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I Have Never Seen A Freer Man - The Case of Sergeant Benderman

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I Have Never Seen A Freer Man

The Case of Sergeant Benderman

The defense successfully showed the humiliation Sgt. Benderman went through because of his Conscientious Objector beliefs, from the harassment of his wife by the Sgt. Major (who admitted to commenting on her physical figure) to his 1st Sgt. calling him a coward.

28 July 2005 By Camilo Mejia, Truthout Perspective

Fort Stewart, Georgia - When Sgt. Kevin Benderman went to Iraq on March of 2003, he saw the destruction of a nation, he saw a little girl with a burnt arm asking the soldiers for help they were ordered not to provide, he saw people drinking water from mud puddles, and he saw that Iraqis were regular people, just like himself, and that our military should not bring destruction to that country.

What Sgt. Benderman saw in Iraq changed him in a way so profound, that after ten impeccable years in the Army, he decided to apply for conscientious objection.

But Sgt. Benderman also spoke truth to the people about what is going on in Iraq, and he spoke about how the war is not destroying Iraq alone, but our own country as well. He spoke of how American soldiers are dehumanized by the war.

But today's general Court-Martial did not deal with Sgt. Benderman's war experience, nor with the dehumanization of America's children in Iraq; it mostly dealt with a forty-five minute meeting Sgt. Benderman had with his Sgt. Major just an hour before his unit was to deploy to the Middle East, where they were to provide logistic support to American infantry units, and they were to train Iraqi police officers and military personnel.

The defense successfully showed how during that meeting Sgt. Benderman's chain of command, not knowing how to deal with his Conscientious Objector packet, released him to work on documents and to have dinner with his wife, just an hour prior to his unit's deployment, and how they made no effort to get him to the airfield, or to get him onboard a later flight.

The defense showed how Sgt. Benderman, far from being absent without authority or having missed movement, continued to perform a sergeant's duties while and after his unit deployed to Iraq.

The defense also showed the ambiguity in Sgt. Benderman's chain of command.

For instance, one of the government's arguments in seeking both a conviction and a harsh punishment was that Sgt. Benderman's logistic duties were crucial for the unit in Iraq, yet the defense proved that his chain of command had planned to fire him from his job and to assign him to latrine duty.

Another argument was the hazardous component of the unit's mission in Iraq, yet the 1st Sgt. insisted that Sgt. Benderman would be perfectly safe and in a position where he would see no combat at all.

The defense successfully showed the humiliation Sgt. Benderman went through because of his Conscientious Objector beliefs, from the harassment of his wife by the Sgt. Major (who admitted to commenting on her physical figure) to his 1st Sgt. calling him a coward.

Why then, one wonders, was Sgt. Benderman convicted of Missing Movement by Design, and sentenced to 15 months of confinement, reduction to the lowest rank, and a dishonorable discharge?

The defense strategy was sound and solid. The government's prejudice and Sgt. Benderman's chain of command's unmeasured persecution and incompetence were all made evident.

Why the conviction and the harsh sentence then?

Perhaps because a legal strategy is no match for a political strategy.

The Army had in its hands a blond, blue-eyed, six foot two, all American soldier, born and raised in the south, someone white America can look up to and identify with, someone who went to Iraq and came back with his humanity enhanced, most definitely a threat to a government on a mission to militarize its society and spread its empire.

The government threw the book at Sgt. Benderman to ensure others like him don't follow behind.

Therefore, his case should not have been boiled down to a forty-five minute meeting, because in doing so, the defense disconnected itself from the humanity of the action and from its message of resistance, and that is something America cannot afford at this time.

Sgt. Benderman is not an African American Muslim, he is not a Cuban Buddhist, his parents are not Latin Americans.

Unlike other recent conscientious objectors, Benderman looks like he belongs at a George W. Bush rally.

The humanity he displays in his refusal to fight a senseless war cannot be blamed on a foreign ethnicity, or on the color of his skin; it cannot be blamed on his religion either.

And he cannot be accused of being a Yankee liberal.

Sgt. Benderman's courageous stance gives the conscientious objector response to the war in Iraq a universal touch that breaks down barriers and goes beyond borders, bringing down the issue of war resistance to the humanity in each and every one of us, regardless of who we are or where we come from.

Sgt. Kevin Benderman chose to put his weapon down; he chose not to kill but to love his fellow human beings; he chose to put his career and physical freedom in jeopardy; he chose to speak truth in the face of power and adversity; he was harassed, humiliated, accused, tried, convicted, and sentenced to jail.

He kissed his wife goodbye, and he kept his head up high as he walked to his fifteen months of confinement.

I have never seen a freer man.

