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Silencing Conscience - by Monica Benderman

Written by Subject: Military
COMES NOW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: "To recognize such a claim in this case would open a Pandora’s Box and extend to all soldiers a possible defense never anticipated by the Code."

January 7, 2007

Silencing Conscience

Monica Benderman

In the Military Courts –Martial of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, having filed a

Conscientious Objector application after ten years of honorable service in the

Army including a combat tour in Iraq:

“COMES NOW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, by and through its counsel, and files

this Motion in Limine.

The Government moves this Court to grant the following relief:

(ii) Preclude the Defense from raising irrelevant issues to the Trier of

fact, to Wit: the accused’s status as a conscientious objector; the dictates of

his conscience, religion, or personal philosophy; his patterns of belief

concerning Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom and war generally; and his world

views, and to exclude any documentary or testimonial evidence of any sort

during the case on the merits concerning the accused’s personal beliefs.

Furthermore to also Preclude the Defense from raising irrelevant issues

concerning his alleged reasons for seeking conscientious objector status, to

Wit; experiences during the accused’s prior deployment to Iraq including

allegations the accused has made stating he was ordered to fire on Iraqi

children; that he was not allowed to render medical attention or food to Iraqi

civilians; that he was ordered to perform hazardous duty he was untrained to

do, and any other allegation of misconduct by his fellow soldiers.

ARGUMENT

(E) The accused in the instant case cannot claim a defense of necessity

because no natural physical force put pressure on the accused. His feelings of

conscientious objection, aversion to war, and the motives for going to war –

even if true – do not provide a defense to the charge of desertion under

necessity. To recognize such a claim in this case would open a Pandora’s Box

and extend to all soldiers a possible defense never anticipated by the Code.”

What is wrong with a country where a soldier’s “dictates of conscience,

religion or personal philosophy,” personal experiences in combat, and faulty

orders from command are irrelevant issues in the defense of that soldier’s

moral decision to follow his conscience?

In December 2004, having experienced every destructive aspect of war firsthand,

including the misrepresentations necessary to encourage a nation of conscience

to support the war, my husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, attempted to file a

Conscientious Objector application with his unit command. He was a ten-year

veteran of the Army, with commendations, superior recommendations and

evaluations from all levels of command.

He had been to Iraq. He witnessed the immoral acts of war, the unethical

orders of superior officers, and the lack of support for the real needs of the

soldiers he served with. He had enlisted to fulfill what he saw to be his

responsibility, to give to his country in defense of its laws and the

principles of its constitution – the foundation for the freedoms all Americans

enjoy. His time at war gave him the firsthand experiences he needed to realize

that his commitment and sacrifice were being disrespected even at the highest

levels of command, and he would not compromise his principles to serve a cause

he knew to be immoral, unethical and without merit.

As the law and Army regulations allow, and in keeping with his sworn duty to

defend our laws and every American citizen’s right to be protected by those

laws, he attempted to file a conscientious objector application requesting to

be released from further military service. His command violated not only Army

regulations, but the law of our land by refusing to accept his written request,

throwing it back at him and ordering him out of the office.

After public pressure, and a strong letter of support by our Congressional

representative, he was released from a meeting with the Command Sergeant Major

of his battalion, which had been arranged by the Commander of his battalion,

and ordered to complete all relevant paperwork necessary to file his CO claim.

Without missing a day of duty, his command assigned him to the Rear Detachment

unit of his battalion, his CO process was initiated, and he was given

responsibilities commensurate with his rank.

He was never given an order to deploy, even as his forward commander gave a

sworn statement that he left word with the Rear Detachment unit to see that

Kevin was sent to Iraq on a plane scheduled to fly just one day after he was re-

assigned to the Rear Detachment by that same command. An Army major, Battalion

chaplain met with Kevin and found him to be completely sincere in his beliefs,

and his request for Conscientious Objector status:

“SGT Benderman is sincere in his moral and ethical beliefs… His beliefs are

deeply held to the point where he has no choice but to act in accord with

them. SGT Benderman’s willingness to file for this status is an expression of

his deeply held conviction and his moral belief that he is forbidden to bear

arms and take life. Everything else is subordinate to this ethical belief.”

