Sunday, November 04, 2007
1 Book, 10 Minutes
Jim: Book discussions are a popular feature and longterm readers know our policy now. For those who visit sometimes and others don't, we're focused on Iraq. If a book is, it's eligible for our attention. The determining factor then is whether (a) we have time to read it and (b) we want to read it. We don't have time for right-wingers or centrists. That leaves the left. We then attempt to determine whether it's honest or not and honest is not "Let me celebrate the Democratic Party" or "Let me hype you." We're also concerned with the issue of how timely is. We've been doing this site since January 2005 and we're not interested in remedial. One book which is not as much about Iraq as we'd like but we will be discussing is Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream. That's an important book and we'll either address it next week or, if there's time, we'll offer two book discussions this week. We also intend to grab Norman Solomon's Made Love Got War and we'll address the reproduction of a transcript. Among the reasons for our focus is that Iraq began to fall off the map in terms of coverage. The Nation reviews many books each week and they're not interested in Iraq. If an Iraq War resister tells their story, we will note it because so few others do. The Progressive and ISR -- International Socialist Review -- have been the only ones who can really hold their heads high regarding books. This week, we're discussing one such book. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, and Wally of The Daily Jot. Before Mike sets it up, Dona's going to offer a few comments.
Dona: These aren't book reviews and they aren't book reports. We're having a discussion and emphasizing what stood out to us. If you go back to the earliest discussions -- which also included fiction and non-Iraq related books -- you'll find someone pointing out that if you disagree with our points, all the more reason to grab the book. We support public library systems at a time when government, on every level, doesn't. So we always encourage to utilize your public library and your campus library. One thing that came up from our most recent discussion -- "Book: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine" -- was an e-mail from a reader who couldn't find the book at her public library but checked a college library and found it. Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism is a big book and the woman who e-mailed spent three consecutive evenings at the campus library reading the book. I e-mailed her to ask her why she didn't check it out and she wrote back that she wasn't a college student. Most campus libraries, you'll need to check in your own areas, do provide library cards to people who live in the community. You may have to pay a fee for that but, just FYI, if you're staying away from campus libraries because you're not a student, most will issue a library card to people who reside in the community. And I'm tossing to Ty on something which I realize could be included in the "A Note To Our Readers" but I'm also aware several people will e-mail without reading the note.
Ty: Regular readers, sound off. You'll be listened to and, time permitting, you'll get some sort of a reply. But Dona, Jim and I are the only ones working the e-mail account here and we don't have the time to reply to everyone nor are we going to try. Jim and Dona are in grad school, Jess is in law school, I'm working full time and Ava's put everything on hold for a year and X months to hit the road with C.I. talking to college groups and women's groups about Iraq. If you're a regular reader and feel that someone should have spoken more or their point should have been developed, e-mail. We'll try to adjust in the discussion or roundtable. But Dona does her best to keep track of who is speaking and who isn't while these are taking place. Opportunities are offered and Kat, Dona, Cedric, Wally and Mike discussed this in the last "Roundtable." What you're reading is a rush transcript. We edit it for length and people also can pull remarks if they want to. That can happen because they don't think they made their point, it can happen because it's too long and everyone has to pull something or it can happen because they think someone else made a point that really needs to go in. It can also happen because Jim will say afterwards, "That's not really a comment. That should be a feature by itself" and we'll build one around it. So those are the basics and with Jim, Dona and I working the e-mails this week, it became obvious that not only are we going to have to repeat that from time to time, we'll need to include up front. Mike?
Mike: The book this time is Kevin Benderman and Monica Benderman's Letters from Fort Brig: A Matter of Conscience. The link goes to Amazon.com and that will be addressed by someone else. The hardcover book is put out by The Lyons Press and it retails for $24.95 in the United States and for $29.95 in Canada. It's 209 pages of text and the only illustration is the photo of Kevin Benderman on the cover. The preface is Monica Benderman's testimony to Congress on May 16, 2007. The introduction is Kevin from November 2006. The narrative then starts and it's Monica and Kevin trading off, somewhat, in a conversational form up to page 168. Chapter six starts on page 169 and is a reproduction of the letters Kevin wrote while in the brig. I'm going to toss to Cedric before we get into the book itself.
Cedric: I had this book with me pretty much constantly and people would see it and ask about it. Which is a good way to get the word out on it or any book. I was visiting with Three Cool Old Guys on Sunday after church, I was at the nursing home, and they were really interested in reading the book. I told them I'd pass it on to them and really racked up a long list of pass ons quickly. My uncle got on the list as well. What I didn't know was that he was attempting to order the book from the publisher because my pass on list was so long. Do not order the book from this publisher. I was talking to C.I. about my uncle's experience and turns out two members had similar experiences. So let me repeat, do not order this book from the publisher. The problem is you have UPS delivering and apparently they have their own set of policies that they are operating under that the publisher may or may not be aware of but are not made clear when you order online. My uncle and my aunt both work, their kids are my age so they're not living at home. He paid for home delivery and ended up having to pick it up at a UPS center because he was told repeatedly that UPS did not deliver to a residence after 5:00 pm. I'd never heard that and have had UPS packages delivered at my home after 5:00 pm. If this is some sort of policy they've worked out with the publisher, it needs to be noted when people order. It was the biggest hassle for him and it really ticked him off and made me mad just hearing about it. Two community members had similar problems and I'll toss to C.I. for the worst example.
