Bulletin #194





1 August 2005

Grenoble, France


Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,


Thus far these summer months in France have been fairly cool. The same cannot be said for the Middle East, where the obscenities of war know no respite.


In his recent book, The Age of Extremes, historian Eric Hobsbawm remarks that no longer do we hear from the military argument : "the ends justify the means". It is simply no use pretending any longer; we are now living in a period of TOTAL WAR, according to Hobsbawm, and the contemplation of "means and ends" have ceased to serve as a restraint for use of military force. What is done is done because it can be gotten away with; there are no sanctions looming against that handful of men, who are the "makers of war" and, consequently, there are no restraints !


Below are eight items recently received by our research center, at CEIMSA, which speak to the shameful events which many of us continue to tacitly support --by our determined silence, if not by willful ignorance.



Item A. is an article by David Enders in which he makes comparisons between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. occupation of Iraq, where he saw entire families walking through a kilometer-long checkpoint, from a parking lot outside Fallujah to one on the other side.


Item B. is an article sent to us by Professor Edward Herman in which Amira Hass argues against the term "occupation" in the Israeli war against Palestinians. He insists it is nothing less than the grotesque policy of "ethnic cleansing".


Item C. "The Religious Left fights back" is an attempt by Van Jones -the national executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California- to facilitate the coalition building which is necessary to end America's latest imperialist adventures.


Item D. is an article forwarded to us by economics Professor Richard B. Du Boff on the political economy of prisons in America today.


Item E., "The Case of Sergeant Benderman" is an essay written by Camilo Mejia, who is a former prisoner of conscience who served  served nine months in confinement for refusing to return to Iraq after a two-week leave.


Item F. is an article written by Norman Solomon in honor of Kevin Benderman, the 40-year-old Army mechanic who was sentenced yesterday to 15 months for refusing to return to Iraq with his Army unit.


Item G. is an article July 28th  by veteran columnist Helen Thomas who reports nationally on President Bush's refusal to stop the abuse of  Detainees in the American prison camps


And finally item H. is a recent report on former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's criticisms of the Bush Administration's war policies.



Our French readers will be interested in the August issue of Le Monde diplomatique, which has several useful articles on contemporary Iraq, one of which was written by historian Howard Zinn.




Francis McCollum Feeley

Professor of American Studies/

Director of Research

Université Stendhal-Grenoble III

Grenoble, France






from David Enders

Mother Jones Magazine

copyright 27 July 2005



"We Regard Fallujah As a Large Prison"

by David Enders


A reporter returns to the city, where violence and destruction remain part of everyday life.


    Eight months after the second invasion of Fallujah, there is hardly a street that does not still feature a building pulverized during the assault. I had not been in the city since last July, when I was escorted out by three cars of mujahedeen - that's when things were still relatively nice - and though I had expected it, the destruction was still shocking.


    The dome of one mosque I had previously used as a landmark was completely missing, large holes had been blown in others. Houses have been pancaked, it is hard to find a façade without the mark of at least small arms fire. As many as 80 percent of the city's 300,000-plus residents have returned, but the city has by no means returned to normal. On Sunday, the police were hard at work adding razor wire and new concrete blast barriers to the already sprawling fortifications around their main station in the center of town while US and Iraqi army patrols traversed the main street, the Iraqis firing their rifles in the air to clear traffic. Small arms chattered in the distance, followed by a response from a larger gun. The tension is palpable. Curfew begins at 10 p.m. but low-level fighting continues.


    "They are killing one or two of us everyday," says an Iraqi soldier at one of the checkpoints into the city, a claim confirmed by local doctors.


    I have heard Iraqis make comparisons between their occupation and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but it wasn't until I saw families walking through the kilometer-long checkpoint, from a parking lot outside Fallujah to one on the other side, that it seemed apt. Once inside, seeing the life continuing amidst the rubble, it was harder still to ignore the physical similarities.


    A child jumps into the Euphrates from a one-lane bridge, the same bridge from which angry residents hung the charred and beaten bodies of four American contractors in March 2004, the same bridge that connects the center of town to Fallujah General hospital, the first objective taken by the Marines in November's invasion. Doctors Ahmed and Salam, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that their names be changed, lamented the condition of the city and its people. In the last week, they have received three civilian casualties of US fire, and say that this week has been below average - normally, says Ahmed, they see one or two dead civilians every day, and that hundreds have been killed by coalition forces since the city was taken over by the US.


    "Just yesterday a middle-aged lady was brought here by coalition forces - she was killed by a single shot to the head," Ahmedays. "The coalition forces came to the hospital and took her name and all her information."


