Last Saturday night, I had the opportunity to talk with Monica Benderman about the travails of her imprisoned husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman. Sgt. Benderman declared his intention to seek conscientious objector status after he returned from his first tour in Iraq in 2004. His reasons, published here by Lew Rockwell along with other Benderman essays, serve as a moral exposé and a window into the heart of an American soldier sent to fight in Iraq for reasons Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have yet to explain.
Monica Benderman recalled the Army’s reactive, paranoid strategy to deal with Sgt. Benderman’s CO request, and she witnessed it up close. At one point, Mrs. Benderman was even asked to sign paperwork for her husband, and she was encouraged to try and change his mind.
Right and wrong are not something easily or casually impressed upon someone. Ethics and morality are not a suit of clothing worn until something more comfortable is offered. Too bad for the U.S. Army. And in some ways, too bad for Prisoner Benderman — convicted and sentenced to fifteen months confinement, then transferred in the dark of night 3000 miles away from Kentucky to Washington in what may only be assumed was punitive harassment of both Benderman and his spouse.
In a fascinating irony, at the time the Army was fumbling Benderman’s CO paperwork, one of the officers in Sgt. Benderman’s chain of command was under investigation for and later convicted of privately selling bulletproof vest plates purchased by taxpayers for our soldiers deploying to Iraq. A military court sent down a far shorter sentence than the one they deemed appropriate for Sgt. Benderman. It is clear which type of "crime" the Army brass considers more dangerous.
Sgt. Benderman had provided Monica with a message for the radio listeners, and only part of it was heard on air. It is shared below, and is well worth reading at a time where this country seems intent on betraying allies and seeking new enemies, even as it persists in manipulating both Iraqi and Afghan politics. The betrayal and antagonism are not only outwardly directed. Soldiers like Kevin Benderman are also targets. He writes,
First of all, I would like to say thanks to everyone who has supported Monica and me while we deal with the madness the Army has put us both through because of my decision to stand up for what is right.
I have served a little over 5 months of a 15-month sentence given to me because I developed a conscience and would no longer participate in a war that we were lied into.
I consider it an honor to be put in prison for standing for what is right and all that I can say to the men responsible is “I feel sorry for you.” The reason I feel for them is because they refuse to see the truth, and self-deception is the worse kind.
But on a larger scale, the American people were lied to by men who care for nothing but their own personal agenda and are willing to abuse the goodwill and patriotism of the American people in order to reach their personal goals. This is not what our founding fathers envisioned for this country. They did not want the elected representatives to use fear as a governing tool and they did not want the citizens to give over all of their rights to people who would let absolute power corrupt absolutely.
I, for one, believe in the Constitution when it says that the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that this country is run correctly lies with the American people and not solely with this government. While we do hire people to do the work of government it is up to us, the citizens, to ensure that they are doing this in accordance with the law of the land.
True freedom requires eternal diligence and it will take everyone doing their share of keeping watch to prevent freedom from slipping out of our hands.
It is the small things that add up to keep all of us in line. Which brings to mind three small words spoken by a woman who had had enough, “I ain’t movin’.” The woman was Rosa Parks. We should think about her courage when we feel as if we are too small to matter.
“I ain’t movin’.” Are you?
Sgt. Benderman’s case is detailed here, and here. It was an honor for me to speak with Monica Benderman last week. This coming Saturday, 9—11 EST, we have another esteemed guest on the program. Lew Rockwell has graciously agreed to be interviewed, to answer my questions, and to give us all some hope and optimism in this era where Americans shout "Freedom!" on command, while simultaneously sacrificing real American liberty in a thousand ways. Join us!
Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon’s Near East/South Asia bureau. She lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and among other things, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum on Saturday nights, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com. To receive automatic announcements of new articles and upcoming guests on her American Forum radio program, click here.