Kevin Benderman is a U.S. Army sergeant who was convicted this summer of missing a movement when he refused to redeploy for a second tour in Iraq after having filed for conscientious objector status. -- He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and given a dishonorable discharge; he is now being held in the Fort Lewis stockade. -- David Lynn writes that in addition, Kevin was recently set up on a bogus assault charge and was subject to a discipline hearing yesterday; he appeals for your letters and e-mails to officials and to the press to protest Kevin Bendermans unjust incarceration and his mistreatment. -- See also David Lynns Oct. 18 article on the Kevin Benderman case. -- Karen Kwiatkowski wrote in August that Conscientious objectors sit atop an iceberg in American society. The unseen behemoth comprises millions of parents who are warning their kids away from military service, and turning recruiters away. At least not while we are in Iraq, a stupid murderous little engagement pursued for reasons the President has never bothered to share with the average American. -- The Army judge and jury did what they had to do. Justice demands a different verdict, but politics would tolerate nothing but the harshest punishment for the ethics and the example of Sgt Benderman....
[From David Lynn]
Kevin Benderman continues to be targeted by the Army for applying for conscientious objector status and refusing to go to Iraq for a second tour. While serving a 15-month sentence at the Fort Lewis stockade for "missing movement," he is being denied contact with his lawyers and he and other prisoners are forced to live under deplorable conditions. If you need to familiarize yourself with his issues, please visit the links provided below.
In addition, Kevin was recently set up on a bogus assault charge and was subject to a discipline hearing yesterday. Kevin's wife, Monica, has not heard from Kevin for two days and does not know what happened yesterday. For Monica not to hear from Kevin via the telephone on a daily basis is highly unusual. She is extremely concerned about his well-being.
Supporters are being asked to send Murray, Cantwell, and McDermott emails regarding Kevin's C/O case, prison conditions at Fort Lewis, and his continued harassment. All three reps should be asked to visit Kevin and investigate his denied C/O claim, his present status and the general conditions at the Fort Lewis stockade. Murray, Cantwell, and McDermott make it easy to express concerns by providing links to send emails.
Another way to remember the 2,000 dead soldiers and the 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians is to take a few minutes to express your support for one soldier who took a stand against the war and as a result is paying dearly. He is in a prison only within a few minutes from where we live, work, and go to school. If we do not support him and take action, who will?
Both Kevin and his wife Monica appreciate your efforts.
http://www.bendermantimeline.com/ (Benderman's website)
http://www.topia.net/kbmedia.html (Benderman's website)
http://orbstandard.com/News/Veterans/Lynn_New_Soldier_in_Town.html (Recent article that summarizes Benderman's case and prison conditions at Fort Lewis)
http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/othervoices/story/5281637p-4792292c.html (Same article published in Tacoma News Tribune minus prison condition issues. Letters to the editor in support of Kevin would not hurt.)
U.S. Senator Patty Murray http://murray.senate.gov/
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell http://cantwell.senate.gov/index.cfm
U.S. Congressperson Jim McDermott http://www.house.gov/mcdermott/
THERES A NEW SOLDIER IN TOWN
By David Lynn
October 18, 2005
Support the Troops, is a slogan no longer held captive by ultra-conservatives who believe if you do not support the war in Iraq, you do not support our troops. In reality, supporting our troops means working to end the war and bringing all of our military personnel safely home, as well as honoring soldiers refusing to participate in the Iraq war -- a war that more than 50 percent of Americans no longer believe in.
Although Alabama-born and Tennessee-raised Sgt. Kevin Benderman served with distinction in Iraq during the initial invasion of 2003, when Benderman was tapped for a second tour late last year, he chose the moral high ground over further participation in a war he could no longer defend. As a result of his moral convictions, Benderman was criminally convicted at Fort Stewart, Georgia, landing him recently in the Fort Lewis stockade serving a 15-month sentence for missing movement. Benderman also lost his hard-earned Sgt. stripes and upon release from prison, will be branded with a dishonorable discharge.
Benderman received two Army Commendation Medals during his first tour in Iraq because, among a list of other attributes, he served with distinction. Medals aside, the reality of serving in Iraq is seared into Bendermans conscience. After witnessing a pack of dogs savage the bodies of dead Iraqi men, women, and children and after hearing an officers order not to care for a young girl screaming in pain from severe burns, Benderman would never be the same. Those experiences changed his values, morals, and conscience. Ask any war veteran and most will acknowledge a similar path.
I spent six months over there, and I came back and thought about it. What I know is that its inhumane. Its turning 18-year-old men and women into soulless people, Benderman has stated. I went to war, I never ran from it. I experienced it and I realized its not what I should be doing. In my opinion, its not what anybody should be doing . . .
Benderman applied for conscientious objectors (C/O) status just ten days before he was to re-deploy to Iraq for a second tour. In fact, Benderman has applied for C/O status twice, both of which were flatly rejected even though a review of his applications appears to meet all the necessary criteria for C/O status as outlined in Army Regulation 600-43.
Kevin Benderman was charged with desertion, but was found guilty of a lesser charge, missing movement. As a result, his distinguished tour of duty is being played out at the Fort Lewis stockade under conditions not unlike Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons. Benderman reports: prisoners families not being officially informed where they are, severe overcrowding, denial of contact with lawyers, no heat, raw sewage leaking from overhead pipes, money stolen from confiscated bank cards, female guards who routinely watch male prisoners shower and use toilets, and an exposed prostitution ring resulting in only minor disciplinary action.
