U.S. Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman Steps Up to
the Plate, Conscientious Objector Status Pending
The ongoing saga of Sergeant Kevin Benderman's denial regarding the legitimacy of war and his refusal to participate in it has now crystallized into a war of words and legalities, pitting his beliefs and first-hand battlefield knowledge against an action by the U.S. Government and Army prosecutors who are charging him with desertion for choosing to follow his conscience, in a war declared illegal by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Benderman is scheduled to stand trial before a General Courts-Martial at Ft. Stewart on May 11 on counts of desertion and missing a unit movement.
Benderman's wife, Monica says that she is having a hard time expressing her feelings at this point. "Our lives right now have been put on hold by this issue. My husband is baring his soul. I don't know what more proof these people need, something so simple, so basic, and they do not appear to have a clue."
The Investigating Officer overseeing Sgt. Benderman's Conscientious Objector application, U.S. Army Captain Victor Aqueche maintains that Benderman does not have sufficient grounds to pursue his claim, and Aqueche's DOA (Department of the Army) Memorandum For Record regarding Benderman's case recommends disapproval, citing non-qualification.
U.S. Army Major S. Scot Sikes, military counsel for Benderman has filed a lengthy rebuttal to Aqueche's finding, stating in part that, "On behalf of SGT Kevin M. Benderman, U.S. Army, I hereby challenge for cause the continued appointment of CPT Victor Aqueche to SGT Benderman's CO Inquiry. His appointment should be terminated immediately. It is apparent to every thoughtful observer that CPT Aqueche is not the unbiased, fair, and impartial officer required for such an important inquiry and recommendation. In addition, I request that the hearing from 8 February 2005 be declared void ab initio and that both a new IO and a new hearing date be established. The hearing in question was botched beyond belief, and SGT Kevin Benderman stands to suffer the insult of not having had a fair, accurate, and professionally conducted inquiry."
Monica Benderman is looking forward to their day in court. "What more evidence does this guy need of Kevin's sincerity? Honestly with all these soldiers going AWOL then returning and agreeing to return to Iraq, or deserting and speaking from other countries about their commitment to their conscience, here is Kevin going through everything he is, facing the command, the courts martial, not running and fulfilling all duties." In addition, she stated that the very act of filing for Conscientious Objector status alone is a testament to Kevin's sincerity, and his commitment to that status should be all anyone needs.
Mrs. Benderman says it is a clear-cut issue. "Killing, the act of it, in any circumstance, is negative. It can't help but bring negative feelings into a person's mind. When someone faces his conscience and realizes just how negative he has become, looks deep and admits the reasons, the change is amazing.
"When that person acts on his conscience, and makes a decision to live for life and to seek peaceful solutions to difficult situations even when it goes against the current "norms" of society, it's a positive change. It is scary for people who still believe that there is a justification for war to face someone who has become positive in their thought process. People who still can't see the power in turning away from violent solutions will continue to question someone who can. That is what is happening now. Kevin has made a conscious choice to "study war no more." He has made a statement for himself, and his speaking out about it threatens those who believe war is the answer," she said.
A General Courts-Martial, the highest level of adjudication under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, also carries the maximum penalties for those convicted, including up to seven years confinement, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Robert S. Finnegan, is Managing Editor of Southeast Asia News. He is an internationally published investigative reporter and former Marine Corps Non-Commissioned Officer. Working most recently as a Senior Editor and lead investigator on the Bali Bombings for The Jakarta Post, he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright release granted for further publication at additional news outlets.
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