C.I.: Briefly, and both members share their experiences in full in Hilda's Mix this coming Tuesday, one member's experience was just non-stop nonsense and we are not linking to the publisher on this book. Had I seen the e-mails prior to Saturday morning, we would have changed the link in the snapshot mid-week. I'm going to focus on Joe's experience because it was the worst. Like Cedric's uncle, he was told that UPS doesn't deliver after 5:00 pm to residences. He came home on Wednesday to find a notice on his door. He called UPS because those come up all the time. He'd never had a problem getting a delivery at a later time. He was told that it couldn't happen with this book due to some arrangement with the publisher. If that's not true, by the way, the publisher needs to straighten it out with UPS, not bother us with nonsense. Two members and Cedric's uncle had the same experience. Joe told UPS he would have to take time off to be home. He was offered picking it up at his local UPS center or having it delivered tomorrow at his work. He went with delivery at work. He waited and waited for the book to arrive. After five pm he called to see if he needed to continue to wait at work. He was told it was being delivered even as he was calling. He waited a half-hour, gave up and went home where he found another notification from UPS on his front door. He called and "Woops!" UPS didn't know what happened. A Chris Taylor flat out lied to him, and I have no problem mentioning Chris Taylor by name, read Joe's piece on this in Hilda's Mix, saying that it was still on a truck, he'd put in a complaint and the driver would be bringing it to him within the hour. Joe told Chris Taylor, "You are lying to me." Chris Taylor insisted he wasn't and that the whole matter was solved. It wasn't. When he heard from the guy of the local center, also named Joe, he was told they got the message on the address change Wednesday and decided to take care of it on Thursday morning but then were too busy to. UPS Joe then explained, they'd deliver it tomorrow. Our Joe had paid for two-day shipping and it was already three days. He wanted to read the book before we discussed it here. UPS Joe told him that's how it was going to be, delivery on Friday. Now here's the thing that really ticks off our Joe, it turns out that the local delivery center is the street right in front of him. Same block. It's just one street up from him. He could have walked it in less than five minutes. No one ever told him that and I'll add after UPS Joe's lame "We were tired when the message came in and we forgot in the morning," UPS Joe should have taken the package over or had someone take it over right away. There's no excuse for that. There is no excuse for the 16 people at UPS that our Joe had to speak to on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to get a package delivered -- a package he'd paid for two day delivery on. When it was finally delivered to his work, Friday afternoon, the driver left it with the front desk apparently to avoid Joe despite the fact that a signature was required. Cedric's uncle doesn't consider his experience a minor thing and Joe and the other community member don't consider it a minor thing. My apologies for promoting the publisher with a link and I'm very sorry that what should have been a simple delivery required all three to endure a huge drama just to get the book delivered.
Elaine: I also promoted it via the publisher and Joe actually ordered it the Friday I noted it so my apologies to Joe because that would mean he was using the link I provided. I don't think this is a minor thing. Hopefully, that's the extent of it but my concern after I heard about this was the fact that we have members who make it a point to use public transportation as well as many members in rural areas and I started thinking that they especially would be dependent upon home deliveries. There is no excuse for that. If you pay for home delivery, you get home delivery. If you pay for two-day delivery, you get two-day delivery. I've never had a problem with UPS but I have things delivered to the office and Sunny signs for them. Amazon delivers by regular mail as well as offering other choices. So that's for someone to decide and they are responsible for their decision but Lyons Press only offers UPS options. Wherever the breakdown was, it needs to be addressed by Lyons Press and UPS. And unless I find out that it has been, I will never link to that publisher again. And despite whatever agreement UPS had with the publisher, when they've got a two-day delivery, they need to honor what Joe paid for. C.I. shared the e-mail with me and Joe provided Google links to show where he was and where the UPS center was. It takes me longer to take the elevator from my front door and get to the parking garage then it does for UPS to get that package to Joe. If any other member had a similar experience, e-mail me and I will apologize personally to you. Repeating, there is no excuse for that. Tossing to Jess.
Jess: Turning to the book itself, it is easy to read. That's good with any book but it's especially important here because the illegal war has gone on so long that we can talk about war resistance in waves and Kevin Benderman belongs to an early wave. Whether it's Camilo Mejia, Jeremy Hinzman, Aidan Delgado, Carl Webb, Ross Spears, Carla Gomez or whomever, they have not gotten the attention they deserve. With Kevin being historical compared to some of the later waves and with the lack of coverage of war resisters, he can be just a name for people who either weren't trying to follow the illegal war for whatever reason -- maybe they supported it a few years back -- or because they were too young.
Mike: That's a really important point. Kat and I were with Ava and C.I. last week speaking and at one college, a 17-year-old guy stood up to explain that it felt like his whole life had been the Iraq War. And when you think about that, it's really true. He was 13 when it started and a lot of 13-year-olds aren't following current events. So the illegal war really has been a backdrop to his life. As he was starting to focus on the outside world, the illegal war was there. Always. If you're lucky, there's a website for the war resister where you can find out a lot about them. But in most cases, there's not many places you can go.
Wally: Well, in addition to the "Iraq snapshot"s and The Common Ills in general, there's also Iraq Veterans Against the War which has a lot of information, the War Resisters Support Campaign, which is a great resource and one my grandfather donates to, Courage to Resist which does a really great job and Tom Joad as well. And they get noted in every snapshot. That's more of an "in addition" than a disagreement because Mike's right. We're both very vocal on our campuses, Mike and I, and people will come up all the time and ask something like, "Who's Kyle Snyder?" Or say, "I thought Ehren Watada was already court-martialed." The interest in the topic is far greater than the amount of coverage and that would be true even if there was real coverage which there really isn't.
Rebecca: I'm going to jump in with an excerpt from the book, page 106, and this is Monica writing:
When Kevin's case became public, we spoke with everyone we could about the need to support the soldiers. The reason the command chose to punish to punish Kevin so harshly was simply because he spoke the truth about conditions the soldiers faced, just as we spoke together about the lack of support both soldiers and their families received for the sacrifices they made. People gave lip-service responses. We heard activists proclaim themsevles to be for the cause of the soldiers. Leaders in antiwar organizations and veterans' group wrote, expressing their support and willingness to do what they could to help bring about changes to what the soldiers were forced to deal with. We listened to their words and counted on them to follow through with their promises. We had hoped they would be there as they said they would.