    "The people of Fallujah feel depressed because they can't move freely from place to place, because the coalition forces and the Iraqi national guard make new checkpoints every day, make new obstacles," says Salam. "They cannot move freely at night. There are medical cases at night that result in casualties because they cannot reach us."


    At Al-Furqan Mosque, one of the city's moderate places of worship, some of the men stay after the prayers to discuss the situation. Even more than the US military, they feel the new, government, dominated by conservative Shiite parties, has laid siege to their city.


    "They use their weapons to clear traffic," says Imam Abdul Majid. Some of the men cry during his sermon, when he asks god to save Fallujah and Iraq. "We can say the Americans are better than them. Let me speak frankly - the new government has failed." They complain of continued raids and arrests, missing persons, harassment, he says. "Before we were oppressed by invaders. Now it's getting worse."


    "Shops are broken into at night," one of the men says. "Tell me, if there is a curfew and the army and the police control the streets, who is breaking into our shops?"


    The men are afraid of the Iranian influence on the new government, the government that has failed to continue sending aid, something which US-appointed prime minister Ayad Allawi's government, despite supporting November's invasion, did do.


    Back at the hospital, Ahmed says he expects the fighting to continue. "Even civilian people will change to be fighters," he says. "We regard Fallujah as a large prison." (People in Fallujah will not talk directly about fighting, though all indications are that the new attacks are homegrown.)


    The Iraqi army in Fallujah, who don't mind telling a journalist that they are all from cities in the south, don't seem particularly thrilled to be here. (When the US tried recruiting Fallujis to fight in Fallujah, they turned their guns on the US or turned them over to the guerillas.)


    "Fallujah - death," says one of them, drawing a finger across his throat, a motion that I would like to go one day in Iraq without seeing someone make.


    Most of the reconstruction that has taken place since the fighting has been the often partial rebuilding of houses. Iyad Allawi's government sent 20 percent of the promised compensation.


    "It costs in Iraq right now at least 50 million dinars to build a house," Salam said. "What is someone supposed to do if he only gets three million dinars? And these people, they have had to spend time out of their houses, and there is not a single family in Fallujah that does not have someone killed."


    I approach some of the Marines on a base inside the city, to try and find out what life is like for them. They say there is no one at the base who can speak on the record, but I pause for a minute and chat, not terribly excited about walking back outside into the thick dust and, potentially, a line of fire. They ask why I have come, I am the first journalist they have seen in four months.


    "No one wants to talk about Fallujah," says one of the Marines.



David Enders is a freelance journalist who has been working in Iraq for most of the last two years. His first book, Baghdad Bulletin, is available from University of Michigan Press.





From: Professor Edward Herman

Subject: The Village Near the Settlement is Unlawful by Amira Hass

Date: 29 July 2005



Another fine illustration of the process of ultra-ethnic-cleansing in operation, carried on with U.S. aid and tacit approval. What makes it so remarkable is that it is so blatantly racist, cruel, in complete violation of  international law and numerous UN resolutions, and so revealing of the complete hypocrisy of the alleged Western opposition to ethnic cleansing, displayed with such self righteous indignation in connection with the behavior of  a Western target group in the Balkans (among other cases).

Ed Herman





























The village near the settlement is unlawful


by Amira Hass


Why we should have long ago stopped describing the situation in Palestine as one of "occupation." It has been a case of deliberate and tenacious ethnic cleansing since the beginning of the Zionist project.





"I was born here, in Khirbet Tana, and I inherited the land from my grandfather. I am a shepherd and have a family of 10. All of us are shepherds, and that is our sole source of livelihood. In June I moved to Beit Furik, because in the summer the sheep can't take the heat in Khirbet Tana. On Tuesday, July 5, 2005, at around 8:30 A.M., I received a phone call from one of the shepherds in the area, who told me that the Israeli army was demolishing our houses. I immediately went there and when I was two and a half kilometers from the houses in Tana, Israeli soldiers in an army jeep prevented me from getting any closer. The soldiers left the area at around noon. In place of a house I found a pile of cinder blocks. My family and I live in two new structures built of cinder blocks and mud. We built the house to live in and protect ourselves from the cold in winter and the heat in summer. The soldiers also destroyed the livestock pen. We kept the taboun [a large brick oven] in the pen. They didn't leave us anything. They also demolished other houses and huts of people in the area."


