01-17-2005, 08:31 AM #1
Soldier explains refusal to return to Iraq
HINESVILLE, Georgia (AP) -- A young girl clutching her arm blackened by burns, dogs feeding off bodies in mass graves -- the images still haunt Sgt. Kevin Benderman 15 months after he came home from Iraq.
Witnessing the brutal reality of war, Benderman stunned his commanders when he sought a discharge as a conscientious objector after 10 years in the Army.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the sergeant said he never grasped the misery that war inflicts on civilians as well as combatants until he saw it all firsthand.
"Some people may be born a conscientious objector, but sometimes people realize through certain events in their lives that the path they're on is the wrong one," Benderman said. "The idea was: Do I really want to stay in an organization where the sole purpose is to kill?"
Benderman's decision -- choosing conscience over his commitment to fellow troops -- has meant bearing the insults.
An officer called him a coward. His battalion chaplain shamed him in an e-mail from Kuwait. That's because Benderman, whose unit just deployed for a second combat tour in Iraq, refused to return to war.
Benderman, 40, filed notice in December, and his timing could hardly have been worse for the Army. The Fort Stewart-based 3rd Infantry Division began deploying its 19,000 soldiers this month.
Benderman's unit, the 3rd Forward Support Battalion, was leaving for Kuwait on January 5. When commanders ordered him to deploy while they processed his objector application, he refused to show up for his flight.
He said he has his reasons, reflecting on time in Iraq.
Benderman told of bombed out homes and displaced Iraqis living in mud huts and drinking from mud puddles; mass graves in Khanaqin near the Iranian border where dogs fed off bodies of men, women and children.
He recalled his convoy passing a girl, no older than 10, on the roadside clutching a badly injured arm. Benderman said his executive officer refused to help because troops had limited medical supplies.
"Her arm was burned, third-degree burns, just black. And she was standing there with her mother begging for help," Benderman said. "That was an eye opener to seeing how insane it really is."
Now Benderman, a mechanic who has been reassigned to a non-deploying rear detachment unit, could face a court-martial. Fort Stewart officials have not decided whether to charge him.
Separately, he must convince commanders he is morally opposed to war in all forms, as Army regulations define conscientious objection, despite his lengthy military service and previous combat tour.
"If he went to Iraq and then comes back and says, `I'm now opposed to war,' the issue is are you opposed to all wars or just this one you don't want to go back to?" said Mark Stevens, a military defense lawyer and retired Marine Corps judge advocate. "He wasn't opposed to war two years ago, why is he opposed to it now?"
Benderman said the officer who took his objector notice dismissed him as a coward. His unit's chaplain offered little encouragement.
"You should have had the moral fortitude to deploy with us and see me here in Kuwait to begin your CO application," Army Chaplain Matt Temple said in a recent e-mail to Benderman. "You should be ashamed of the way you have conducted yourself. I certainly am ashamed of you."
Benderman's wife, Monica, said her husband hinted that he had doubts about taking part in the war in a letter he sent home that referenced scholars' belief that Iraq was home to the biblical Garden of Eden.
"He said, `Here I am in the Garden of Eden, and what am I doing here with a gun?"' she said.
Raised a Southern Baptist in Tennessee, Benderman keeps an open Bible on his living room table but said he's "more spiritual than religious." After going to Iraq, he picked up the Quran and was struck by the similarities between Islam and Christianity.
He returned in September 2003 after serving eight months in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. As a mechanic who fixes Bradley armored vehicles, he said he never fired a weapon in combat.
Still, Benderman began questioning whether he could return to a war zone when he transferred to Fort Stewart in October 2003. He said he never mentioned his doubts to soldiers in his new unit, but trained with them for a year as they prepared for a second tour. By December, he had even packed his clothes and equipment for shipping overseas.
Benderman acknowledged that waiting more than a year, until right before deployment, may seem "out of the blue." But he insisted his decision came from long deliberation, not desperation.
"People say, `You're abandoning these soldiers that depend on you,' and so that weighs on you," he said. "But what's worse? Going over there and participating in war, or maybe doing something that can help people figure out that you don't have to go to war?"
01-17-2005, 09:45 AM #2
This is such ridiculous propaganda. You could make this argument for never fighting evil. Were you aware of how many civilians were killed in WWII? It is amazing how the 24 hours news cycle has effected our generation. If CNN would have been around in WWII we'd all be speaking German today - a conqueured nation. It is just a scary thought, how blind people are to history. Guys like this should be put in prison and their story should go unreported as it is not news worthy! What should be reported is the 140,000 heroes from the US that are over in Iraq doing a fantastic job. You'd have to turn to FOX news to hear anything about that.
01-17-2005, 10:00 AM #3
01-17-2005, 10:02 AM #4Originally Posted by Hot-Rox
What's scary are people like you......the American flag wrapped around your evil motives.
01-17-2005, 10:06 AM #5Originally Posted by Hot-Rox
But I do agree this slug should go to prison. If he signed on the dotten line, then he should do his darn job wether he likes it or not. End of story.
This line really kills me: Benderman said. "The idea was: Do I really want to stay in an organization where the sole purpose is to kill?"
You signed up in the MILITARY you moron! What the heck were you expecting??? Strawberry fields forever and cute fluffy bunnies?
01-17-2005, 10:09 AM #6Originally Posted by Red Ketchup
01-17-2005, 10:11 AM #7Originally Posted by Badgerman
01-17-2005, 10:19 AM #8
Badger, please do not compare our soldiers to Nazis.