Many other soldiers watched how Kevin's case was handled by the military and by those in the peace movement. In the end, it was clear that few people keep their word to soldiers, except those who have walked in their boots.
Rebecca (Con't): And I'm going to stop there.
Kat: Please do. I don't like this book at all. I'll note why shortly. But Rebecca's point in the excerpt someone else can grab. I'll also note that C.I. and Ava just muttered "Sh*t" and popped open bottles of Corona.
Jim: Indeed they did. If you've got it, drink it. In that excerpt, some might see bitterness or anger or honesty. It's a good excerpt to capture the book. Who wants to grab it?
Cedric: Well it's not saying anything, regarding press coverage or support, that we haven't made in terms of a lot of people pose as "anti-war" and then do nothing. I mean, let's just focus on The Nation -- Monica doesn't name names and I think that was a mistake -- and this site. We're at "war" with The Nation to hear them whine in their e-mails. But that's really a cute little misreading of reality that allows them to play wronged party. As late as the summer of 2006 here, we were doing pieces urging them to cover war resisters and they never did. We'd hear from some offering defensive positions and citing past coverage but our position then was, "You have power and you could make a difference." They didn't want to. They still don't. If there's a "war" they started it. "Lip-service" perfectly describes the crap Katrina vanden Heuvel offers up. A few strong words each year on the topic of Iraq and then nothing to back it up. She's the worst example but it's not just The Nation. I don't think she's bitter, Monica Benderman, I do think she's angry and I think she should be. I also don't think she should downplay it. Kevin's cause was betrayed and there's no point in pretending otherwise.
Betty: I try to figure this out all the time. I'm speaking of the lack of coverage on this topic. I think people will still be trying to figure it out long after the illegal war is over. How The Nation could behave so shamefully? How we could have a war that was of so little interest to independent media -- though when it's time to beg for money, they always trot it out. It is shameful and embarrassing. With few exceptions, I've lost all respect for so-called independent media. And the point Monica's making, the point we can all agree on, is not a new one. C.I.'s been making that point for at least three years now. We've made it in editorials here. How when someone takes a stand and it doesn't get the coverage, it doesn't just betray the individual who is taking a stand, it sends a message to others about the support, or so-called support, that will be out there.
Dona: Right. We did several pieces on Darrell Anderson after he'd returned, after he'd returned and been released as well. And after he'd been released and was going around speaking, he was really angry. He was blaming the peace movement for the lack of attention when the reality is the peace movement doesn't control the press. The peace movement can't get mentioned in most cases unless our 'brave' independent media decides it's time for their slam job every two years. We saw independent media spend weeks glorifying a young male who'd been convicted five times and presumably assault of a woman was among his convictions. No war resister has ever received that kind of attention. I mean, look at Robin Long last week.
Elaine: That really is the perfect example because it's so recent and supposedly our independent media cares about ending the illegal war. Long gets arrested, in the same area Kyle Snyder was, and at the start of the week seemed to be facing immediate deportation back to the United States. Where was independent media? Offering a lot of gas bag defenses of weak ass presidential candidates. I don't know if I'd use the term "angry" to apply to Monica so much as "hurt." Anyone in her position would be. This was her husband. This wasn't his going off to defensive driving for a week. He was facing a court-martial on trumped up charges. That included larceny which was based on the fact that payroll got his pay wrong. As Monica points out, payroll got many checks wrong but only Kevin was facing any charges at all. He was told to leave and then they try to hit him with trumped up charges there as well and the witnesses who can back up his version are made unavailable. There are issues with the prosecution throughout and every one of those we've seen replay in other court-martials. And we've seen very little attention given to them by the press. This was her husband, the man she loves, he was being railroaded and you do expect -- I mean this is the whole UPS point earlier -- people to keep their word. To take it to a personal level, Rebecca got very mad at in 1992 for something. I had said I'd do something and didn't. C.I. didn't either. I called Rebecca to apologize for forgetting and she accepted my apology but I pointed out she had been furious with me and not with C.I.
Rebecca: Right and I explained C.I. had said, "I'll try." Elaine had said she would. If you give your word, you need to keep it. Now that was a minor thing, what Monica's writing about is something very serious.
Elaine: Right. She pretty much kept her husband in the news all by herself. We did a piece here where we noted some things that would benefit you if you were planning on resisting publicly and one thing we noted was you needed a family member. Agustin Aguayo had his wife Helga.
Ava: And Agustin didn't get anywhere near the attention he should have but it was Helga's strength that kept his case and him alive. You really do need that because the reality is that few are even going to take your calls. Of those who do, an even smaller number will cover you. The mainstream does a better job than independent media. But the mainstream isn't an 'advocate' so the stories are weaker than what they could be if independent media paid serious attention. I would agree with Elaine that the term is hurt and I would also agree with Cedric that names should have been named. Especially considering the reaction to the book that some, like Kat, will have. And "like Kat" is not to put it off on her. Kat, C.I., Mike and I spoke about the book on the road last week -- we mentioned it to groups, but I'm talking about our own coversations. I know why Kat feels the way she does and support her. We all do, or at least, all four of us do.