According to an Amnesty International Urgent Alert declaration, Amnesty International considers his (Kevin Bendermans) objection to war to be genuine and credible, and also that he took reasonable steps to secure release from his military obligations, and therefore considers him a prisoner of conscience.
Monica Benderman believes her husband is a hero, a champion of true morality and so do many others as confirmed by the hundreds of letters of support now pouring into Fort Lewis. She has launched a new website (http://www.bendermantimeline.com) which not only serves to expose her husbands journey to justice, but also offers a one-stop shop for soldiers and Marines who are interested in taking a stand against the war.
Kevin Benderman deserves our support for his courage and our outrage over his imprisonment. He represents the conscience of the majority of Americans who say, No more.
--David Lynn lives in Wauna, WA. He is an ex-Marine Sgt. and a combat Viet Nam veteran.
By Karen Kwiatkowski
August 3, 2005
In 2004, Sgt Kevin Benderman filed for conscientious objector status while he and his unit were preparing to redeploy for a second tour in Iraq.
What is it we are doing in Iraq, actually? Well, this is indeed the trillion-dollar question. Dont worry your pretty little heads about that, Americans! Just keep sending the boys and the girls and the credit, and Washington will do the rest.
We have (or had, as the case may be) soldiers serving not their second, but their third tour in Iraq. A law of diminishing returns for U.S. efforts in Iraq may be in effect -- where soldiers are added fruitlessly to ground already saturated with violence and blood and resentment on both sides.
We continue to send soldiers to die and kill, destroy, and be destroyed in Iraq. We continue to inflict death and mayhem on Iraqis, in order to "create" stability and "build" a unified and submissive, oil-rich Arab economy.
In the current era, it is politically correct to send hundreds of thousands of soldiers instead of one reliable, somewhat needy and ever so obliging dictator. One understands the neoconservative longing for the old Cold War, and recognizes the source of their flashes of sophomoric insight on world affairs and the global role of our morally bankrupt government.
As Benderman processed his CO status paperwork, the Army charged him with a combination of crimes.
Last week, the Army prosecution succeeded in its case against Sgt Benderman. He was found guilty of "missing a movement" and sentenced to 15 months in prison, reduction in rank, and a dishonorable discharge.
The Army allows for automatic appeals, and ideally Bendermans case will be overturned. I am not a lawyer, but I imagine a case involving inappropriate procedure, punishment, or politicization might end positively for Benderman. As a retired military officer from the late-20th-century American military, I remain pessimistic on all counts.
Bendermans company commander Army Captain Gary Rowley rhetorically asks, "If [the rest of the Army] saw this and found out it works using smoke and mirrors to get by, we'll have other soldiers saying, Well, I'm a conscientious objector. . . . They need to know there are consequences for not doing their duty."
The irony drips.
Duty? How about honor? Or country? These words have little meaning to soldiers and Marines in Iraq, trying to keep themselves and their buddies alive so they might someday do something really necessary for this countrys security. Defending its borders, setting an upright example in their communities, and working to preserve the Constitution come to mind. Heck, firefighting is a better use of their time.
Soldiers who believe Iraq is part of an honorable and just war for U.S. security are hard to find. Most understand the closest we come is in defending Halliburton and members of the puppet government, or patrolling oil fields and pipelines that may someday provide militarily subsidized oil to the United States and her loyal creditors.
The Army captain mentioned smoke and mirrors. It is a well-worn phrase in military circles today. Theyve heard about the smoke and mirrors used by the Bush administration to get their little war in Iraq. Theyve executed orders in Iraq that betray the corresponding Pentagon and White House public statements. Remember the library in Baghdad?
They destroyed Falluja to "save" it.
Our soldiers and Marines have seen the lowest grade Army Reservists punished handily for torture of uncharged detainees and prisoners, while ranking officers responsible for implementing and designing the administrations torture policy wink and nod.
Just last week, they saw the Pentagon public affairs office recycle a very strangely worded "quotation" from an "anonymous Iraqi" in two completely unrelated news stories. While this amazes many Americans and defenders of our foreign policy say it must have been an innocent mistake, our soldiers and Marines know better. They are quite familiar with smoke and mirrors.
Sgt Benderman is happy to explain why he is a conscientious objector. The reaction of the Army and the administration has been typical of their reaction to other examples of moral consistency. As in Caesars time, they have been despised and persecuted.
Conscientious objectors sit atop an iceberg in American society. The unseen behemoth comprises millions of parents who are warning their kids away from military service, and turning recruiters away. At least not while we are in Iraq, a stupid murderous little engagement pursued for reasons the President has never bothered to share with the average American.
The Army judge and jury did what they had to do. Justice demands a different verdict, but politics would tolerate nothing but the harshest punishment for the ethics and the example of Sgt Benderman.
Ironically, in a military prison cell, Benderman will be freer and doing more good for America than those doing hard time in Iraq, or pushing government propaganda through the Pentagon Channel here at home.
There has indeed been a dishonorable discharge from the United States military. But it didnt start last week, and it most assuredly wasnt Sgt. Kevin Benderman. --Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and among other things, writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.