01-17-2005, 10:32 AM #9
It is naive people like you that are the real danger. Your inability to recognize evil and deal with it accordingly only shows your ignorance. Freedom is not FREE. It is paid for with blood of our brave young men and women who volunteer to enforce what is obviously right. It is amazing how many countries are allowed to live in freedom, only because the US military is willing to stand up for all democracies. Your actual ability to speak out freely is protected by the very US military you hate. Think about that before you post another Hate America comment.
Originally Posted by Badgerman
01-17-2005, 11:36 AM #10
It's not HATE America.....you just want the youth of America to be mindless killing machines. If the youth of the world stood up to the leaders of the world and said NO to the violence we would live in a better world. Instead of throwing insults at a guy standing up for his beliefs....he should be applauded. Not everyone has bought into GW's mindless assault on Iraq.
And I doubt the Nazi youth were much different than our kids......just brainwashed by
a bad leader.
You doubt this man's stories??
Obviously you've never read what the US military did to the native Americans.
And yes, I recognize evil.......I just don't know how to deal with you.
01-17-2005, 11:59 AM #11
If we all just loved each other the world would be a better place.
Tell that to Al-Queda , Hezzbolah, etc........
Get real. The man signed up to be a warrior, period. Do your job or pay the price.
That's the problem these days, most of our youth is getting soft and weak. Trust me,
I employ em and coach em. It's pathetic.
01-17-2005, 12:01 PM #12
Badger..................the native american card? Played out.
01-17-2005, 12:13 PM #13
Yes - the truth is hard to deal with. It just amazes me how people like you derive all the benefits from freedom - but have absolutely no idea of the price that must be paid to maintain it. Just sit back on your couch and be thankful young Americans have died for your right to be wrong.
Originally Posted by Badgerman
01-17-2005, 01:39 PM #14
I was sitting here thinking about Badgers "concerns" for the war. He may not state it but I think he is afaid his oldest son will be drafted and put in harms way, that is his agenda.
01-17-2005, 03:16 PM #15
1VICTOR......the Native American issue is one that needs to be kept in mind.....for we used the very techniques that Saddam has employed against his people..... You see under different circumstances we all act the same......
and no my oldest will not be drafted......he'll get the ol' college deferrment 34 ACT score......just like your hero Dick "chickenhawk" Cheney.....sign your kids up if you want.....push past the line of congressmen signing their kids up for the righteous fight against evil.
01-17-2005, 03:18 PM #16Originally Posted by MrMondodondo
01-17-2005, 03:19 PM #17
there will be no deferrments. I don't think you understand the Native American analogy you are trying to put forth. Give me a brief idea as to what you think happened and how the native americans did not participate in their own demise.
01-17-2005, 03:21 PM #18
meek not weak......................
01-17-2005, 03:43 PM #19
You guys are doing a disservice to our guys and gals in the military. In case you did not know, we have an all volunteer force. THERE IS NO DRAFT! And don't try to tell me the reserves and national guard aren't included in our all volunteer military. You insult those who care enough about our country to serve. Just because certain a politians son or daughter does not serve that in no way takes away from their own public service. Comparing the US government to Saddam's Iraq is nothing short of criminal. Could you imagine living in Iraq while Saddam ruled and spoke out about his government in the way you speak out about the US? You would simply disappear with no trial, discussion, no smart arse remarks about how some tribe resided in Iraq pre Saddam. You would just be gone. No if and or buts! Think about that the next time you make the comparison. Because only in a FREE country could you ever do it and live to talk about it.
01-17-2005, 03:46 PM #20
Rox, this is assuming there will be a draft at some point. When you say You Guys whom are you referring to?
01-17-2005, 03:48 PM #21Originally Posted by 1victor
His thing was:
Listen twice as much as speak
Carry a big stick and do not be afraid to use it
I wonder what you would do if someone beat up your child with no cause.
Would you simply pray for them? So they could do it again to someone else.
Or would you be man enough to address the situation and see to it that this action did not happen again.
Violence and war have only solved almost EVERY conflict the world has ever had. So whether you agree or not, it is still reality.
G-d bless our men and women in uniform.
Don't you agree Badger?
01-17-2005, 03:50 PM #22Originally Posted by 1victor
As long as the US thinks we corner the market on morality and somehow because we are white we are more valuable......we will continue to be the bullies the world perceives US to be.
If there are no deferrments maybe we will see a few congressmen's kids get drafted.......of course they will probably rig the draft numbers somehow.
01-17-2005, 03:55 PM #23
anaolgy ? please explain your analogy, where is it recorded that we did that? The Indians were a tribal warring people, nomads. Constantly fighting with their neighbors, killing each other over "turf" wars for years. They willingly participated in wars with our troops against their "enemies" and worked as scouts to help them find "their enemy" which were all in fact other native americans.
They lost the battle of the minds in the end, if they could have they would have killed us as well. The image of the indian hugging a tree and crying over a piece of litter is garbage.
01-17-2005, 03:56 PM #24Originally Posted by MrMondodondo
01-17-2005, 04:01 PM #25Originally Posted by 1victor
we did give them infected blankets......
oh, and by the way......Indians can behave just as poorly as we can......nobody said the Indians had the cornermarket on righteousness.
I'm sure they scalped plenty of white children. But the Christian response is to give them smallpox? WWJD
01-17-2005, 04:03 PM #26
No disrespect 1victor - the majority of my comments were for the Hate American 1st crowd (Badgerman and who ever posted this propaganda). It just pains me to no end that some people have no perspective on the sacrifice that has been made by this and previous generations to provide us with this unparrelled opportunity in which we live today. I choose to feel blessed and grateful.
Originally Posted by 1victor
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