Ty: American Idol's been a thing of derision for years because it gets so much attention while real stories don't. I'm not defending American Idol, I've never even watched it, but I think it's far from the only junk news out there. I think a lot of independent media goes after junk news while pretending otherwise. I'm remembering a gas bag, speculation much earlier this year that C.I. called out in an "Iraq snapshot" and it needed to be called out. The guest went on and on about Valerie Plame and Scooter Libby and it was all speculation. We were supposed to be angry that a pardon would be coming and, like Elaine pointed out, Elizabeth de la Vega stood alone cautioning against that sort of coverage, noting that it actually prepared us for, got us used to the idea that Bully Boy would do something to help Scooter avoid serving his sentence. The gas baggery we are getting throughout this year, on a 2008 election, is appalling. I seriously wonder where the adults are and only more so when Pig -- arrested twice for sexual predatory behavior aimed at underage females -- can get reposted across the web with a nonsense column entitled "Iraq Can Wait." It can't wait, like Kat pointed out, and this idea that we're going to direct all of our energies into stopping a war that may or may not be about to start and shove Iraq to the background is bullsh*t. I hope a war with Iran doesn't start for a number of reasons including humanitarian ones but I especially think it would be wonderful to be able to point to Seymour Hersh, Pig and all the others who refused to address Iraq and wasted everyone's time with year after year -- Hersh and Pig have been saying "Any day now!" for three years already -- over speculation of an impending war.
Jess: And with Kevin Benderman facing a court-martial, or after he was sentenced, we're not dealing with speculation. We're dealing with actual realities and when these stories are ignored for more gas baggery, it's embarrassing. I'll also add I agreed with every word Mike wrote about the nonsense spouting from the mouth of the Nobel Peace Prize winner on Democracy Now! last week. That was embarrassing just to listen to. The illegal war wasn't a concern to her and that was obvious with her nonsense. She also made a fool out of herself claiming to be for peace and then whining about how it was too bad Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama couldn't both be presidents. Apparently, knowledge and intelligence isn't required to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Ty: If you're going to bring that up, I need to add something. Mike was right, that woman did repeat lies about AIDS and how it was caught. That is very common among some 'leaders' in Africa and one of the reasons the AIDS crisis is so epidemic in the continent. She issued a denial that she'd ever made those statements. I don't believe her. My opinion, the denial came only after the African press had repeatedly reported her remarks and they started leaking out to the world press. Then, and only then, when she realized that wasn't going to play worldwide, she comes out with her denial. And I'd further add "Plant A Tree For Peace" was a tired and non-story a year ago. There's no reason to waste anyone's time listening to her offer bromides for the hour. But that's what we get instead of reality.
Betty: It was like listening to Oprah. I was listening and thinking, "Move along, move along."
Cedric: I'm laughing and probably need to explain. "Move along" doesn't mean wrap up the interview. It's a phrase that means you're tired, you're boring, sit down. It's a little firmer than some readers may grasp. I hear it a lot with "You must think I'm kin to Boo-Boo the Clown." Meaning you must think I'm an idiot. And to back Ty up, that crap happens all the time. But it wasn't just that it was getting world attention, it was that it was getting White attention. That woman obviously said what she said, which I'm not going to repeat because it's misinformation, and she only got worried much later, when the White press picked up on it, the Black press was already reporting her remarks on AIDS in this country well before she issued her denial. I caught the TV broadcast of that interview and felt she looked like the con man in the old movie with Carole Lombard. Where Lombard's Hazel but I can't think of the name of the movie.
C.I.: Nothing Sacred.
Cedric: Thank you. And I'm not just tossing out old movies I grew up watching, Nothing Sacred says a whole lot about today's press. And especially about today's independent media and their need to hype and hype as opposed to addressing reality. I wouldn't use the term "bitter" to describe Monica Benderman because she survived and I honestly don't feel, from the book, that she gives a damn about the media. But I would agree that she's either angry or hurt and wouldn't blame her for being either. As Elaine pointed out, this was her husband. And he was betrayed. There's no other term for it. That people wanted to promise support and not deliver goes to the nature of independent media and many organizations -- where they drop Iraq at a minutes notice and go rushing off like they think they are the Red Cross and must be first on the scene of the next disaster. And I'm going to toss to Kat. I know Ava, C.I. and Mike plan to speak on this.
Jim: Right. We didn't have time to iron this out and were even contemplating whether or not to do a book discussion. Kat said she'd address it and the other three said they would as well. Kat?
Kat: The excerpt Rebecca provided came the closest to that slogan none of us use -- it was created by a p.r. firm for the first Gulf War, as Noam Chomsky has noted, and created to silence dissent -- ever appearing at one of the community sites. Where Rebecca stopped was the talk of "brotherhood." Spare me the nonsense. Glorify your miltary somewhere else. I hated this book. I have no problem saying that. Every few pages, I'd perk up and then I'd come across another of her jabs -- and "bitter" is the word I'd use. In fact, forget Clarence Thomas and his need to grind an axe, this is the bitter book of the week. I've heard C.I. and Ava advise many war resisters about the press and underscore that you are never angry with the press, you never say that, you never indicate it. Someone may nod to your face but you might be referring to a friend of their's or they might run back and call the reporter to tell them. "You can be 'hurt' over the lack of coverage, but you are never 'angry'." That's what Ava and C.I. advise repeatedly. If Monica Benderman felt then the way she does now, no wonder people didn't show up. She's the most prickly personality to appear on the page this year. Nothing is ever good enough for her and she's prone to comparisons that just are incomparable.
Mike: I'll grab now. She's talking about how her husband is being court-martialed and facing prison for attempting to go through legal channels for a CO status, by the book. And her comments on AWOL really struck me as, "She'll lash out at anyone."
Kat: Those who enlisted and go AWOL are just not as strong as her husband, just not as good, just not as wonderful. Glad she loves her husband but when you're slamming someone for drug use or alcohol use at this late date, you've obviously missed the news about self-medicating or the news of the VA failures. It's equally true that she elevates CO's and the reality is that at least one CO organization repeatedly . . . offers? Is that the word? They can't legally advise. Tosses out that if you go AWOL you will be discharged. That's not necessarily reality and they need to update their information. But for someone who repeatedly whines that everyone in the peace movement has a script and expects you to stick to it, she sure is fond of creating her own script.
