Backtalk February 21, 2004

Soldier’s Injury Leaves Void

My daughter, Mariela, in the U.S. Army, was attacked, Dec. 18, in Kuwait. She was changing a tire on her truck with three other soldiers. A civilian vehicle from Kuwait ran over them on purpose and ran away. Two of the soldiers died; my daughter was transported to a hospital in Kuwait, then to one in Germany, the Landstuhl Medical Center, and is presently in a coma (since Dec. 18), in Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The last soldier has broken legs and has lost all the skin on his back, and is in a special hospital in Texas. …

I am not a writer, what you will read is painful, because it was very painful for me to write it.

Just before Christmas, Mariela was transported from Kuwait to Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany. On Christmas day, Lisette, Jason (her husband), and I flew to Germany. We saw her there for the first time. It was not a pretty picture. As a matter of fact, I thought we were in the wrong room. Mariela was double her normal size. The swelling due to the accident and IV feeding made her look like an over-inflated balloon. She also had tubes and pipes all over her head, neck, and body. After a few minutes, my brain and eyes started to ignore all the instruments and tubes and I had to realize, even if I didn’t like it, that this was my little girl in this bed.

Because of her very serious injury, the doctors decided to transport her ASAP to the U.S.

On Dec. 26 Mariela was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She was transported via Air Evac in a flying hospital (C141) from Germany to Washington, D.C. We were invited to fly with her. This was a new experience for us. Not the most beautiful experience.

Mariela was in this plane together with 50 kids (18-25 years) all injured from Iraq. Legs, arms, hands, fingers missing. Some like Mariela, nonresponsive. It was a nightmare, and this is the true side of this war, even if nobody wants to see it.

We arrived in Washington, D.C., at 2 a.m. I was talking to one of the injured soldiers sitting next to me in the plane, and I told him how strange it seemed to me that they landed this plane at 2 a.m. He told me that he had already been to Iraq four times and that this was the second time he had been Air Evacuated for injury, and that he knew the government of our country didn’t want its citizens to see these injured soldiers. I was pretty upset by this statement. (Where was George Bush with his stupid smile, his vice president, their patriotism, and their big music? They were definitely not here!) Later, I checked this statement with other people and was told that the U.S. Air Force has to fly at night because they should not interfere with commercial air traffic. I buy this, but in the U.S. most citizens have 60 TV channels, and each of these channels shows the same image of George Bush, busy being man of the year, every 30 minutes. But none of these channels show our kids coming back from the war in pieces. Why is that?

Also, the pilot made a horrible statement. "I do this very same trip, Germany/Washington, D.C., three times every week."

Two big ambulances brought the soldiers to the hospital. Walter Reed Medical Center is huge. Of course, there were more injured. … This was a very unusual sight for us, coming from Switzerland, a country which has not been touched by war in 150 years.

One evening, in the hotel, I went to the bar downstairs for a beer. Next to me was a man about 70 years old. A veteran, typical clothing, black jacket with medals all over, and a military hat. He asked me if I was a soldier. I said, "No, my name is Emile and I am a father, and my daughter was injured in the war and is in this hospital." He said, "Thank you, Simon," and he kissed me. (For him there was no doubt that a guy with a French accent can only be called "Simon.") "I went to Vietnam and I lost half of my back. I am here because my son just came back from Iraq and lost both legs. I am so proud of my son and your daughter, Simon. I want to buy you a beer!"

I realized that I could never talk to this man about my hostility toward this government and this war. The last thing this guy wants to hear is that he and his son did all this for nothing.

"Simon, my son and your daughter did the most beautiful thing in this world, and this is why we are in such a great country!" he said and kissed me again.

That night I went back to our room pretty confused. I didn’t know anymore what to think. This guy was somehow right: Mariela was happy in the U.S. Army. She had a job, responsibilities. The Army gave her a reason to live, to do something for other people and to feel needed. The U.S. Army gave Mariela something that we, her parents, did not. Whatever happens in the future, I will always remember the U.S. Army has been good to Mariela.