This is the account that Wassef Hanani, 51, gave to a B'Tselem field researcher. The home of Abed al-Kader Ibrahim, 72, was also demolished. He still remembers his grandmother as the owner of the surrounding land. He and his brothers and sisters were born in Tana. "I don't know any other place. Here I got married and my nine children live here .... Between June and August we move to Beit Furik ... to herd the sheep and live there in tents, but it's only temporary. There isn't enough land or water there for herding. They didn't only demolish homes, they also destroyed the elementary school building. It had two classrooms where the children study up to fourth grade. It's the only school here. They also destroyed part of the fence around the mosque. An ancient mosque, which was built more than 200 years ago."


Information about the destruction of Tana has been completely swallowed up by the media inundation of disengagement-related news. It is a Palestinian community that developed as an annex of the existing village Beit Furik, east of Nablus. There are dozens of similar subsidiary communities that formed over the centuries in the West Bank. Some grew into independent villages, some depend in one form or another on the main village. But the gradual transition from living in caves to living in ramshackle huts, to small buildings and even to larger buildings, is common to all of them.


Much can be learned about this natural process from a research study drafted by the geographer David Grossman, printed in 1977 in the book, "Judea and Samaria, Chapters in Settlement History," which was published by the departments of geography at Tel Aviv and Bar-Ilan universities (Rehavam Ze'evi was one of the editors). This prolonged process demonstrates the continuity of Palestinian existence here over hundreds of years, the way that traditional agriculture coped with natural hardships and the preservation of pre-capitalistic agrarian traditions, on the one hand, and on the other, the emphasis placed in recent years on educating the younger generation: This is why schools were built in these annexes, if only the earlier grades.


On July 5, Israel Defense Forces soldiers and the Civil Administration demolished 22 structures and sheep pens, which served 450 persons. Only two structures and the mosque were spared. "These are largely temporary structures, without permits, that were built on an active firing zone used by the IDF," the Civil Administration wrote to Haaretz in response. "A military closure order exists for the site. It is superfluous to note the great danger of the residents being in the firing zone. These are structures that are not permanently occupied; they are occupied mainly in the winter, primarily by residents of Beit Furik, where their permanent residences are located."


For Israeli authorities, every structure built after 1967 that does not have a permit from the occupation authorities is unlawful and therefore subject to demolition. And when the absence of permits does not keep people away, the firing zone comes and does so under the guise of concern for residents. This is the same firing zone that for some reason is not dangerous to the settlers of Mechora, only a few kilometers from Tana.


The Israeli love for law and order was fulfilled not only a short distance from Mechora, which like all of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is unlawful according to international law. The demolition in the name of the law was carried out a short distance away from the annexes that are known even in Israel as "unlawful" - the settlement outposts of Itamar.


Tana is not an isolated case. Other village-annexes in the Jordan Rift, southern Hebron Hills and the area of Qalqilyah are similarly threatened by the Israeli love of the law. But there is much more here than an isolated action. In addition to the destruction of a venerable social fabric, this is yet another method by which Israel attacks the broad margins of the Palestinian West Bank and dispossesses their occupants, in preparation for their annexation to Israel.





from Van Jones


copyright 29 July 2005



The Religious Left Fights Back

by Van Jones


Rabbi Michael Lerner has been the spark-plug for many progressive, faith-based undertakings over the years, including Tikkun magazine. But this latest effort is an order of magnitude more challenging than anything he has attempted thus far. And given the stakes for our ailing would-be democracy, the birthing of NSP may prove to be his most important calling.




    Rabbi Michael Lerner is stirring up trouble again - thank God.


    Earlier this week, Lerner was the main organizer of a national gathering in Berkeley, California, for the religious Left. His "Spiritual

Activism" conference was intended to help launch a much-needed new initiative: the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP).


    Lerner has been the spark-plug for many progressive, faith-based undertakings over the years, including Tikkun magazine. But this latest effort is an order of magnitude more challenging than anything he has attempted thus far. And given the stakes for our ailing would-be democracy, the birthing of NSP may prove to be his most important calling.


    Lerner wants to help forge a new alliance of "religious, secular and spiritual, but not religious, progressives." This alliance will someday expose and challenge the cancer of American consumerism. And it will oppose the religious Right's abuse of scripture to promote war, intolerance and ugly corporate agendas.


    By itself, those two goals would warrant full-throated support from all progressives. But don't be surprised if the good rabbi's efforts also draw some serious "boos" from many parts of the Left, as well. That's because Lerner's bravest and hardest work is aimed much closer to home.


    He wants to do more than just minister to the mall-lobotomized masses or give the fundamentalists a well-deserved spanking. He also wants to challenge the Left's chronic and toxic bias against religious feeling, expression and people.


    Lerner hopes to end "religio-phobia among progressives." And such efforts will not be welcome among a great many rabidly secular progressives.