Ava: Of course, there is no equivalent between a grunt going AWOL and Sgt. Kevin Benderman. That's something that needs to be noted because we continue to see the lowest ranking punished while the officers walk free. She and her husband made clear to an alternative weekly in 2006 that they didn't care for Cindy Sheehan. It's obvious that Monica cares for very few people in the peace movement. When she's whining -- and I'll use the term -- about protests in DC and how it isn't fair, she demonstrates that while she can glorify the military she doesn't know the first thing about the Constitution.
C.I.: Ava's referring to Monica Benderman's claim that a "right to privacy" is being violated. There is no such Constitutional right to privacy. That claim doesn't legally exist. I'd refer people to Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy's The Right To Privacy which is a fairly straight foward book that won't leave them lost in legalese. Benderman comes off like Miss America in Bananas when she writes, "I think it is good for people to learn from different perspectives, but I do not believe we have the right to decide when and how that happens, except for ourselves, and I felt the public protests were geared toward demanding rather than teaching new perspectives." She then goes on, that's page 158, to explain her distaste for the DC protest taking place at the time because they were in "public arenas meant for the enjoyment of all people." She then, and this is basic Constitutional Law, first semester, fails to grasp the reasons for permits in regards to free speech. She thinks permits are good because "I also understood the need for obtaining a permit to protect the rights of those who did not want to hear the public statments." In the typical first semester excercise, students have to argue the pros and the cons of a KKK rally being permitted. Free speech is the issue. There is no Constitutional right that protects you from political speech, nor should there be. Political speech especially is guaranteed by the Constitution. And "I don't want to hear it" means you leave the public space, not that some "right to privacy" protects you from the world around you. Public spaces exist for the exchange of ideas. Page 159 contains this nonsense: "Shouting into bullhorns and microphones on a public mall, regardless of the positions being taken, sounded more like children throwing tantrums than anything else. If they couldn't get their way, the would yell loudly until someone acted, simply to get them to stop yelling." Monica Benderman, attempting to revive the sleep cure. Same page: "As I walked around our National Mall, I stopped at the reflecting pool and realized that no matter how far down the pathway I walked, I could still hear the assembled protesters demanding that their rights be respected." Oh, the tragedy.
Ava: It's nonsense. And it gets to the source of her problems with support from others, if you ask me. She's hiding behind the military repeatedly and, shortly after what C.I. was citing, she will make the absurd claim that the military is protecting our rights to free speech. What war in recent memory has been about protecting the rights of Americans? Can I get a list of that? Vietnam protected what rights? I don't worship the military. It's a job for those who want it. We heard that nonsense of 'protecting our rights' from Republicans and Joe Lieberman in November of 2000, that the military vote was more important than any other vote because they protect our rights. They're not protecting my rights. I don't believe the military has stopped the Bully Boy from illegally spying on us. I don't believe they went after Watch What You Say Ari. People, the people defend their rights. Quit glorifying the military. And spare me the Peggy Noonan type wonder of "brotherhood" in the distance. I guess we woman will never understand that. Sigh. It came off more honestly, as the demeaning nature its intended to be, when Dabney Coleman was repeating similar statements about sports in 9 to 5.
Kat: Agreed. I felt we needed to pair this book up with Susan Faludi's because I felt like I'd been pissed on after reading the Bendermans' book and had to pick up The Terror Dream as a way of cleansing myself. The book tells you: Peace will come . . . someday. I was reminded of Alice Walker's The Color Purple and meant to look up a quote. It's between Sopfia and Celie.
Jim: I'm surprised C.I. hasn't already provided it.
C.I.: I didn't know I was supposed to. Are you talking about when Celie runs to Harpo and Harpo beats up Sofia. Sofia comes to confront Celie?
C.I.: Celie's explaining that she does nothing when she gets beat. This is from memory, so don't quote me. "This life soon be over, I say. Heaven last all ways." That's Celie. This is the next sentence and it's Sofia: "You ought to bash Mr. _____ head open, she say. Think bout heaven later."
Kat: That's it! Thank you. I'm sorry I can't have the same sanguinity that Monica Benderman does where, if we all just show patience, the illegal war will end. And let's all watch our manners while we teach future generations and never raise our voices and realize that if we have a rally against the illegal war, we need to provide pro-war literature as well because that is, according to Monica Benderman, what free speech is all about.
Ava: And let's all be dainty and be the wife of. Let's all play Nancy Reagan, the woman behind the man. Let's write about different ways and how we don't think any are better but then explain how wrong those 'loud' people are, insisting the illegal war ends. I wanted to like this book, Kat did as well, but I didn't. The peace movement has made mistakes, no question. But silence isn't the answer or cocooning or any of the nonsense the book appeared to be recommending to me. I found myself wishing she'd write more about the feral cat and the chicken coop and stop commenting on the peace movement because, every time she did, she lost me. We're not on the same page. I wish we could be. Maybe as a Latina, who can trace back to a country that US has destroyed, I'm less inclined to overlook Monica Benderman's
ridiculous claim that the US military fights for the Constitutional rights of Americans. As my ancestors know the story, the US military oppresses and suppresses free speech in other countries, destroys buildings, destroys lives. And any time there's even a minor advance in the living conditions, it's time to send in the US military again. So spare me the fantasy that it's about freedoms. I seriously doubt this book could have an international audience because it is so blatantly offensive to the bulk of the world. The suggestion of 'quiet down' would also be laughed at in many countries because 'good little natives' quickly get mowed down by the US military might. If anyone's wondering, Monica Benderman handles the bulk of the storytelling in chapters one through five.
Jim: Betty had a point listed that we'll go to and then we'll probably wrap up with C.I. But anyone who wants to add something should feel free. Betty?
