He Dared to Challenge Power, Part Two: FT Lewis, WA or Abu Gharib, WA?
He Dared to Challenge Power, Part Two: FT Lewis, WA. or Abu Gharib, WA.
By: Jack Dalton
5 months ago, Sgt Kevin Benderman was court-martialed by the Army at FT Stewart, GA. on the charge of “Missing a Movement to Avoid Hazardous Duty”. This was how the Army chose to handle Sgt Benderman’s Conscientious Objector application. One major problem with this conviction: Sgt Kevin Benderman was never given orders to redeploy to Iraq. He was reassigned to a “Rear Detachment” at FT Stewart by the very same people who court-martialed him a short time later. Lawyers are working on that issue on Sgt Bendermans behalf as I write this. Full details on this can be read on the Benderman Timeline which includes letters by Sgt Benderman from FT Lewis.
It was not out of personal fear that Sgt Benderman made his decision to stand as a CO, and later in opposition to this war of choice in Iraq; his decision came behind seeing the senselessness of war; of wars absolute inhumanity; it came behind seeing good people turn into something else from what they were; it came in part behind being given illegal orders to shoot children. But that’s what war does to people, it changes them and not for the better most of the time. War is that “Heart of Darkness” that Joseph Conrad wrote about. And it was that which Sgt Benderman came to learn and understand.
It has been said that when Sgt Benderman took his public stand in opposition to war, that he “provided more moral leadership” than anyone in congress; something I am in total agreement with. I’ll just add to that by stating, the moral leadership Sgt Benderman has shown did not end when he was sent to the RCF at FT Lewis. Not by a long shot. That kind of leadership travels with a man like Sgt Kevin Benderman no matter where he finds himself.
Sgt Kevin Benderman, who is doing 15 months in the Regional Correction Facility at FT Lewis, WA, is there because as a matter of conscience, he could not obey orders to shoot children (an order that eventually led to his Conscientious Objection). Sgt Benderman’s cell mate is a 22 year old that was sent to Ft Lewis for obeying his Squad Leaders order to shoot an unarmed Iraqi civilian in his home during a midnight raid. This is the nightmare Bush/Cheney & Co. have created in Iraq; for the Iraqi people and for our own people in uniform. One man, Sgt Benderman, in prison for refusing to participate or follow illegal orders. Another man in prison for following illegal orders by killing an unarmed Iraqi in his own home in the dead of night. Led to war by a deserter (Bush) and a draft dodger (Cheney) who, as he said, "I had other priorities than military service" and as a result of them, two different men are in prison--not to mention the tens of thousands in Iraq that are dead.
The RCF at FT Lewis is an interesting place to be sure. Actually, interesting is not the correct term to describe the RCF at FT Lewis. That is due to the simple fact what I am learning, from multiple sources there, about that place makes it sound more like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or Abu Gharib. I’ll get back to Sgt Benderman, what he has gone thru and is currently going thru at FT Lewis in a moment. Right now I want to tell you about a young man who is incarcerated there along with Sgt Benderman—Michael Levitt.
The Torturing of Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt had been to Iraq once, what the reason for him being incarcerated at FT Lewis I do not know, at least not as yet. Whatever the reason, it does not justify what has and is currently happening to that young man. I have learned from more than one source that he was stress chained to a “stress-chair” for 109 hours by a 1st Sgt there. A little background on this.
A lot of the men incarcerated at FT Lewis have been objecting to the fact the women guards have full access everywhere at the RCF, including the showers while the men are using them, the toilet areas also while in use by the men. Michael Levitt was one of many men who were complaining about that to one of the 1st Sgts. Levitt demanded to know the Army regulations concerning this; the 1st Sgt responded by locking Levitt in solitary confinement. Levitt got angry about that so he plugged the toilet in the solitary confinement cell, which not only flooded the cell, but the cell block as well. the 1st Sgt responded to that by shutting off the water to the cell Levitt was in, and giving him a bucket for his body waste. It really went downhill from there, fast and badly.
When the 1st Sgt went back to Levitt's cell, Levitt reached into the bucket he had been using as a toilet, grabbed a handful of "brown goo" and tossed it at the 1st Sgt striking him with the "goo". The 1st Sgt responded pulling Levitt out of the cell, taking him into a “special room” where Levitt was then stress chained to a stress-chair for the next 109 hours! Stress-Chairs are metal frame chairs with no seat. There is a metal bar where the seat once was, and that is what Levitt was sat on then chained to; with his legs folded under him, pulled back, under and up then chained to the cross bar--for 109 hours. Think Abu Gharib.