    As for me, I will be praying for the Rabbi's success. I am an African-American Christian who was raised in the American heartland. When I moved to the cosmopolitan coasts of Connecticut, and later California, I ran headlong into shocking levels of anti-religious bigotry among progressives.


    I literally have had liberals laugh in my face when I told them I was a Christian. For awhile, I felt self-conscious about telling other activists that I preferred not to meet on Sunday mornings, because I wanted to go to church.


    It is still commonplace to hear so-called radicals stereotyping all religious people as stupid dupes - and spitting out the word "Christian" as if it were an insult or the name of a disease. I thought progressives were supposed to be the standard-bearers of tolerance and inclusion.


    I certainly know the monstrous crimes that have been committed through the ages in the name of religion, or with the blessings of

religious people. But I know a few other things about religion, too.


    I grew up in the Black churches of the rural south, listening to the stories of my elders. As children, we heard about the good, brave people who had poured their blood out upon the ground so that we could be free. We learned how police officers had clubbed and jailed them. We learned how Klansmen had shot and lynched them. And how the G-men from Washington had just stood by and doodled in their notepads.


    We learned of marches and mayhem, freedom songs and funerals. We saw images of billy-clubbed Black women on their hands and knees, searching for their teeth on Mississippi sidewalks - crawling while still clutching their little American flags. We felt pity for the children who spent long nights in frigid jail cells, wearing clothing soaked by fire-hoses, while their bones - broken and untended - began to mend at odd angles.


    We saw pictures of Black men, like our fathers, hanging by their necks - their faces twisted, their bodies rigid, their clothes burned off -along with their skin. And we saw photos of carefree killers, sauntering home out of Alabama courtrooms - their faces white and sneering and proud.


    We learned how the very best of humanity had faced off with the very worst of humanity - each circling the other under the same summer sun. That epic struggle had elevated southern back roads and backwaters onto the Great World Stage. And the fate of a people - along with the destiny of a nation - hung in the balance, for all to see.


    In the end, we children cheered, for the righteous did prevail. More than that, they performed one of the great miracles in human history: They transformed American apartheid into a fledgling democracy, tender and delicate and new.


    All progressives today proudly celebrate that achievement - and rightly so. But one key fact seems to escape the notice of today's activist crowd. The champions of the civil rights struggle didn't come marching out of shopping centers in South. Or libraries. Or high school gymnasiums.


    To face the attack dogs, to face the fire-hoses, to face the billy-clubs, these heroes and she-roes came marching boldly out of

church-houses. And they were singing church songs. They set an example of courage and sacrifice that will endure for the ages. And as they did it, they prayed on wooden pews in the name of a Nazarene carpenter named Jesus.


    The implications are clear for those who seek today to rescue and redeem US society. The facts are simple and profound: The last time U.S progressives captured the national debate and transformed politics, people of faith were at the center of the movement, not stuck in its closet.


    As a descendent of enslaved Africans who were told that God (and not capitalist greed) required their degradation, I know the crimes of the Christian church as well as anyone. But as a child of the civil rights movement, I also know the power of Christian faith, the power of moral appeal and the power of spiritual strength - to break asunder the bonds of servitude.


    And in our do-or-die effort to set things right in America, it is time for US progressives to return to the bottomless well of soul power that sustained the slaves and defeated Jim Crow.


    That is why I applaud Rabbi Lerner's efforts. He is standing in a long tradition of faith-honoring Americans, who have helped lead the charge from barbarism toward democracy. In the 1800s, escaping Africans fled enslavement through the bedrooms and basements of Quakers, along the famous Underground Railroad. In the 1980s, religious congregations led the Sanctuary Movement. Their efforts opened up US cities to Latinos who were fleeing US President Ronald Reagan's violent and covert interventions in Latin America.


    The Rabbi's new efforts also resonate today. Reeling from the steady string of recent defeats, even the most hard-core US activists are seeking deeper meaning and spiritual sustenance in their lives. At the same time, previously apolitical "spiritual types" are getting involved as activists for the first time - to defend the Earth and her people from the predations of the Bush agenda.


    Rev. Jim Wallis' most recent book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, struck a chord this year and became an instant bestseller. Rev. Frances Hall Kieschnick (spouse of Working Assets wunderkind Michael Kieschnick) is taking steps to start a Beatitudes Society, to give more voice to progressive people of faith. Similar efforts are springing up on smaller scales all across the country.