Betty: Mike points out that there are no visuals other than the cover. The cover photo had two people stop me at work to ask me if I was for the war? I don't care for the picture. Kevin looks fine in it, that's not the point. It's black and white and makes people think it's some sort of tie-in to the PBS documentary The War. But I did enjoy the use of lines on the inside flaps of the book jacket.
Jim: Sorry you had to wait for the visual. Anyone else before I go to C.I.? Okay.
C.I.: Monica Benderman, as Ava notes, tells the bulk of the story. She is angry and I won't say "hurt." There's anger on every page. That doesn't have to be a bad thing. Anger is often a valid emotion and if that's what fuels you, have at it. But she's not happy with the people who don't show support, she's not happy with the people who do. She refers to children's drawings sent in at one point and, had adults sent them in, she'd probably be criticizing them because they are often similar to things she criticizes in adults. I did find it sad that the children did not all get a response. When I first got a service, years ago, to handle my mail, I made a big deal about the fact that children should always get some reply -- no matter how generic. A child sends something off to a stranger and gets no response, they don't know if it was received. I understand postage can be expensive but I also grasp that if a child sits down to draw you a picture, that meant something to them and that's before they either address an envelope themselves or they ask their parents to address it for them. From their perspective, it's sent off and it's going to make the person it reaches so happy. When they hear nothing in reply it does hurt.
Rebecca: I'm jumping in to stress that is not a minor thing with C.I. With children C.I. knows, if they 'write' a letter which may be a few letters or may be all scribbles, they get a 'letter' back which is either pictures pasted to a page or drawings on a page. I'll also share that when my sister got a divorce in the 90s, her four-year-old daughter was written off by her aunt -- my sister's then ex-husband -- and crying all the time. C.I. had heard about me from me and during a visit when my sister and her daughter showed up, C.I. pretended they -- C.I. and my niece -- were e-mailing the witch. My niece really thought they were. C.I. pretends they got an e-mail back and reads it to her which is the witch 'confessing' that she's just a mean person who cares more about dogs than people. If you knew the woman, you'd get that. My sister and I were listening to 'the e-mail' C.I. was making up on the spot. After C.I. was done, my niece said, "I don't like Aunt ___ anymore." She didn't cry about her or ask about her anymore. It gave her closure. The father, my niece's father, was only slightly better, and my sister would say for years, obviously the niece is now a young woman, that she wished C.I. had also included an 'e-mail' from the father. Just FYI, that woman was a witch, the aunt.
C.I.: Just to explain on that, the woman was a witch. And she was living with Rebecca's sister while the sister was married. Do we want to go into that whole backstory about the witch's divorce and how, prior to it, she made her husband jerk off from across the room when he wanted sex? No? Didn't think so. But she was just an awful, awful person and I would hear these stories from Rebecca all the time, and sometimes from Rebecca's sister because it was a big deal. The little girl was four-years-old, the aunt had lived with them for two years, including sharing the child's room when the aunt insisted her's be redecorated. And the niece thought they were friends and really close but the aunt was just evil. I don't use that word often but when it comes to the way the child was being treated, it was evil. And I will never believe the child's hand getting slammed in a bedroom door, so the aunt could speak privately on the phone, was an accident, or that she couldn't hear the child crying outside the door.
Rebecca: I had forgotten that! We were visiting my sister and had played dolls with her daughter for a couple of hours, then it was time for lunch and we all go to the kitchen. Which is where the aunt was and the aunt storms off down the hall with my niece following her. We're fixing lunch when we hear these blood curling screams and go running through the house. Her poor little hand. There's is no way that witch didn't hear that. And then when my sister was banging on the door to find out what happened, she opens the door and says, "I'm on the phone!" C.I. jerked the phone out of her hand, tossed it across the room and said, "You're off now. Apologize."
C.I.: So, back to the book, should you read it? I think some people will disagree with many of Monica Benderman's statements. Some will agree with them. As Ava's pointed out, appeal outside the US will be limited because not everyone sees the US military the way Monica Benderman does. That's not a minor point that Ava's making. Kat read it before I did. I read it last of anyone, I think, on the plane ride back yesterday. I'd only read the preface and the intro before the plane ride. And I'd told Kat I'd support her right to say what she wanted. Early on, I found a few things that I rolled my eyes at and then a few more and then I understood exactly why Kat didn't like the book. I disagree nearly 100% with what Monica Benderman's asserting but read it and weigh it for yourself. She may be right. She is completely wrong on the issue of right to privacy and I won't pretend she could be right about that because everyone I know from Constitutional Law would laugh in my face. That's not a matter of differing opinions, that's not knowing -- not "misreading," it's not knowing -- the law. The glorification of the 'brotherhood' suprised me coming from her and I felt I was watching a Ron Howard movie where the men are in the foreground bathed in that soft glow and the women are smiling serenely in the background as they watch 'their men.' She has a strong voice and she can strike some as abrasive. That's fine with me. It doesn't bother me in the least. I wish I could say, "I loved this book." I really do. But the more I read, the more I got Kat's point. Monica Benderman's point throughout the book, for all the 'everyone has their view' and their right to it -- which I do agree with, is that those not 100% on board were wrong. They were wrong if they voiced that others should follow Kevin Benderman's example. They were wrong if they found other ways to resist. They were wrong if they shouted at a rally.
Jim: And on that last point, we've been too enough of them to really appreicate the shouters. I think it was in the DC last month, the A.N.S.W.E.R. one where the sound was cutting in and out.
Rebecca: Right. I didn't even realize Ramsey Clark was speaking until after when I asked C.I.
