World is Being Blogged
Ways to Help After Hurricane Katrina
Direct Reports from Camp Casey on the Road
Letters from Fort Lewis by Kevin Benderman
Kevin Benderman: The "Real Deal"
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
to Help After Hurricane Katrina
"Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?"
Gandhi: "I think it would be a good idea."
HomeAid is a national non-profit organization that builds and
renovates shelters for Americas temporarily homeless. HomeAid
has provided shelter for more than 55,000 temporarily homeless individuals
including: abused children, victims of domestic violence, teens,
people living with HIV/AIDS and those who are temporarily out of
America's Second HarvestThe Nations Food Bank Network
is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United
States. America's Second Harvest feeds over 23 million hungry Americans
each year, educates the public about hunger in America and advocates
for public policies that positively impact hungry Americans.
Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly
100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for
one million people. Habitat for Humanity International has created
a link on its Web site, www.habitat.org,
where visitors may donate funds, which will be used to repair homes
and lives damaged by the hurricane and to foster hurricane recovery.
Reports from Camp Casey on the Road
war's a game which, were their subjects wise, kings would not play
Cowper (English poet, 1731-1800)
Them Home Now Tour
August 31st, the last day of the Camp Casey encampment, the Bring
Them Home Now Tour launched three buses from Crawford, Texas, each
carrying military and Gold Star families, veterans of the Iraq War
and veterans of previous wars. These buses are traveling different
routes across the country, converging in Washington, DC on September
21, for the United
for Peace and Justice Mobilization September 24th-26th.
Sheen, Cindy Sheehan, and Iraq Veterans Against the War
Photo Credit: Jeff
Sheehan: One Mother's Stand,"
A Blog by Scott Galindez, TruthOut.org.
from Camp Casey," and "Photos
from Crawford Pro-War Rally," by Jeff Paterson, Not In
Our Name, BayAreaIndyMedia.org, Camp Casey Photo Archive by Jeff
from Fort Lewis by Kevin Benderman
Benderman is a US Army Sergeant who, after a tour of duty in Iraq,
became a conscientious objector to war, only to have his claim rejected
by the Army and to be subjected to a court-martial proceeding which
put him in prison for 15 months. This peace hero, declared
a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International,
posts weekly messages from prison here.
More on Kevin on the main Kevin Benderman
Defense Committee site--and right below.
July 27, 2005
Kevin Benderman: The "Real Deal"
US Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman goes on trial for refusing a second
tour of duty in Iraq. The charges against him are based on the Army's
recent denial of Benderman's conscientious objector claim, which
he is appealing.
Photo Credit: New
Benderman has become something of a symbol over the last few months,
of the anti-war movement. Some within the movement have framed
Benderman's position as being against the war in Iraq, which is
useful to their cause. Similarly, the Army officials who made the
initial determination to deny Benderman's conscientious objector
status have concluded, in essence, that he must be only protesting
the Iraq war, and not war itself. How could it be that he went to
war in the first place, and then decided that war is wrong?
Without examining it, Benderman's position may seem confusing to
both his current supporters and detractors. It is easier to just
believe what you want to believe about him because it suits your
political preference rather than take the time to find out just
what he does mean.
I have had the privilege of getting to know Kevin Benderman--and
his wife, Monica--over the last several months, helping them with their cause and spending time
with them when they came to San Francisco to speak to supporters.
I have come to the conclusion that they are "the real deal,"
as Carl Rogers, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War,
wrote in February in a mass email introducing the Bendermans to
many people are sick of political rhetoric from both the left and
the right. They know what not to trust. But, they have almost forgotten
what is sounds like when they are being told the truth about something
political. When people just speak the truth as it comes up from
inside them, it has a different sound to it. That is the sound of
Kevin Benderman speaking.
We don't often encounter the like of Kevin Benderman, so we don't
quite know what to make of him. He is not your typical anti-war
activist, who usually come to their conclusions based on theory
or philosophy, which are also legitimate methods to come to the
conclusion that war is wrong and that nonviolence is the only logical
way of the future, if we are to have a future. He is not your typical
military man, accepting often without substantive inquiry the orders
of his superiors and the truth of their justifications for action.