    Somewhere, in all of these stirrings, I see the seeds of a wisdom-based, Earth-honoring, pro-democracy movement - one that affirms and applauds religious and spiritual impulses, while opposing fundamentalism, chauvinism and theocracy. Over time, this kind of progressive movement has the potential to win - and win big - in the United States. To be honest: it is probably the only type of progressive movement that stands a chance in a country as religious as ours.


    Such a movement is within reach. But progressives must abandon the old pattern of reducing the Great Faiths to their worst elements, constituents and crimes - and then dismissing all other facts and features. It is not just stupid political strategy. At a moral level, it is a form of blindness and bigotry that is beneath all of us.


    My prayer is that a critical mass of progressives can agree on two basic premises.


    Number one: Any progressive approach to "faith in politics" that ignores the awful crimes of religiously-inspired people is dishonest, inauthentic and can never achieve emancipatory ends.


    Number two: At the same time, any approach that fails to honor and embrace the positive contributions of religiously inspired people is also wrong-headed, and it foolishly and needlessly shuts progressives off from our own history, achievements and present sources of vital support.


    I believe that Rabbi Lerner has come up with a thoughtful, sensitive and wise approach, worthy of broad-based affirmation. He aims to: "build an alliance between secular, religious and 'spiritual but not religious' progressives - in part by challenging the anti-religious biases in parts of the liberal culture (while acknowledging the legitimacy of anger against those parts of the religious world that have embodied authoritarian, racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic practices and attitudes").


    That is a formulation that the vast majority of progressives should be able to adopt, affirm and cheer about. And I proudly say to it, Amen, brother Lerner ... Amen!



Attorney Van Jones is the national executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California.





from Professor Richard B. Du Boff

ASSOCIATED PRESS [Netscape News]  July 30, 2005

Subject: Growth industry, U$A...



as well as an opportunity for Aspiring Entrepreneurs. But... can it be outsourced?





Private Prisons Experience Business Surge



NEW YORK (AP) - Though state governments are no longer fueling a private prison boom, the industry's major companies are upbeat - thanks in large measure to a surge of business from federal agencies seeking to house fast-rising numbers of criminals and detained aliens.


Since 2000, the number of federal inmates in private facilities - prisons and halfway houses - has increased by two-thirds to more than 24,000. Thousands more detainees not convicted of crimes are confined in for-profit facilities, which now hold roughly 14 percent of all federal prisoners, compared to less than 6 percent of state inmates.

Critics, including prisoners rights groups and unionized corrections officers, contend the policy amounts to a federal bailout of an industry that would otherwise be struggling with a checkered record. The companies and the government say they provide a flexible, economical alternative to building new federal prisons as get-tough policies boost demand for space in an overcrowded system.

"If the Bureau of Prisons is going to build capacity for themselves, they have to plan eight years in advance," said John Ferguson, chief executive of the Corrections Corporation of America, the biggest company in the field. "It takes a lot longer in the public sector than private sector to get things done."


The industry expanded rapidly in the 1990s on the assumption that business in a tough-on-crime era would grow indefinitely. But escapes and violence at a few private prisons, along with questions about cost savings, tempered enthusiasm.


Saddled with thousands of empty beds, CCA teetered near bankruptcy before new federal contracts helped it rebound. Since 2000, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company has doubled its number of federal prisoners to 18,200 - 29 percent of its overall inmate population.


"The federal government smiled on them just in time," said Judith Greene, a New York-based prison-policy analyst.


Business is certain to grow. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said the number of federal inmates is expected to rise from 185,000 to 226,000 by 2010, with private companies likely to be relied on for housing non-citizen immigrants convicted of federal crimes.


The number of people detained by U.S. immigration officials also is increasing rapidly - up three-fold in the past 10 years to more than 21,000 at a given time. In December, Congress passed a terrorism prevention bill calling for 40,000 additional beds by 2010 for aliens awaiting deportation.


 Many of the detainees are housed at facilities run by CCA and its main rival, GEO Group - formerly Wackenhut. Both companies anticipate their detention business will grow.  "Those two are huge beneficiaries of overincarceration in the immigration system," said Lucas Guttentag of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants Rights Project.


The private facilities are required to meet "rigorous federal standards,'' said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Jamie Zuieback. Yet critics insist privatization will lead to cost-cutting and accountability problems affecting detainees' welfare.


"They're putting in a system where it's easier to pass the buck," said lawyer Dan Kesselbrenner of the Boston-based National Immigration Project.


Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, a former prison psychologist, tried unsuccessfully to block privatization approval in Congress. "When the primary goal is profit, that can and probably does lead to a variety of abuse," Strickland said. "I don't see any end in sight."