Jess: And as Amy Goodman has pointed out, people wouldn't be outside shouting if they were invited in. Comparing participants at a rally to children is just offensive. I'm sorry, it's offensive. I want to be really clear on something, this is a book discussion, it's not your insta-summary. Anyone wondering, "Where is Kevin Benderman?" should grasp that though the credit is "Sgt. Kevin Benderman with Monica Benderman" it's Monica telling the story. If it weren't for the letters in chapter six, I don't know how they'd get away with that billing. Throughout the court-martial, for example, it's repeatedly Monica telling you what happened, what Kevin says happened, what the lawyers said happened. And if you're wondering why we're not going through his entire court-martial it's because we don't want an e-mail telling us, "You got that wrong! It was day two! And the outfit wasn't brown, it was light brown!"
Ava: I'm grabbing Jess' point. If a war resister wants their story told, we tell it the way they do. I did not appreciate a lecture on Agustin Aguayo's case in an e-mail I heard of. I immediately checked to see if there was a problem with the way we were telling it, I'm referring to the facts, there was no problem. If we're supporting someone and sticking to their legal defense, it's not the wife of another war resister's business and she needs to butt the hell out. No one is going to tell Kevin's story due to that e-mail. We don't want to hear, as Jess is pointing out, "No, no, it was the second day." And the law that was cited in that e-mail, C.I. checked with three military lawyers, was the e-mailer's understanding of it and not the actual way the law works. I would never intentionally say anything that could hurt Agustin, Helga or their children and I did not appreciate someone who knew nothing about the Aguyao's case insisting that something was wrong when it wasn't wrong and no one asked her for an opinion to begin with. As a result of that e-mail, no one wants to cover details of the book. There was a sense of ay-yi-yi when we came to this book. And we were all hoping to have something to say about it nice. At one point, there was the attitude that we could 'pan for gold'. In addition, I deleted an e-mail last week because I knew C.I. wouldn't want to read it since the book was being discussed and I also think "abrasive" is a mild term when you're telling someone that, basically, they aren't as stupid as you thought they were.
C.I.: I know nothing about that e-mail.
Ava: I'll fill you in later. For the record, if we're reviewing a book and C.I. hears from the author ahead of time, C.I.'s not going to participate in the discussion. That's happened repeatedly. Jess or I will usually put those e-mails into a folder that C.I. won't get to for a bit. I've followed the same pattern and have excused myself from discussions on books I've been in communication with the author or authors of. And that should be noted because that may be another reason, if it's Jess, C.I. or myself, we don't comment on a book. But to be really clear, I do not want to hear criticism on the Aguyao coverage from anyone whose last name is not Aguayo. Your opinion that on the law is useless to me because you're not an attorney. And the point you were insisting be made, the clarification, was checked with attorneys who shot it down. Go get your law degree, sign up for classes with Jess, and then you can come tell us how wrong everyone else is but you know the UCMJ. No one hear hates Kevin Benderman or Monica Benderman but when that article appeared in the regional weekly where they were sneering at Cindy Sheehan, we did ask, "Are we ever going to mention them again?" I'm sorry Cindy Sheehan is not your type of people, don't write any of us again. I don't want to come across an e-mail, I don't want to hear about one. Monica Benderman will not be satisifed with anything that appears that she herself doesn't write. I doubt seriously any of us will cover Kevin Benderman as a result and, speaking to two reporters on Friday who covered the case when it was news, told me that was the general consensus: no one needs or wants the hassle. Yes, people need to keep their promises. Elaine asked, when she learned of the book, that we make it a discussion and we promised we would and have kept that promise. It got to the point that we almost didn't do an edition as a result because we are all so down on the book. Elaine may not be. I think she was shocked by some of pre-discussion talk. I love Elaine and I apologize if this causes her any pain, she grabbed Kevin Benderman as a topic in the summer of 2005. C.I. was mentioning it but not covering in depth because there were other topics and because we kept hearing from reporters and editors, "The wife is never satisified with anything that's written." I understand why that is now and, again, checked with two reporters on Friday who had covered the events in real time, to go over it in detail. I also understand why some who promised support and didn't provide it may have felt exhausted when the time rolled around. That doesn't excuse breaking a promise. But it is to say that, along with a lack of coverage sending a message, when you're someone who is seen as combative with the press you need, you're not doing a smart thing. And just as lack of coverage sends a bad message to those who might resist, outbursts and constant disagreements send a message to the press that it's just not worth it to cover you. Again, if Helga or Agustin Aguayo, or their twin daughters, has a problem with anything written about Agustin -- community wide -- they can let me know. I neither need nor want a critique of it from Monica Benderman who is not an attorney.