At that end of the 109 hours, Levitt was returned to the solitary confinement cell which was where he received medical treatment (?). What kind of “medical treatment” Levitt received is not certain, as no one has been able to talk with him since this took place. Just recently, Levitt was given a court-martial by the command at Ft Lewis for throwing defecation on that 1st Sgt. Levitt was found guilty and another 15 months time was tacked onto his sentence. Nothing has been said to 1st Sgt that I know of, let alone anything being done to him over this. At least not yet, but this is a long way from being over.
I wonder who that 1st Sgt plans on putting in that chair next? Or will it be Michael Levitt again?
There's a lot more wrong at FT Lewis and this is just a small sample:
I understand that according to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), the Department of Defense/Pentagon has "lost" $1.1 Trillion. Maybe that's why at Ft Lewis with over 200 people incarcerated there, they can't fix the following, no money DoD lost it; In the tiers of Alpha and Charlie Blocks there is water leaking from sewage/drainage pipes from the blocks above...; In Charlie 5 there is a toilet & sink that has been leaking since...March; Regulations state that there should be one shower head per eight inmates in one cell block there are four shower heads and 50 inmates (that is 12 inmates per shower head); The shower in Charlie 4 leaks into the bay and builds up under the bunks; In one of the 2 man cells in Charlie Block the toilet leaks so bad it floods the cell within hours and there are two people that live in there; Inmates here are forced to sit up from 5:00 AM till 6:00PM in chairs by their bunks with no recreation(no phones, no cards, nothing but books) and then only 4 hours at night for free time to all make calls, or write home, watch TV, etc; It is now December and the average day time temp is 50 degrees and night time temp of about 30 degrees, there is no heat and the windows do not close. This problem was reported in September and still has not been corrected; The drains in the showers are constantly backing up and the men are forced to shower like that; On Thanksgiving they had some big shot come to the facility for their dinner, they ordered $700.00 ice sculptures for that event. The next couple of weeks they had nothing to drink in the facility except for water.
And if that isn't enough, then wrap your mind around this: The same individuals that sit on the disciplinary boards and work with individuals from day to day also sit on the parole boards. Welcome to the Regional Correctional Facility, FT Lewis, WA. There are multiple people willing to go on record about all of this at Ft Lewis, WA. The spotlight has not even begun to be put on that place. Oh, let's not forget inmates bank cards being charged hundreds of dollars by who know who. And from what I understand some of the women guards are open to doing "favors"--for a price?
One of the ladies married to someone at FT Lewis said to me the other day, that her husband told her that he and the other men at Ft Lewis were told not to talk to Sgt Benderman because he is talking to journalists. The men at Ft Lewis can makes outgoing calls that charge $25 for 20 minuets to phone time--is that a racket or what? Got news for the people at Ft Lewis, especially the Commanding Office, LTC Stephanie Beavers (her contact info will be at the end of this article), none of us have to talk to Sgt Benderman to get information; there are a lot of the men incarcerated there, and their family members, who are not only willing to talk about all of this, but are searching people out to tell this too.
Just Sgt Bendermans presence alone has been more than enough for the men incarcerated at FT Lewis to start standing up to the brutality that apparently is a daily occurrence at the RCF, FT. Lewis, WA. But then that is always the way with people who are natural born leaders, that are men of principle, others look to their example and try to emulate it.
One of the biggest mistakes the Army made with Sgt Benderman, other than the fact he never should have faced a court-martial to begin with, was to send him to jail at FT Lewis. If the Army thought Sgt Bendermans refusal to go back to Iraq would get others at FT Stewart, GA to do likewise, (which was primarily why the Army court-martialed him in the first place--to make an example of him) they are in deep stuff now, as the Army's worst nightmares are about to come true! More on this shortly.
If you find all of this as outrages as do I, then here is the contact information for the commanding Officer at the Regional Correctional Facility at FT Lewis, WA. Also, if you would address letters to Michael Levitt at the same Box number at FT Lewis (same address just change the name). The more letters that flood into Ft Lewis with Michaels name on them, LTC Beavers and all the rest of them will know that a lot of "eyes" are looking at them. And especially do not forget Sgt Benderman. He is after all a man of ethics, integrity, honor with more raw courage than most and he deserves our respect, and our total committed support.
LTC Stephanie Laverne Beavers
704th MP Brigade - Ft. Lewis RCF Commander
Fort Lewis Washington
Letters from FT Lewis By: Sgt Kevin Benderman
Benderman Defense Committee
Torture and Prostitution at Ft Lewis
He Dared to Challenge Power and the Official Consensus: Part One
US Treasury Missing $ Trillions:How fast does $1.1 trillion disappear in a year?
Jack Dalton is a disabled Vietnam veteran, independent writer and activist. Jack's Straight-Speak is his blog. He was also a contributing writer for: Neo-Conned! Again! (Light in the Darkness Publications) and his email address is: email@example.com