On the state level, there is no comparable boom for private prisons, but neither is there the bust some industry critics anticipated. As of mid-2004, private prisons housed 74,285 state inmates, compared to 76,763 in mid-2001.


About 30 states use private prisons, notably in the South and West. Texas has the most inmates in private facilities - more than 16,000; New Mexico has the highest portion of inmates in them - 43 percent.


Most states' policies remain unchanged since the 1990s and the bottom line is that overcrowding remains a stubborn problem.  Still, arguments persist over the pros and cons of private prisons, which pay lower average wages than government agencies. Whether this undermines performance is hotly debated, although federal researchers concluded in 2001 that high staff turnover did aggravate security problems at many private facilities.


 Industry officials insist they have addressed such concerns. "For those who think the public employee monopoly should be maintained, and sentencing advocates who believe we send too many people to prison, we're an easy target,'' said CCA's Ferguson. "But if I'm chief executive of a state, I'd see a value to having competition in my prison system."


The industry's future is bright enough that GEO Group is buying rival Correctional Services Corp., but prospects hinge largely on incarceration trends. Many states have balked at funding new prisons, and now face crowding problems they could ease by using private prisons or diverting some offenders to alternatives like drug-treatment programs.


"The drug war has been the main cause of profits for private prisons," said University of North Florida criminologist Michael Hallett. "We've gotten so extreme in overusing incarceration that we have for-profit industries with an interest in high crime rates."



Geoff Segal of the pro-privatization Reason Foundation predicted private companies will diversify their state business - offering more health and rehabilitation programs, for example.  "States with private prisons aren't going to get rid of them," Segal said. "It's a tough sell for a state to say it's going to spend more money on corrections rather than on Medicaid."



 Prison statistics:  http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/pjim04.htm




from Camilo Mejia | The Case of Sergeant Benderman

t r u t h o u t | Perspective

copyright: 28 July 2005




The Case of Sergeant Benderman

by Camilo Mejia


What Sgt. Benderman saw in Iraq changed him in a way so profound, that after ten impeccable years in the Army, he decided to apply for conscientious objection. But Sgt. Benderman also spoke truth to the people about what is going on in Iraq, and he spoke about how the war is not destroying Iraq alone, but our own country as well. He spoke of how American soldiers are dehumanized by the war.



    Fort Stewart, Georgia - When Sgt. Kevin Benderman went to Iraq on March of 2003, he saw the destruction of a nation, he saw a little girl with a burnt arm asking the soldiers for help they were ordered not to provide, he saw people drinking water from mud puddles, and he saw that Iraqis were regular people, just like himself, and that our military should not bring destruction to that country. What Sgt. Benderman saw in Iraq changed him in a way so profound, that after ten impeccable years in the Army, he decided to apply for conscientious objection. But Sgt. Benderman also spoke truth to the people about what is going on in Iraq, and he spoke about how the war is not destroying Iraq alone, but our own country as well. He spoke of how American soldiers are dehumanized by the war.


    But today's general Court-Martial did not deal with Sgt. Benderman's war experience, nor with the dehumanization of America's children in Iraq; it mostly dealt with a forty-five minute meeting Sgt. Benderman had with his Sgt. Major just an hour before his unit was to deploy to the Middle East, where they were to provide logistic support to American infantry units, and they were to train Iraqi police officers and military personnel.


    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.


    Sgt. Benderman is not an African American Muslim, he is not a Cuban Buddhist, his parents are not Latin Americans. Unlike other recent conscientious objectors, Binderman looks like he belongs at a George W. Bush rally. The humanity he displays in his refusal to fight a senseless war cannot be blamed on a foreign ethnicity, or on the color of his skin; it cannot be blamed on his religion either. And he cannot be accused of being a Yankee liberal. Sgt. Benderman's courageous stance gives the conscientious objector response to the war in Iraq a universal touch that breaks down barriers and goes beyond borders, bringing down the issue of war resistance to the humanity in each and every one of us, regardless of who we are or where we come from.


    Sgt. Kevin Benderman chose to put his weapon down; he chose not to kill but to love his fellow human beings; he chose to put his career and physical freedom in jeopardy; he chose to speak truth in the face of power and adversity; he was harassed, humiliated, accused, tried, convicted, and sentenced to jail. He kissed his wife goodbye, and he kept his head up high as he walked to his fifteen months of confinement. I have never seen a freer man.



