Monday, January 17, 2005

THERE IS A VERY MOVING ARTICLE on today, about a man named Kevin Benderman, who came home from Iraq 15 months ago and has served in the military for 10 years. He has refused orders to redeploy to Iraq, and filed for conscientious objector status.

During the time he was in Iraq, Benderman saw

... 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."

Benderman readily acknowledges he was not against war before he went to Iraq. Seeing first-hand how devastating war is to civilians affected him deeply, and he decided (after thinking about it for a long time) that he just could not do it anymore.

For this, he has been reviled as a coward by fellow officers; he was told by an Army chaplain that he had behaved "shamefully." The chaplain -- this is a man of God -- sent him an e-mail telling him that Benderman should be ashamed of himself and that he, the chaplain, was ashamed of him. It's amazing that anything shocks or surprises me anymore, but I had to keep reading that sentence over and over again and I still could not believe that someone who had studied the words of Jesus of Nazareth had actually said that about a man who did not want to take part in war anymore.

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