Two weeks later, Sgt. Benderman was charged with Desertion and Missing

Movement – violations of regulations he did not commit. One asks – was it

incompetence, disorganization or a strong desire on the part of the command to

intimidate my husband into closing his mouth and acting as a “good soldier”

should? Only justice will show the truth. Justice takes time. It is time for

the truth.

During the first of two courts- martial attempts to convict my husband of a

trumped up charge for a crime he did not commit, the government, “by and

through its counsel” went to great lengths to keep my husband from defending

himself in court.

My husband did not speak out against the Iraq war in his Conscientious Objector

application. Even as we spent time in several cities across America discussing

Conscientious Objection, its meaning to us, and the reasons my husband would no

longer participate in war, his reasons never pinpointed the immoral invasion of

Iraq as a justification. He knew, based on his firsthand experiences of war,

conversations he had with veterans of past wars, lessons of his father and his

own introspective process, that he would no longer allow himself to participate

in anything as destructive, immoral and inhumane as war. Sgt. Kevin Benderman

stood on principle, and just as he enlisted in the military believing in the

need to defend the foundation of our country, when he knew war no longer

defined his values he requested legal release from the military, once again in

defense of our constitution and the laws of humanity on which it was based.

Participation in war, and witnessing its destructive effects on all involved,

should be enough motivation to speak out in defense of finding peaceful

resolutions to the world’s differences in ideologies, cultures and traditions.

We believed it was enough justification to afford my husband the right to be

released from the military after having selflessly given ten years of voluntary

service to this country. It should have been enough, and we should have been

satisfied.

The government “by and through its counsel,” by filing a Motion in Limine to

suppress my husband’s beliefs and evidence justifying his principled stand in a

court of law, opened the door to new considerations which extended beyond the

simple statement that all war is wrong.

Why would the government be afraid of a man’s conscience?

Why would the government feel it necessary to suppress one soldier’s beliefs

and recounting of his personal experiences in a public record?

What was the “Pandora’s Box” the government was so afraid to raise the cover

off of?

If we were not meant to question the actions of this war, then wouldn’t justice

in a court of law prove that to the government’s benefit?

What was it they wanted to hide?

In its “Motion in Limine” the government lists as FACT, that “After

redeployment (from his tour in Iraq), the accused re-enlisted in the Army and

transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart.” In FACT, my husband

re-enlisted several months prior to the invasion of Iraq, before his unit had

ever deployed.

The government went on to state that “the Accused has been a featured speaker

at many anti-war rallies during which he has spoken out against United States

foreign policy; railed against the war in Iraq and perceived illegalities

committed by the federal government.” Interestingly, every public discussion

my husband participated in called for an end to all war and a move toward

positive dialogue in an effort to resolve our differences without the

inhumanity that war brings, and he refused to discuss the policies of this

current war.

What did Kevin say that caused the government’s counsel to manipulate facts in

a legal document presented in a court of law as a request that the court grant

the government relief from facing my husband’s testimony of real fact in

defense of their manipulated allegations against him?

Also included as Fact by the government counsel, “The accused has made numerous

statements to the press…including on his website, stating the reasons for his

actions. These include accusations that when he was in Iraq he was ordered to

shoot children and forbidden from rendering medical assistance to Iraq

civilians.”

If the government knew my husband’s “accusations” to be unjustified, why did

they work so hard to silence him?

In December 2004, Sgt. Kevin Benderman made a private petition to his command

to be released from military service according to the regulations. He did not

seek public attention, he did not want anything more than to be given his right

to choose how to live his life, as the laws he served to defend allowed.

Even before his case became public, the Army commanders were working feverishly

to silence my husband’s conscience.

In the end, truth cannot be silenced.

Isn’t it time we knew the truth?

Monica is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, a ten year Army veteran who served

a combat tour in Iraq, and returned to file a Conscientious Objector request

based on his firsthand experiences. To learn more, please visit

www.BendermanDefense.org.

Monica and Kevin may be reached at mdawnb@coastalnow.net

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