Camilo E. Mejia is a former prisoner of conscience, Iraq war veteran, war resister, and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Camilo's conscientious objector application is still pending. He served nine months in confinement for refusing to return to Iraq after a two-week leave.





from Norman Solomon

t r u t h o u t | Perspective

copyright: 29 July 2005




In Praise of Kevin Benderman

by Norman Solomon


The 40-year-old Army mechanic was sentenced yesterday to 15 months for refusing to return to Iraq with his Army unit, writes TO contributor Norman Solomon. Conscience is not in the chain of command.




     Conscience is not in the chain of command.


    "Before being sentenced to 15 months for refusing to return to Iraq with his Army unit, Sgt. Kevin Benderman told a military judge that he acted with his conscience, not out of a disregard for duty," the Associated Press reports. Benderman, a 40-year-old Army mechanic, "refused to go on a second combat tour in January, saying the destruction and misery he witnessed during the 2003 Iraq invasion had turned him against war."


    Three weeks ago, his wife Monica Benderman wrote: "He returned knowing that war is wrong, the most dehumanizing creation of

humanity that exists. He saw war destroy civilians, innocent men, women and children. He saw war destroy homes, relationships and a country. He saw this not only in the country that was invaded, but he saw this happening to the invading country as well - and he knew that the only way to save those soldiers was for people to no longer participate in war. Sgt. Kevin Benderman is a Conscientious Objector to war, and the Army is mad."


    On Thursday, at his court-martial, Kevin Benderman spoke. "Though some might take my actions as being against soldiers, I want everyone to be home and safe and raising their families," he said. "I don't want anyone to be hurt in a combat zone."


    But the Pentagon is imposing its power to enforce the unconscionable.


    And words that were written by Monica Benderman in early July are now even more true: "The Army has removed itself so completely from its moral responsibility, that its representatives are willing to openly demand, in a court of law, that they be allowed to regain 'positive control over this soldier' by finding him guilty of crimes he did not commit, and put him in jail - a prisoner of conscience, for daring to obey a moral law."


    And, she added: "It is 'hard work' to face the truth, and it is scary when people who are not afraid to face it begin to speak out. Someone once said that my husband's case is a question of morality over legality. I pray that this country has not gone so far over the edge that the two are so distinctly different that we can tell them apart."


    Monica Benderman is correct. Facing truths about the priorities of our country's government can be very difficult. During the Vietnam War -also based on lies, also methodically murderous - an extraordinary US senator made the same basic point. "We're going to become guilty, in my judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world,"


    Wayne Morse said at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It's an ugly reality, and we Americans don't like to face up to it."


    Moments before the Senate hearing adjourned on February 27, 1968, Morse said that he did not "intend to put the blood of this war on my hands." In the summer of 2005, while the horrors of the Iraq war continue, not a single United States senator is willing to speak with such moral clarity.


    As an astute cliché says, truth is the first casualty of war. But another early casualty is conscience, routinely smothered in the national media echo chamber.


    On the TV networks, the voices are usually smooth, and people often seem to be speaking loudly. In contrast, the human conscience is close to a whisper. Easily unheard.


    Rarely explored in news media, the capacity for conscience makes us human. Out of all the differences between people and other animals, Darwin wrote, "the moral sense of conscience is by far the most important."


    And that's why Kevin Benderman, now in prison, is providing greater moral leadership than any member of the United States Senate.



Norman Solomon is the author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Excerpts are posted at WarMadeEasy.com.





from Helen Thomas

Hearst Newspapers

28 July 2005



Bush Won't Block Abuse of Detainees

by Helen Thomas


Last week, Bush dispatched no less an emissary than Vice President Dick Cheney to warn members of the Senate Armed Services Committee against any congressional intervention on detainee interrogations.



    Washington - President Bush, who bills himself as a "compassionate conservative," refuses to rule out cruel, abusive treatment of

prisoners of war and detainees.


    He has gone so far as to threaten to veto the vital $491 billion defense bill if an amendment barring mistreatment of prisoners is attached.


    This is the president who - along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - was shocked last year when he saw photos of leashed naked prisoners under US guard at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.


    The irony is that Bush's close adviser, Karen Hughes, has just been put in charge of the State Department's public diplomacy division to improve the nation's tattered global image. Millions spent on this effort will go to waste if we do not wipe out the impression that the United States tolerates torture.


    There have been a dozen Pentagon investigations of POW abuse - the latest by Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who recommended that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Guantánamo Bay prison, be reprimanded for failing to supervise the mistreatment of Mohamed al-Kahtani. He admitted to being "the 20th hijacker" for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Schmidt said, but was blocked from entering the United States by an alert immigration agent.


    But Gen. Bantz Craddock, commander of the US Southern Command, overruled the recommendation that Miller be punished. Miller has a reputation for aggressive methods in the prisons and for introducing dogs at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, where he was sent to beef up the interrogations.