Who is Kevin Benderman? He is a down home, plain spoken, salt of
the earth, "good ol' boy," in the best meaning of that
phrase. He is as comfortable in the company of soldiers as he is
with peace activists, because he is comfortable with himself.
Benderman is a rarity: a truly independent thinker, an independent
person. He enlisted in the Army and went to war in Iraq because
he believed in his country and believed he could serve it best that
way. Once there, as his understanding of the meaning and reality
of war unfolded in the light of experience, he continued to justify
his presence there in terms of protecting his fellow troops.
Over time, he came to realize that the best way to protect the troops
is to get them out of Iraq, that by being a soldier he could at
best save one or a few soldiers. But, by protesting war, he might
save many more lives, American and Iraqi, soldier and civilian alike.
Benderman recently described his process of change to a reporter
for the New York Times: "Everybody wants to put you in a little
box, wants you to have some grand epiphany and bolts in the sky
when it comes to this. But it's not that way. Here's what happened:
I spent six months over there, and I came back and thought about
it. What I know is that it's inhumane. It's turning 18-year-old
men and women into soulless people."
This was not an ideological conversion. It was a practical one.
There is a big difference. When Benderman says that "war is
the destroyer of everything good in the world," it is not a
rhetorical flourish. It is a statement of a conclusion based on
experience. It is meant to be taken literally. When he calls himself
a conscientious objector to war, it should also be taken literally.
February 23, 2005
very disturbing to watch the documentary,
Company of Soldiers" on PBS last
night. The "Frontline"
program followed a group of US soldiers for thirty days in November,
2004 on duty in Southern Baghdad. It was a searing portrait of people
faced with the task of doing their awful job, yet trying to retain
their humanity. Along
the way, one of their number is killed by insurgents, and the documentary
shows the impact this has on the group.
US Cavalry's Dog Company
are placed in an almost impossible situation: they are required
to occupy and dominate a people, while at the same time rebuilding
the country and securing the trust of the citizenry. They do what
they have to do with comaraderie and bravery.
reminds those of us who are as protestors against this war that
we have the obligation to maintain the greatest clarity in separating
our disgust for the war itself and the decision to engage it from
the soldiers who are commanded to execute it, to be pro-soldier,
yet anti-war, as the bumper sticker below suggests.
Pro-Soldier, Anti-War buttons, click here.
point has been driven home to me like never before by the case of Kevin Benderman, an Army Sergeant
who is refusing to return for a second tour of duty in Iraq (I have
written in more detail about Benderman in an earlier posting below;
there is an excellent profile of him available here).
Just before watching the documentary, I heard the latest bad news
about Kevin. Despite the fact that he has applied for conscientious
objector status, and very clearly now qualifies for it, the presiding
officer in his initial hearing has decided to prosecute him for
desertion for his refusal to return to Iraq.
and his wife Monica
Benderman is not alone. There are many people currently in the military
who have been convinced by their experience in Iraq that war is
too terrible a solution to be applied to any problem. There are
many more people currently in the military--and veterans--who object
to the logic and rationale of this war in particular. The Kevin
Bendermans of the world are too few and far between. I know, for
example, that I do not have the courage--yet--that he has displayed.
I could--and you could-- withhold the percentage of my taxes that
go toward the military (more than half). But, I don't, out of fear
of being caught up in the meat grinder of the IRS, potential jail
time, etc. Yet, I know that would be the right thing to do.
about this recently, I re-read Henry David Thoreau's "On the
Duty of Civil Disobedience," which makes the case with greater
clarity than anywhere else how we surrender our souls to social
evil by our unwillingness or fear to refuse to support it. It is
recommended reading for our time.In the
meanwhile, while those of us not in the line of direct fire gather
our courage, the least we can do is heed the call of a growing number
of our soldiers who are letting us know in increasingly vocal ways
that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home, the
sooner the better.
IN THIS COLUMN
January 28, 2005-February 7, 2005
Media Coverage of
Davos vs. Porto Alegre Shows Elitist Bias
More News from the World Social Forum
100,000 Activists Gather to Build Another World:
fjfjfMajor Media Ignore Story