The Nuclear Resister. September, 26, 2014
A single mother and Iraq war veteran is in jail in Colorado Springs. Sara Beining went AWOL a second time last summer after a nearly year-long delay in resolving the original charge that resulted when she left her unit at Ft. Hood in January, 2007.
Just over one year ago, September 14, 2013, Beining was stopped for a traffic offense and held on an outstanding military warrant, more than six years after she and her newlywed husband had together walked away from war service. She was briefly jailed, then given a plane ticket and orders to report back to Fort Carson, Colorado, where, she said, “I tried for another year to play the game” and be quietly processed out of the army as many other recent military refusers have been.
But in her absence without leave, Beining had given birth to a daughter in September, 2008 and become an outspoken opponent of war.
She and her husband were later divorced, and in 2010 he was arrested for going AWOL, held three months at Fort Carson, and then discharged. At the time of Sara Beining’s arrest, she was serving as secretary on the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
During her past year at Fort Carson, Beining was assigned office duty and lived off-base, but was repeatedly threatened with pre-trial confinement and loss of custody of her child as a consequence of her anti-war activity. Progress on her case was only stalled. As the summer wore on, and the U.S. resumed aerial bombardment of Iraq, Beining could no longer abide her service nor the delay. She decided to go AWOL again, to speak out publicly against the war, and force the government’s hand in her case.
Beining left her assignment in July and headed to Portland, Oregon. In Portland she gave an interview that aired August 15 on Veteran’s Voice, a KBOO-FM community radio public affairs program. She was arrested in Portland on August 27, taken into custody on the military warrant, and returned to the El Paso County Jail.
In the radio interview, Beining described a positive, formative experience in JROTC, her chosen alternative to gym class in high school. Her 2004 enlistment at age 17 grew from a desire to serve and to experience more of the tight, family-like bond nurtured among her friends by the charismatic commander of the JROTC program.
But her service in Army intelligence in Iraq from December, 2005 through November, 2006 left her with serious doubts that it was even possible to uphold the values she vowed to support when she joined the army. She compiled daily casualty reports and reviewed video surveillance of combat in Baghdad, repeatedly witnessing death and carnage but powerless to help in any way.
“We did this oath, to swear to ‘uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” she told listeners. “And the longer I was in Iraq, the more I realized that we weren’t really doing anything to defend our own constitution. I was in intelligence. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The worst that was happening there for weapons was the depleted uranium in southern Iraq. Most Iraqi women gave birth to children, and the first thing people would ask is, ‘Is it normal?’ because there were so many birth defects due to depleted uranium. So many soldiers have symptoms of radiation poisoning and sickness. We weren’t helping our country over there, without a doubt.”
This past summer, watching the news from Iraq and seeing the affects of militarism across the globe coming home to roost in places like Ferguson, Missouri, Beining came to the conclusion, “I can’t be a part of that. As sad as it is, the world’s reinforcing my decision.”