Lisette was sleeping, the TV was still on. I switched the TV off and went to the window to close the curtains. Looking through the window, I saw two big ambulances parked in front of the hospital. They are here on time. Like a clock. Right on time. And three times a week they bring 30-50 kids – or what is left of them.

I closed the curtains and went to the bathroom. I needed to throw up.

~ Emile Meylan

Conservative Sycophants Lose Credibility

So the cost of Bush’s "War on Terror" is now $300,000,000,000? Please, someone, do the math! The thousands of maimed veterans will double or triple that "cost." Their compensation is well deserved! But it will go on forever. The last Civil War pensioner (a widow) just died a few months ago. How can we afford this atrocity of a "war"? …

~ R.T. Carpenter

We Have Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself

Mr. Roberts’ very astute assessment of what’s going on in Iraq is quite good, but it fails to really address the reasons why, exactly, this war was engineered by Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and boy Dubya himself. Take a good hard look at the beneficiaries of this "morass" that Mr. Roberts has described that we seemingly have now "blundered" into. Did we blunder? I don’t think so.

The truth is far more disgusting. We are in Iraq because the overall destabilization of the region does several things for the architects of this "morass" Mr. Roberts talks about. First, it allows all of their corporate buddies (defense contractors with deep hooks into the treasury pot) and other cronies to reap unprecedented profits, not unlike Vietnam did for several major companies that saw their stock price go up faster than a WTC elevator once did. This wasn’t by accident, and, quite ironically, the total destabilization of the region serves these same vultures so very well in that the price of petroleum will go so high that it’ll be almost unaffordable to most poor in this country to the point where locking gas caps just won’t save those who can afford gasoline. Gentlemen, I think you have to realize that this is a win/win scenario for Messrs. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and all the rest of the profiteers whose cohorts are making a killing while young Americans are dying to help them do it, literally. This was not some blunder. It was done on purpose. …

~ Dennis P. Cimino

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

If Mr. Cimino reads the neocon policy papers going back years prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he will see that an important reason for U.S. aggression toward Iraq had to do with Israeli security concerns. Little doubt that the neocon agenda came together with Karl Rove’s wrap-Bush-in-the-flag agenda and the agenda of war profiteers. However, I do not believe there is evidence that the Bush administration and its allies had any idea of the morass that awaited them; nor did they understand that the winner would be an Iranian Shi’ite named Sistani. It does not serve the oil companies to create a Shi’ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon.

Magnificently worded piece! Your profoundly logical analysis makes the otherwise harsh words compellingly undeniable to anyone without intellectual blinders on.

Since your views are also essentially conservative in nature, I cannot understand why this is not resonating with many average conservative-thinking people.

~ Bill Gast

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Conservatives are an extinct species. They have been replaced by Jacobins and Rapture idolaters.

North Korea Nuke Mess Made by Bush

That was quite frankly the stupidest thing I have ever read – and Pyongyang’s recent claim of possession of nuclear weapons only makes the article appear that much dumber (unless North Korea brought a nuclear program from start to finish in five months?). Please tell Mr. Prather that if he is trying to find a cause for this mess, perhaps President Clinton’s policy of appeasement (not to mention the $2 billion in aid, along with the very nuclear reactors that likely were used to create their nuclear weapons – which were handed over upon a "promise" and nothing more, no inspections, nothing) deserves a look-see. You’d think the lessons of Neville Chamberlain wouldn’t have been lost on someone so widely hailed as "intelligent’ as our former president. Clearly, the term could never be applied to Mr. Prather after such a prescient and insightful article.

~ Austin W.

