U.S. Army Sergeant May Refuse Re-Deployment To Iraq
By Robert S. Finnegan
Managing Editor, Southeast Asia News
01/05/05 "ICH" -- Ft. Stewart Georgia, “Rock of the Marne” -- This morning Sergeant Kevin Benderman, U.S. Army awoke to face what will probably be one of the most important decisions of his life: whether or not to accept or refuse re-deployment to Iraq to participate in a war that has been increasingly questioned by the American public, and the world. A war that has been ruled illegal by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and has come under increasing fire from both Republicans and Democrats alike who share the same concerns as Sergeant Benderman and the U.N. Secretary General.
While conscious of the fact that this single action could be the opening salvo of a war pitting an increasingly disgruntled military against the Bush administration over issues such as “stop-loss,” questionable operations, equipment failures and casualties in Iraq and the possibility of facing severe penalties under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for his actions, Benderman remains firm in his resolve to do something about it, and to do it now.
“I have both a professional and a moral obligation to call into question why we are still in Iraq after accomplishing the mission – in President Bush’s words – of deposing Saddam, and why U.S. military personnel are increasingly killing non-combatants. On my last deployment in Iraq elements of my unit were instructed by a Captain to fire on children throwing rocks at us.” This is not what he signed up for, Benderman said.
Both Benderman, 40, and his wife Monica realize the possible ramifications of his stand.
“We have no other choice,” Benderman’s wife said. “This is what we have to do, I have always told my children that the right thing is the most important thing, and doing it is the only thing that allows you to keep your integrity, regardless of the consequences.” Their actions are only reflecting their core beliefs she said.
Benderman’s feelings on the war run deep, and were primarily influenced by his experiences during a previous deployment to Iraq from March through September 2003. “The people that we are fighting now, are for the most part people like you and me, people that are defending themselves against a superior military force and fighting to keep that which is rightfully theirs” he said. Benderman also stated that the Iraqi people have the right to choose their own form of government, “just like we did in America after the revolution.”
He says that he is proud of his service to his country, but takes no pride in what is happening in Iraq now. In addition, Benderman states that while he signed a contract with the military to ‘defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic,’ he says now that “I am ashamed to be associated with this mess, and I certainly did not join the Army to kill women, children and old men. I just don’t see how these innocent people could be a threat to the constitution of the United States: an American soldier should not be ashamed of what they do.”
Benderman has a flawless military record and a list of meritorious awards.
As for his combat experience in Iraq, Benderman says that he believes that those who have not experienced war are those who beat the war drums the loudest. “Has the video game mentality so pervaded our country that this is how we base our decisions on war? Some of the younger guys were totally out of touch with reality in that respect, and I had to repeatedly tell them to keep their heads down because there are no restart buttons on reality,” he said.
Benderman sincerely believes that the U.S. has lost its way in Iraq and that the best way to avoid creating more terrorists in the world at this time is to bring our soldiers home from Iraq and to let Iraqis sort out without interference the type of government they prefer. “We did it for ourselves during the American Revolution and now it is time to let the people of Iraq do it for themselves,” he said.
Sergeant Benderman is scheduled to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at Ft. Stewart Georgia this afternoon after submitting a request for Conscientious Objector Status from the Army.
U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer Lt. Colonel Kent declined comment for this article citing privacy, and adding that “typically, these are administrative actions we cannot comment on.”
Southeast Asia News Managing Editor Robert S. Finnegan is an internationally published investigative reporter. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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