Recruiting station closed early due demonstration in support of Sgt. Benderman: Armed Forces Recruiting Center, Oakland, California. by Jeff Paterson, Not in Our Name Jul. 29, 2005 at 12:48 AM, jeff@paterson.net 510-601-8000 http://www.CourageToResist.org


A Message From Monica Benderman:

Please . . . Let People Know Just What They Are Capable Of

July 29, 2005 By Monica Benderman

THANK YOU -- to everyone for supporting Kevin and me.

Kevin is currently in a local county jail -- but he is being treated well. We are waiting to see where he will be going next, and what will be happening.

The appeals process has been initiated -- BUT -- Kevin has not actually been convicted as yet. He is in jail, but the conviction will not be official until the Convening Authority, Col. John Kidd, has signed off on it.

He cannot make the sentence any greater, but he can reduce it. It's doubtful that he will do that, he has an inordinate amount of disdain for me.

The entire prosecution team, including witnesses, all stood outside the doorway and laughed while Kevin was walking to the van. They wanted to put him in shackles and chains "so that the media could take pictures of him that way" but his supervisor, the man they had placed in charge of that, refused to do that, so Kevin walked freely.

This supervisor has been very supportive of Kevin from the start - and continues to be very upset about what is happening, as he knows the truth.

Kevin could serve his entire sentence without Col. Kidd approving the sentence, which means that he will have the potential to serve without being convicted.

The reason this is a possibility is that until the sentence is confirmed, they cannot officially process the appeal, and until the conviction is official, the defense team cannot receive the full transcripts from the trial. Without these, they cannot begin to create the brief to file for the appeal.

People need to be aware of this. Please . . . let people know just what they are capable of.

Kevin is fine, and says THANK YOU for staying with him.



Do you have a friend or relative in the service? Forward this E-MAIL along, or send us the address if you wish and we'll send it regularly. Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is extra important for your service friend, too often cut off from access to encouraging news of growing resistance to the war, at home and inside the armed services. Send requests to address up top.


----- Original Message -----
From: John McCarthy
To: congressionalrecord@topia.net ; mdawnb@coastalnow.net
Sent: Sunday, July 31, 2005 4:39 AM
Subject: Moral Courage, Personified

Members of Congress:

My name has not been entered into the Congressional Record since September, 1969.  I believe this is an appropriate time for the second entry.

The integrity and moral courage displayed by Sgt. Kevin Benderman and his wife Monica in the face of certain incarceration is remarkable in it's brightness.  This is a true beacon of light in the darkness of tyranny which casts a very long shadow across America and the World.  This Nation cries "Enough!" when the military imprisons a combat veteran whose real conscience creates an inner revolt to the unlawful, misguided and criminal determination to begin the Iraq War in the first instance, followed by the reality of the war up close and personal.  Add to this conviction of courage the realization that his first tour of combat was necessitated by the fabrication of so called "intelligence" which was used to justify the preemptive attack on a sovereign nation for nefarious reasons.  Remember, "Fool me once....."?

Having seen the carnage of this war up close and personal, Sgt. Benderman has concluded that the justification for this war requires him as a citizen and soldier to resist further deployment in compliance with the Constitution of The United States.

Sgt. Benderman knows of the International War Crimes Trial held in Nuremberg wherein the Court in that instance concluded that all men of conscience must follow the rule of refusing an unlawful command or order.  "I was just following orders" was deemed to be NO EXCUSE at Nuremberg.  And the United States created that ruling.

The chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Justice Willam Jackson of the Supreme Court, said in his opening remarks;  "The standards by which we judge these men today are the standards by which we will be judged tomorrow".

Good Order and Discipline has nothing to do with the actions of Sgt. Benderman.  That is an often used excuse by authority to dismiss the reality of the Right Stuff.

Congress should immediately take action to intervene in this kafkaesque side show before it makes it's way into the highschools and colleges across this country as an antidote to military recruitment.  This case only adds to the plummeting numbers of resources for the military services.

Sgt. Benderman plead Not Guilty to the Charges against him.  He did not plea bargain his courageous stance in the face of the United States.  Yes, I said the United States!  If you look at the Record of Trial, it reads not the United States Army, but the United States!  That is a pretty big outfit with all the resources on the planet.  All Sgt. Benderman had was his unshakable gut feeling that he could not participate in the further destruction of the Cradle of Civilization.

Sgt. Benderman should be immediately removed from confinement and awarded the comfort of his loving family.  Medals mean nothing at this juncture.

If you were to ask the ever larger number of officers now choosing to leave the services of our country you will find a similar attitude.

You are provided the opportunity to do "the right thing" in this matter.  To allow this farce to continue would be tantamount to allowing the military to court-martial Colonel Rheault and the seven other Green Berets ensnared in one of the CIA's webs from the Vietnam era.  And we had a Republican President then also.


John McCarthy
3628 Colonial Avenue
Los Angeles, Ca 90066


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