Kat: I would just add that "The Whole World Is Wrong But I Am Right" is offensive. I have no idea why this book was written other than as a purge. Kevin Benderman rarely tells his story, chapter six is letters I believe we had all read in real time. I live in the Bay Area, we have a protest and a rally and a parade every week, if not more often. If I'm interested in the issue, I'll participate or listen. If I'm not, I go about my business. I never think, and I live along a parade route, "Oh, they're too loud! The public space! The public space!" I don't care that in the midst of a rally, Monica Benderman's not able to enjoy a reflecting pool. I don't care that the "noise" offended her sensibilities. Stay at the chicken coop and away from rallies, one she was attending but apparently couldn't take all the loudness, if you're so offended by "noise." I'm sorry to Elaine because I know she really wanted this to be a rave and had since she first learned of it. And I'm sorry because, before we started, Jim had said, "Well let C.I. do one of those pep talk endings and go out on that." But I can't stay silent. I think I could read a book by Rush Limbaugh and be less offended. Naming names would have been brave and made for a tell all book. It wouldn't have changed the tone but people could read it and ask each other, "Can you believe she said that about ____?" It could have been a Barbara Howar type book. As it is, without the names being named, it's a rage-all and not a tell-all and her targets are everyone -- peace activists, war resister -- who did not take the same road as her husband. For all her own lip-service to valuing different means and ways, she constantly undercuts that with her cheap shots at those who go AWOL and others. The notion that all sides should be presented as a rally shows extreme ignorance of why rallies take place to begin with. Rallies are held to enlarge understanding. They aren't about, "Here's the talking point you hear all the time in the mainstream and we need to include it because that's fair." By that logic, a table at a rally for Palestinian rights should include literature from AIPAC. Let's watch the riot break out the day that happens. She fought for her husband and I'll credit her for that. But I don't see any real talk of peace, reflecting poool or not. I see glory, glory US military. I see sexist crap about the "brotherhood." I see a complete lack of comprehension on why a court-martial has a civilian attorney to begin with. I see a lack of comprehension throughout. The only audience for this book is women whose husbands are in the military and they love, love, love the military. Maybe a few in the brass are bad apples, but they are "good people," to use her term. And all the US military does is fight to protect freedom of speech. It's like a book length version of Laura Bush's pre-Afghanistan War speech. From her commentaries at CounterPunch, I thought she was a strong, assertive woman but, reading the book, I found a woman quick to hide behind the military and glorify it. I don't hide behind anyone, I speak out as a person living in a democracy and I will not apologize for speakers who use microphones or bull horns, or for speakers who use loud voices. There's a reason you hear "Use your indoor voice" but I don't know anyone who says that outside. Nothing I will ever do or say will be good enough for Monica Benderman because, at the end of the day, I am not Monica Benderman and, if you're not her, despite the lip-service to different ways, she thinks you're wrong. This is the most off-putting book and could have been published by The National Review. The take-away is, "If you don't like the war, just speak softly and remember the other side has to speak to." The other side has had the media's ear since before the illegal war started. I went through a mental check list of what events I'd attended that would recieve Monica Benderman's Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. CODEPINK? Forget it. They'd be judged "loud." The DC rally last month? I think Adam [Kokesh] would qualify as loud. Tina Richards would get a tsk-tsk. Maybe a silent, candle light vigil would get the seal but nothing else. And let's be real honest, those rip-offs of death row protests fail to grasp that the whole point of those vigils is mourning. The rallies to stop the execution have already taken place. It's basically over and everyone participating -- and most of us in this have participated -- are there to mourn, not stop. Only someone just off the bus is going to think a candle light vigil is going to stop anything. At a time when most of the peace movement has grasped the need for mass resistance, Monica Benderman shows up with her Miss Manners book on etiquette.
Jim: Kat's stopped, I'm not interrupting her. I want to note that because while Ava was speaking, Dona passed me a note that said, "We went past the hour mark two hours ago. We need to stop. This is going to be a major edit and the part on children stays in." So that's the discussion. Read the book yourself and form your own opinion. It joins Aidan Delgado's The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq, Camilo Mejia's Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia and Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale on the shelves all three of which we recommend and we also recommend Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq from 2006. C.I. wrap up.
C.I.: If the point of the book was to rail against a press and organizations that Monica Benderman does not feel are doing enough, that would be something many people could get behind and the book would be extremely popular on campuses. But that kind of railing requires a call to action and there is none in this book. Instead, readers are left with the impression that the movement needs healing and a guru has stepped forward to do so with later beatitudes to follow. While psycho-babble is a mainstay on the bestseller list, decade after decade, you generally have to tell the readers they are "good" and an outside force has led them astray. Readers will be left with the impression that the authors are saved and everyone else is dirty. Only the Bendermans have been spared "original sin" and it's been a huge struggle to maintain that status in a world populated with the "great evil" of people who attempted to help them. The stand Kevin Benderman took was a personal stand and the book divorces it from all social and political dynamics leaving it only a personal stand. Follow the guru, that would be Monica Benderman, and, in a lifetime, the world will be a better place. Dead and dying Iraqis? They're not a concern of the personal mission. Issues involving the inherent problems of a standing military -- large or at all -- aren't a concern. The legality of events either revolves around Kevin Benderman's case and only his case or it's ignored except for "right to privacy" for which a legal definition with no Constitutional backing is created on a whim. The book reminds me of several aquaintences, one in particular, in fact. Regardless of the issue, povery, war, year after year she makes a point to express her "gratitude" to those she knows who work on the "physical issues" while she is on "an interior journey to understanding" which others would call navel gazing as she moves from faith to faith, marriage to marriage and some of the worst plastic surgery in California. That's what this book reminds me of, an attempt to shore up the exterior to distract from a hollow interior. The book could have used an active editor or a ghost writer. Monica Benderman has not been a part of the peace movement because she doesn't want to be part of it. I don't remember when the book stops but the complaints about the involvement continue to this day and I got an earful over the summer. When there's no one you can work with either you are so far ahead of the rest of humanity that it will take time for the rest of us to catch up with you or your problem is that you want the spotlight but having nothing to offer when it hits you. The funniest story I heard involved comparing it to Lucy Riccardo's repeated attempts to break into show biz. Ava and I laughed at that and other stories and only shared them with Jess and Ty but Monica Benderman's elected to make it public with her book. That's not my problem, that's not Elaine's problem. You write a book, people evaluate it. Books have greater weight than magazines, newspapers or speeches. This isn't a book about ending the illegal war, it's not a book about peace, it's not a call to action. It is a cry of inaction. The book doubles back on itself repeatedly whether it's in the claim of the need to respect all points of view -- which I don't agree with, I do agree everyone has a right to speak --only to slam those who would not put Monica Benderman in charge of the peace movement or to claim the need for truth to the people only to turn around and claim that ideas and strategies need to be road tested as if the peace movement were a bake off. It's real simple, the Iraq War is illegal and it was wrong from the start and built on lies. Anyone who can't express those sentiments really isn't part of the peace movement.