Tuesday, January 18, 2005

RIGHT AFTER POSTING THE PIECE BELOW about Sgt. Kevin Benderman, I found this article on Salon.

There are so many contradictions in a story like this. Benderman comes from a military family. Bendermans have fought in almost every war America has been involved in, from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. Benderman himself was never opposed to war before. Now he is opposed, not just to this war, but to all wars.

Benderman said it comes down to firsthand experience. "When you see war for yourself, that's a profound effect. It's not an abstract thought process. You don't know what your thumb feels like smashed with a hammer until you do it. Somebody could tell you all day long, but you don't really know until you do it yourself."

Benderman's experiences in Iraq turned him against not just this war, which for the record he regards as unjustified, but war itself. "I am opposed to all wars," he said. "We should be doing more than teaching young people how to look through the sight of a rifle and kill someone else." In the letter explaining why he refused his second deployment, he wrote, " I was in charge of a group of soldiers that were in their late teens through their early twenties and I had to constantly tell them to keep their heads down because they thought that the war was like the video games that they played back at the barracks. War is not like that at all and until you have the misfortune to engage in it for yourself you cannot begin to understand how insane it all is. There are no restart buttons on reality and that is why I cannot figure out why now we are pursuing such a policy in this day and age. War should be relegated to the shelves of history, as was human sacrifice. If you stop to think about it you become aware that war is just human sacrifice. There is no honor in killing as many as you can as quickly as you can."

Benderman would never have become opposed to war if he had not gone to Iraq; if he had not been in a war. If this war had not happened, Benderman would not be filing for CO status now. That is strange, when you think about it. Because of a war that is so wrong, one man has been transformed to oppose the very concept of war. And at the same time that I marvel and feel so much more hopeful because this transformation can happen to any soldier, at any time; and because Kevin Benderman is an American and I am proud of that fact, I also have to deal with the fact that other Americans -- commanding officers in Iraq -- told Benderman's unit to shoot to kill Iraqi children who had been throwing pebbles at their trucks, if they did it again.

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