-by-one. But at least they could console themselves that they were fighting with honor to uphold the duly appointed authority of His Majesty King George III and secure order throughout his realms.
 
 
+6 # rblee 2015-01-28 00:05
On the new Nightly Show last night there was another sniper who said he had no qualms about the people he had killed. Supporting him was Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who certainly should know better. It's just sad that we have so many Eichmann-types who can be depicted as heroes in films and appear on jolly comedy shows.
 
 
+17 # sfintersect 2015-01-28 01:37
When there was a draft I volunteered for The War Resisters League. We counseled young conscientious objectors and others opposed to killing, in ways to make their case to the governmen5t. To do this I had to study draft law and also be there for the emotional and sometimes family issues these young men were facing. It was a deeply satisfying experience. Things are different today, but I do feel it might be helpful to find a way to work with young people seeking to go into the military to seek alternative ways to get an education and find a career or decent job. Two paid for years of Jr. College might be part of such a strategy.
 
 
+11 # CragJensen 2015-01-30 01:38
Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, their retinue of liars and dupes; the big corporations and the news media puppets who pushed these wars have a veritable river of blood on their hands. And now, many of the soldiers, who performed their assigned duties at great peril to themselves, find it impossible to deal with the horror of what they saw and, perhaps, ended up having to do.
And what responsibility do we, the American people/civilian s bear? Perhaps all of it - for it is us that, ultimately, allowed it to happen.
 
 
+21 # shoeless-j 2015-01-30 12:52
I am 65 years old. My father died in 1978 at age 58, a diagnosed psychotic and a rotting flesh alcoholic. He went into WWII as Joe Romero, came home, ran off to another state to change his name and to start over. Jack Anderson was not a statistic. He didn't kill anyone stateside, no movies were made about him. No one saved him. Jack was empty and shapeless and psychologically abusive. In his stupors, he would talk about some bloody atrocity. He whimpered, always. Jack hated the VA. Jack hated the ceremonies and he threw away his medals. I never knew the 21 year old man who left for the Pacific. Now, with a lot of research and the help of so many veterans I am trying to understand. These stories don't make movies the public wants to see. Bollocks to John Wayne's Back to Bataan and every movie since that focuses on the lie. The family, the HOME FRONT, is contorted with war, a guest at the dinner table every single day. BUT...my siblings and I made it through the mess. I don't know how. Jack died, we got rid of WAR, and figured out how to be whole. For me, I feel the agony of these soldiers. it is possible to tell the truth and help the soldier come home. THAT'S is the movie I want.
 
 
+8 # burnttoast 2015-02-01 17:59
I was in my English class and my 5th grade teacher asked if anyone had ever hunted and killed something. I raise my hand and said yes. He asked my how I felt and I said it made me feel awful he got really disgusted with me, he wanted the macho thingy. we used to shoot at birds with our BB guns all summer long, birds squirrels anything and everything and would never seem to hit anything there were just fun moving targets and we were boys. One day a bright yellow flinch burst out of a nearby tree and I shot at it and shot it right out of mid air and it fell to the ground slowly dying. I walked up and felt horror as I watch it die I never really made the connection to shooting meant killing or killing meant death until I saw it 1st hand in my face. Yup this is the same exact thingy on a bigger scale many gun ho vets go thru it is all macho and patriotic until they get a reality check that yup they are murdering other equal humans beings period and no justification can ever remove that fact. The cause of PTSD is largely because of the inner conflict of trying to tell our soldiers they should not feel like murderers when they know they are. So lets start out with the truth about war you are going to be asked to murder innocent folks ( the so called enemy) and yes you should feel remorse and guilt. AND we have to mourn their deaths (the enemy) as we mourn our own. And given this immense sacrifice ( of becoming a killer) which is far worse than losing ones own life!
 
 
0 # George B Duran 2015-07-26 23:57
Atrocities are being committed in this fabricated war against ’terrorism’ and the blame and shame is being directed towards AMERICA in general. That is why it is so vital that we wake up, stand up and UNITED demand for the TRUTH to come forth. Only ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ of the United States of America can and must put an end to all this chaos.
The real enemy is already within… We must acknowledge that -to a certain degree, our Government has been and it is still being manipulated by ‘foreign interests’ through the whore-lobbyists , aided by the whore-elected officials that do nothing to stop it, BUT mainly because WE as constituents have been failing to hold them accountable.
Fortunately all that is changing. Every day there is more people coming forth and sharing their testimonies and soon we will come to the realization and fulfillment of AMERICA’s true purpose and mission, which is: Upholding the Higher Principles of LIFE, LIBERTY and JUSTICE for all of mankind; as acknowledged by the Original Constitution.

It continues...
 

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