Gordon Prather replies:

If reader Wilson will log on to the official Web site of the DPRK – which is where the DPRK claim that they had "manufactured nukes" appeared, yesterday – and then read every archived entry relating to the U.S., going back to September 2002, reader Wilson will discover that the DPRK has consistently claimed almost daily that they ejected the IAEA, withdrew from the NPT, restarted their IAEA "frozen" plutonium-producing reactor, and recovered the plutonium contained in their 8,000 IAEA "frozen" fuel elements in February 2003 because Bush (a) refused in 2001 to even consider continuing the Agreed Framework "normalization" talks begun by Clinton, (b) charged them with secretly developing nukes in his 2002 SOTU address to Congress, (c) unilaterally abrogated the Agreed Framework in October 2002, and (d) launched an unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq in March 2003.

DPRK’s neighbors – Russia and China – remain unconvinced that DPRK has a uranium nuke program and doubt that DPRK is capable of producing plutonium nukes. But if reader Wilson discounts the Russians and Chinese and wants for some reason to believe the KCNA claim made yesterday that they have nukes, then, according to the Koreans, themselves, there can be doubt whatsoever that Bush – more than anyone else on the planet – is responsible.

Whom Did Martha Stewart Kill?

Dear Paul Craig Roberts:

You have written one of the clearest and most concise pieces I have read on this subject. I wish all the true believers could and would read it. I wish it had an e-mailing capability!

~ Lincoln Green

Eric Garris replies:

It does, to the right of the article.

Also, every browser has the same capability, just go to "file" and "send page."

My Husband Is Defending Democracy

We are compelled to begin by thanking the countless people, military and civilian, here and abroad, for the overwhelming support we have received during the first few weeks of the difficult times we are now facing. We appreciate the warm thoughts and prayers from all who have cared enough to take the time to share their feelings with us. Thank you.


As you know, combat veteran Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman was charged by his command at Fort Stewart on Jan. 19 with (1) desertion with the intent to avoid hazardous duty and (2) missing movement by design. He faces five years in prison if found guilty on the first charge and up to two years on the second charge.

Faced with the prospect of having to submit to the Army’s equivalent of a pretrial hearing (called an Article 32 investigation) less than 48 hours after the charges were read, Sgt. Benderman, through the military defense counsel provided to him, submitted a request for a reasonable delay of the hearing. A delay in the case was granted until Feb. 7 by Lt. Col. Linda Taylor, the investigating officer.

Meanwhile, the military attorney representing Kevin challenged the appointment of the Article 32 investigating officer, Lt. Col. Linda Taylor. They based their objection on the fact that Ms. Taylor served as the chief military prosecutor at Ft. Stewart, where Kevin is being tried. Reportedly, Lt. Col. Taylor served in that capacity for over six months in 2003 and actually provided legal advice on criminal matters to the current convening authority, Lt. Col. Kidd. The request for recusal was denied by the appointing authority prior to the Article 32, and again by Lt. Col. Taylor at the beginning of the hearing.

The Article 32 spanned about six hours. Telling testimony from various witnesses revealed the negative reception Sgt. Benderman endured by his command from the time he submitted his conscientious objector claim in December 2004. Without even reviewing the governing regulation, his company commander at the time informed Sgt. Benderman that he intended to recommend disapproval of the application based on his belief that it could only be a reuse to avoid deployment. The first military chaplain Sgt. Benderman sought to meet with shunned him despite the fact that a chaplain’s interview is a required step in the application process. This chaplain later e-mailed Sgt. Benderman from Kuwait and told him he was ashamed of him. Sgt. Benderman’s unit first sergeant called him a coward. Fortunately, Sgt. Benderman was able to meet with another Fort Stewart chaplain who understood the process, conducted a thorough interview with Sgt. Benderman, and concluded that Sgt. Benderman’s beliefs are "sincere" and that "his lifestyle is congruent with his claim of conscientious objection."

Article 32 testimony also confirmed that on Jan. 6, within days of Sgt. Benderman submitting his application, the company commander called Sgt. Benderman in for a separate counseling session based on allegations of disrespect to a commissioned officer and disloyal statements to the United States. This counseling proved atypical. Sgt. Benderman was brought into a conference room where 15-20 others from the unit were present. The commander chastised Sgt. Benderman in front of the group citing various articles he had read from the Internet and which he assumed were directly attributable to Sgt. Benderman. The commander informed Sgt. Benderman that he fully intended to prosecute him, that he considered him a security risk, that he intended to have Sgt. Benderman’s security credentials pulled for the remainder of his career, and that Sgt. Benderman was to be excluded from all access to company and battalion operations centers. The counseling was reduced to writing.

The findings and recommendations of the Article 32 investigation are pending at this time. Less than 18 hours following completion of the Article 32, Sgt. Benderman had to report for his conscientious objector hearing. Sgt. Benderman had timely requested a brief delay the previous week, but the investigating officer denied the request. The hearing officer was clearly hostile and not the detached, neutral, and impartial officer required by the regulation. Over objections by representative counsel, the IO persisted in asking Sgt. Benderman potentially incriminating questions, including whether or not Sgt. Benderman had ever brought an unregistered weapon on Ft. Stewart. Countless other questions pertained to articles alleged to have been written by Sgt. Benderman. These questions persisted despite the IO’s assurances at the beginning that he did not intend to consider any articles. The hearing was not recorded, although we were informed the previous week that it would be. Sgt. Benderman’s representative counsel, who is also his detailed defense attorney, immediately objected to the legitimacy of the entire proceeding and to the continued appointment of the IO. The numerous objections were reduced to writing and sent to the appointment authority on Wednesday, Feb. 9. To date, we have received no response.

As if the marathon events of the 7th and 8th were not enough for one week, other developments ensued. Following the CO Hearing on the 8th, Sgt. Benderman reported to his rear detachment commander for further guidance. The commander informed Sgt. Benderman that he intended to sit Sgt. Benderman down within a day or two to issue him a new order to deploy to Iraq. The commander stated that the decision was based on the guidance he received from the prosecution and that it would all be summarized in a counseling statement. Sgt. Benderman promptly informed his attorney, who promptly sought confirmation with the prosecutors. Our understanding is that while the prosecutors admitted to having a discussion with the command, they indicated that they would not likely follow through with such a course of action.

Astoundingly, on the morning of Feb. 10, Sgt. Benderman was called and told to report to his commander at 0900 hours for counseling. Sgt. Benderman immediately called his defense counsel and asked him to be present. By the time Sgt. Benderman’s attorney arrived, and despite the fact he is a represented accused, the commander and one of the military prosecutors called him in to communicate the order. Sgt. Benderman repeatedly requested that they await the arrival of his attorney. Finding errors in the written counseling form, the commander sent Sgt. Benderman out to correct the errors and await the arrival of his attorney. Finally, the defense counsel arrived and the session resumed with the commander, a prosecutor, Sgt. Benderman’s supervising sergeant, Sgt. Benderman, and his attorney present. Defense counsel placed everyone on notice that he intended to record the discussion. The commander informed Sgt. Benderman that he considered Sgt. Benderman deployable and that he must prepare to deploy to Operation Iraqi Freedom III pending the outcome of the Article 32 hearing. The commander went on to state that if the findings revealed that he had not committed any violations of the UCMJ, Sgt. Benderman may deploy as early as Feb. 17 and as late as March 17, 2005. When defense counsel reminded the commander that the Article 32 did not determine guilt or innocence, the commander acknowledged that he understood that to be correct. He confirmed that if the Article 32 hearing officer recommended that the charges not go forward, he intended to deploy Sgt. Benderman. Meanwhile, the commander also confirmed that if the Article 32 recommendation was to go forward with the court-martial, he would consider Sgt. Benderman nondeployable. The conversation was terminated. This latest development is fundamentally suspect in a number of ways. The legal concepts of entrapment and malicious prosecution come to mind.

Again, the Article 32 findings have not yet issued. We remain hopeful that the hearing officer was able to readily see that Sgt. Benderman never deserted his unit and that he was otherwise excused from movement with his unit on Jan. 7 in order to complete the processing of his conscientious objector application.

~ Monica Benderman, The Kevin Benderman Defense Committee,

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