Friday, August 19, 2005

The spark's lit a fire and Camilo Mejia on Kevin Benderman

Good evening, we're going to start out with three things from Democracy Now!

Cindy Sheehan Leaves Crawford
We turn now to Crawford, Texas. Antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan left the site where she has camped out since President Bush began his 5-week vacation 2 weeks ago. Sheehan said her mother had suffered a stroke and that she was heading to Los Angeles to be with her. Almost immediately after Sheehan made the announcement, other parents of soldiers killed in Iraq said they would continue the protest at the makeshift campsite, called "Camp Casey." We will go directly to Amy Goodman, who is in Crawford, in just a moment.

Sheehan's had to leave but others are there and she's started something and if you doubt that check out the next two stories.

Republicans Join Calls for Iraq Withdrawal
Even as the protest continues in Texas, there are new developments in the antiwar effort on Capitol Hill. North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones says he has about 50 co-sponsors on a joint resolution that calls on President Bush to announce a plan for withdrawal from Iraq by the end of this year. This is the latest twist in the dramatic shift in position by Jones who was the politician behind the move to change the name of French fries to "Freedom Fries" in the Congressional cafeteria. The resolution was introduced in June by Jones, Republican Ron Paul of Texas, as well as Democrat Dennis Kucinich. It calls on the president to begin the withdrawal by Oct. 1, 2006, but it does not set an end date. Jones said the new supporters include five Republicans.

That's momentum and you're seeing it in Congress and around the nation. Cindy Sheehan helped spark that and so did all the people who took the time to show support. Still doubting?

Sen. Hagel: US 'More and More Bogged Down' in Iraq
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said Thursday that the United States is getting "more and more bogged down" in Iraq and stood by his comments that the White House is disconnected from reality and losing the war. Hagel mocked Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion in June that the resistance in Iraq was in its "last throes," saying, "Maybe the vice president can explain the increase in casualties we're taking. If that's winning, then he's got a different definition of winning than I do."

Hagel mocks Cheney. That comes from the fact that the people are asking questions and trying to start a dialogue. Some people wondered about L.B. earlier this week. "Who is L.B.?" a few wrote. C.I. wouldn't touch the issue if L.B. was called out by name. Elaine told me that but I already knew it. C.I. would feel that it was personalizing something when an issue was the focus. So I didn't name L.B. and I won't. But L.B. wanted to say Cindy Sheehan wasn't for bringing the troops home now. And then wanted to mock anti-war people by saying: "anti-war."
L.B. has a problem with the peace movement and needs to get over it. L.B. also needs to learn some facts before blogging. Now I started out as a Common Ills community member (still am) before I started blogging so I got a pretty good education on Cindy Sheehan. That's why I pointed out this week that if you read The Common Ills, you already knew who Cindy Sheehan was, long before she went to Crawford.

You knew who she was and what she stood for. C.I. was nice about it over at The Common Ills saying that people like L.B. might not know the facts due to mainstream coverage. I don't buy that. "Anti-war" was use that L.B. made a choice to use. L.B. knew better is my hunch but L.B. wanted to play hawk and so Cindy Sheehan's statements got distorted. If you read The Common Ills this afternoon you noted that C.I. once again included Cindy Sheehan's latest statements which, again, include the call to bring the troops home now.

If L.B. honestly didn't know that when L.B. blogged on how Cindy Sheehan wants the war fine tuned than L.B. needs to do some serious work before blogging. But the thing is, that stuff is still up there. L.B. hasn't corrected anything. People going to L.B.'s site will still see L.B. claiming that Cindy Sheehan is not calling for the troops to come home. So if my hunch was wrong, I don't care. L.B. should know by now the truth if you want to give L.B. the benefit of the doubt and L.B. has not corrected the error which means it is now a lie.

"Distorting is not supporting" C.I. wrote and that's true. And what Elaine wrote is true to:

But when someone writes "anti-war" you already know where they're coming from.

And when someone calls you on it and you write, like L.B. did, that it's not Sheehan's place or L.B.'s place to figure out strategy that's another problem because yes it is. It is all of our place. We need to stop being so passive while our lives are altered over night in back door deals. That pissed Ma off more than anything else L.B. wrote. Ma was like C.I. and thinking maybe L.B. just got bad information from the mainstream press and it was an honest mistake but the "anti-war" in quotes ticked Ma off and when she got to the part about how it's not the "place" of citizens to address the strategy of issues, Ma was pissed off big time. Ma goes, "Mike, for me, never to link to" L.B. Ma, didn't have to ask because L.B. writes nonsense like that all the time. L.B. speaks to some people but not to me. And I don't link to people who don't speak to me or to people who push war. L.B. did try to Thomas Friedman the situation. And I read Kat's "Burn Your Hatred Out On Someone Else" thing on this and thought, "Yeah, that's what it is."

I don't have a lot of respect for people who claim to be progressive but just think we should shut our mouths about bringing the troops home. Seems to me like those people aren't blogging, they're advertising for Democratic leadership in Congress.

I got some e-mails asking if I was going to endorse anyone for the 2006 elections and I don't know. C.I.'s said no presidential endorsements over at The Common Ills and may have said no endorsements for 2006. I'm not sure on the last part. But I think that's a pretty brave thing to do but me, I'm still thinking about it.

Now I want to swipe from C.I. and Elaine to note Ruminations on America which is a pretty cool site that Rita J. King runs. Camilo Mejia rocks. He's a hero in my eyes and he wrote the thing below.

"The Case of Sergeant Benderman" (Camilo E. Mejia)
The defense successfully showed how during that meeting Sgt. Benderman's chain of command, not knowing how to deal with his Conscientious Objector packet, released him to work on documents and to have dinner with his wife, just an hour prior to his unit's deployment, and how they made no effort to get him to the airfield, or to get him onboard a later flight.
The defense showed how Sgt. Benderman, far from being absent without authority or having missed movement, continued to perform a sergeant's duties while and after his unit deployed to Iraq. The defense also showed the ambiguity in Sgt. Benderman's chain of command. For instance, one of the government's arguments in seeking both a conviction and a harsh punishment was that Sgt. Benderman's logistic duties were crucial for the unit in Iraq, yet the defense proved that his chain of command had planned to fire him from his job and to assign him to latrine duty. Another argument was the hazardous component of the unit's mission in Iraq, yet the 1st Sgt. insisted that Sgt. Benderman would be perfectly safe and in a position were he would see no combat at all.
The defense successfully showed the humiliation Sgt. Benderman went through because of his Conscientious Objector beliefs, from the harassment of his wife by the Sgt. Major (who admitted to commenting on her physical figure) to his 1st Sgt. calling him a coward. Why then, one wonders, was Sgt. Benderman convicted of Missing Movement by Design, and sentenced to 15 months of confinement, reduction to the lowest rank, and a dishonorable discharge?
The defense strategy was sound and solid. The government's prejudice and Sgt. Benderman's chain of command's unmeasured persecution and incompetence were all made evident. Why the conviction and the harsh sentence then? Perhaps because a legal strategy is no match for a political strategy. The Army had in its hands a blond, blue-eyed, six foot two, all American soldier, born and raised in the south, someone white America can look up to and identify with, someone who went to Iraq and came back with his humanity enhanced, most definitely a threat to a government on a mission to militarize its society and spread its empire.
The government threw the book at Sgt. Benderman to ensure others like him don't follow behind. Therefore, his case should not have been boiled down to a forty-five minute meeting, because in doing so, the defense disconnected itself from the humanity of the action and from its message of resistance, and that is something America cannot afford at this time.