Thursday, August 11, 2005
  The Noble Sacrifice of Kevin Benderman

I have learned from first hand experience that war is the destroyer of everything that is good in the world, it turns our young into soulless killers and we tell them that they are heroes when they master the "art" of killing. -Kevin Benderman

General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men but it has one defect: it needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful. It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant but it has one defect: it needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think.
-- Brecht
Casey Sheehan, age 24, was killed on April 4, 2004. Bush told his grieving mother, Cindy Sheehan, that her son had made a noble sacrifice for freedom and for his country. Of course, Bush didn't go into any details about the exact nature of the mission Casey was on when he was killed or exactly what his platoon was doing when Casey was struck down and killed by enemy fire. Now Cindy Sheehan is camped outside Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch because she wants to ask him for those details. Just what was the nature of his job that made his death so noble? That's all she wants to know.

Even if Bush were to stoop to answer that question, odds are good that he doesn't know the answer. He stays as far removed from the actuality of war and death as he possible can. I'm sure it has never occurred to him to ask for details of the circumstances surrounding any of the thousands who have been killed and maimed in Iraq.

Bush probably doesn’t know that Casey Sheehan was killed during the Sadr Rebellion in the slums of Baghdad. Most likely Bush doesn't have a clue about what the Sadr Rebellion was, where it was, or why it happened.

It began when, in our quest for to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority decided that a great first step to that end would be to close down Baghdad's most popular newspaper, al Hawza. Bush's man there decided it was just too hard to build a coalition favoring the right "brand" of freedom when you had people freely speaking their minds all the time and getting that much front-page exposure. It wasn't that they weren't going to have a free press in Iraq. It was just that they weren't going to have a free press that disagreed with the Bush administration.

For some reason, the closing of their newspaper made those ingrate Iraqis mad, who knows why. Anyway, when demonstrators poured into the streets opposing the closing of the paper and demanding freedom of the press, American troops where ordered to open fire and, like the good British troops in Boston in 1776, the American troops followed their orders. Several unarmed people were killed.

That is the noble event that sparked the rebellion in which Casey Sheehan lost his life. That is the noble cause for which Cindy Sheehan lost her precious, priceless, irreplaceable son.

On July 29, 2005, Kevin Benderman started a fifteen month stretch in prison because he refused redeployment to Iraq - at least that is the reason given for his sentence. What he was guilty of was filing a conscientious objector application with the Army. He doesn't just object to the war in Iraq. He objects to all wars anywhere that are wars of aggression. Federal law prohibits prosecuting an individual for being a conscientious objector but every good lawyer knows there are more ways to skin a cat than there are cats, so the Army just convicted him of "intentionally missing movement" which is a federal crime. In other words, you can be a conscientious objector as long as it doesn't interfere with your job of killing people for the Army - even if that means shooting down unarmed civilians demonstrating for freedom of the press.

My heart goes out to Cindy Sheehan and her family. I, too, have lost a child the same age as Casey. I know what a chunk it tears from your soul. I know that that tear in my soul has never healed. I'm sure it is the same for most parents who have the brightest part of their lives snuffed out to serve some part of an incomprehensible machine. Especially when you know in your heart that in the grand scheme of the universe that human-grinding misery-producing machine headed up by tiny men like Bush and Rove and Rumsfield is just so unimportant.

At the same time, I salute Kevin Benderman and I salute his noble sacrifice of fifteen months of his life. Perhaps because of it, some young man or woman will really think about what they are doing before they offer themselves up to feed the machine. Perhaps because of his sacrifice, there will be one less parent grieving in the hot sweltering summer sun just so they can ask an unknowing and uncaring man one question: Why?
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Samizdat: an underground system for the circulation of forbidden works of literature and political criticism in the Soviet era of Russia.

Location: Arkansas, United States

Angry, angry, angry ... but still, any day above ground is a good day.