    Al-Kahtani was threatened with dogs and made to "perform a series of dog tricks," according to an unclassified version of Schmidt's report released earlier this month.


    Al-Kahtani also had to stand naked in front of female soldiers, and was forced to wear female lingerie and dance with a male interrogator. Also he had his copy of the Quran squatted on by an interrogator.


    These revelations did not evoke universal outrage on Capitol Hill. Sen. James Imhofe, R-Okla., was incensed that investigators put so much energy into the inquiries.


    "It's hard to see why we're so wrapped up in this investigation," he said. "We have nothing to be ashamed of."


    Last week, Bush dispatched no less an emissary than Vice President Dick Cheney to warn members of the Senate Armed Services Committee against any congressional intervention on detainee interrogations.


    The White House told Capitol Hill that Bush's advisers would urge him to veto the multibillion-dollar military bill "if legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice."


    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was a prisoner of war for six years during the Vietnam War, is proposing an amendment that would set uniform standards for interrogating anyone detained by the Defense Department. He would limit the questioning techniques to those along the lines of the Army field manual, which is undergoing revision.


    McCain also proposes all foreign nationals held by our military be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which would block the practice of holding "ghost detainees." Unfortunately it would not cover the CIA's practice of "extraordinary rendition" where we send detainees to other countries for possible torture.


    McCain's key amendment prohibits the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of any person in US custody. The

amendment was based on the UN Convention Against Torture, which the United States has ratified.


    The administration says the treaty doesn't apply to foreigners outside the country. The White House opposes any restrictions it thinks would tie the president's hands in wartime.


    The sadistic, humiliating treatment of Iraqis, Afghans and others rounded up by US forces has disgraced the country.


    But Bush and Rumsfeld have taken no responsibility.


    Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, an Army Reserve officer in charge of military police at Abu Ghraib, was demoted and given a written reprimand. But otherwise low-ranking MPs have been forced to take the fall.


    It is high time that the Pentagon stopped investigating itself.


    Sen. Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed an amendment to the defense bill to create an independent panel to review the detention and interrogation practices that have led us down this shameful path.


    Meantime, consideration of the defense legislation, including the controversial amendments, has been put off until fall. Let's hope wiser and kinder heads prevail by then.




from Professor James Stevenson

The Associated Press

copyright 30 July 2005



Carter: Guantanamo Detentions Disgraceful


    Washington - Former President Carter said Saturday the detention of terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base was an

embarrassment and had given extremists an excuse to attack the United States.


    Carter also criticized the U.S.-led war in Iraq as "unnecessary and unjust."


    "I think what's going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the U.S.A.," he told a news conference at the Baptist World Alliance's centenary conference in Birmingham, England. "I wouldn't say it's the cause of terrorism, but it has given impetus and excuses to potential terrorists to lash out at our country and justify their despicable acts."


    Carter said, however, that terrorist acts could not be justified, and that while Guantanamo "may be an aggravating factor ... it's not the basis of terrorism."


    Critics of President Bush's administration have long accused the U.S. government of unjustly detaining terror suspects at the

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the southeastern tip of Cuba. Hundreds of men have been held indefinitely at the prison, without charge or access to lawyers.


    "What has happened at Guantanamo Bay ... does not represent the will of the American people," Carter said Saturday. "I'm embarrassed about it, I think its wrong. I think it does give terrorists an unwarranted excuse to use the despicable means to hurt innocent people."


    Earlier this month, Carter called for the Guantanamo prison to be shut down, saying reports of abuses there were an embarrassment to the United States. He also said that the United States needs to make sure no detainees are held incommunicado and that all are told the charges against them.


    Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war.


    "I thought then, and I think now, that the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and unjust. And I think the premises on which it was launched were false," he said Saturday.


    The Baptist World Alliance, comprising more than 200 Baptist unions around the world, was formed in London in 1905. The headquarters of the alliance, which meets in a different location every five years, moved to the United States in 1947.


    An estimated 12,700 delegates gathered in the city of Birmingham in central England for the conference. Carter, a Sunday school teacher in his hometown of Plains, Ga., was due to lead a Bible study lesson during the conference.


    He praised British police and intelligence services for the swift arrests in connection with the July 21 failed bombing attempts on

London's transit system.


    "I'm very proud to be in a nation that stands so stalwart against terrorism with us," he said. "The people of my country have united our hearts and sympathy for the tragedy that you have suffered from terrorism."




Francis McCollum Feeley

Professor of American Studies/

Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE