FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In Praise of Kevin Benderman

by NORMAN SOLOMON

Conscience is not in the chain of command.

“Before being sentenced to 15 months for refusing to return to Iraq with his Army unit, Sgt. Kevin Benderman told a military judge that he acted with his conscience, not out of a disregard for duty,” the Associated Press reports. Benderman, a 40-year-old Army mechanic, “refused to go on a second combat tour in January, saying the destruction and misery he witnessed during the 2003 Iraq invasion had turned him against war.”

Three weeks ago, his wife Monica Benderman wrote:

“He returned knowing that war is wrong, the most dehumanizing creation of humanity that exists. He saw war destroy civilians, innocent men, women and children. He saw war destroy homes, relationships and a country. He saw this not only in the country that was invaded, but he saw this happening to the invading country as well — and he knew that the only way to save those soldiers was for people to no longer participate in war. Sgt. Kevin Benderman is a Conscientious Objector to war, and the Army is mad.”

On Thursday, at his court-martial, Kevin Benderman spoke. “Though some might take my actions as being against soldiers, I want everyone to be home and safe and raising their families,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to be hurt in a combat zone.”

But the Pentagon is imposing its power to enforce the unconscionable. And words that were written by Monica Benderman in early July are now even more true: “The Army has removed itself so completely from its moral responsibility, that its representatives are willing to openly demand, in a court of law, that they be allowed to regain ‘positive control over this soldier’ by finding him guilty of crimes he did not commit, and put him in jail — a prisoner of conscience, for daring to obey a moral law.”

And, she added: “It is ‘hard work’ to face the truth, and it is scary when people who are not afraid to face it begin to speak out. Someone once said that my husband’s case is a question of morality over legality. I pray that this country has not gone so far over the edge that the two are so distinctly different that we can tell them apart.”

Monica Benderman is correct. Facing truths about the priorities of our country’s government can be very difficult. During the Vietnam War — also based on lies, also methodically murderous — an extraordinary U.S. senator made the same basic point. “We’re going to become guilty, in my judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world,” Wayne Morse said at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It’s an ugly reality, and we Americans don’t like to face up to it.”

Moments before the Senate hearing adjourned, on February 27, 1968, Morse said that he did not “intend to put the blood of this war on my hands.” In the summer of 2005, while the horrors of the Iraq war continue, not a single United States senator is willing to speak with such moral clarity.

As an astute cliche says, truth is the first casualty of war. But another early casualty is conscience, routinely smothered in the national media echo chamber.

On the TV networks, the voices are usually smooth, and people often seem to be speaking loudly. In contrast, the human conscience is close to a whisper. Easily unheard.

Rarely explored in news media, the capacity for conscience makes us human. Out of all the differences between people and other animals, Darwin wrote, “the moral sense of conscience is by far the most important.”

And that’s why Kevin Benderman, now in prison, is providing greater moral leadership than any member of the United States Senate.

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, published in July 2005. For more information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 27, 2017
Darlene Dubuisson – Mark Schuller
“You Live Under Fear”: 50,000 Haitian People at Risk of Deportation
Karl Grossman
The Crash of Cassini and the Nuclearization of Space
Robert Hunziker
Venezuela Ablaze
John W. Whitehead
Trump’s America is a Constitution-Free Zone
Ron Jacobs
One Hundred Years That Shook the World
Judith Deutsch
Convenient Untruths About “Human Nature:” Can People Deal with Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons?
Don Fitz
Is Pope Francis the World’s Most Powerful Advocate for Climate Stability?
Thomas Mountain
Africa’s War Lord Queen: The Bloodstained Career of Liberia’s Eleanor Sirleaf Johnson
Binoy Kampmark
Short Choices: the French Presidential Elections
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Monetizing My Mouth
Michael Barker
Of Union Dreams and Nightmares: Cesar Chavez and Why Funding Matters
Elier Ramirez Cañedo
“Let Venezuela give me a way of serving her, she has in me a son.”
Paul Mobbs
Cellphones, WIFI and Cancer: Will Trump’s Budget Cuts Kill ‘Electrosmog’ Research?
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
The Closing of Rikers: a Survival Strategy of the Carceral State
April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail