Concerning the case against
LTC Allen B. West
4th Infantry Division, Iraq
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The Col. West Hatchet Job
Letter to the Editor, The Washington Times, 11/22/03

It's hardly a sensible debate anymore. No military officer, active or retired and abundantly familiar with the UCMJ, can bring themselves even to pretend that Article 128 "Assault" has any bearing, relevancy, or appropriate context to a combat zone environment. Yet, Lt. Col. Allen B. West has seen his 20-year career go down the tubes over that very silliness.

I'll go out on a limb here and speculate a bit, just to ramp up the screech of the politically correct contingent.

Col. West is not being put through this ordeal because any ranking officer in his chain of command believes that he actually did anything "unlawful" (a key word in itself in Article 128) by using the scare tactics he did to gain the vital military intelligence that, especially in retrospect, proved to be quite surely life-saving for any of the 700 troops in the good colonel's regiment. But in acquiring that vital intelligence, Col. West committed a breach of etiquette far more heinous than scaring a terrorist.

He upstaged two women.

How much of a drama (or perhaps soap opera) writer does one have to be to imagine the scenario that very well could be at the core of Col. West's problems? Two "professionally trained woman interrogators" [Neal Puckett, Col. West's attorney] had worked on that same Iraqi policeman for "hours and hours" with zero intel to show for it. From all indications, Col. West was summoned to the place of interrogation by the two frustrated interrogators. It is also reported that two soldiers accompanied Col. West and that the two (apparently male) soldiers "aggressed" the detainee to some degree, still with no useful results.

That's when Col. West grabbed the Iraqi by the neck, hauled his arse outside, told him he was going to cap him if he didn't talk, and then fired his pistol, once into the air and once into the clearing barrel. The Iraqi spilled his guts, giving up the next day's plan of attack and the names of three accomplices. Two were subsequently arrested, the third fleeing town -- but there was NO attack on Col. West's troops the following day nor any day considered relevant to the players and plans Col. West learned about by employing that perfectly sensible and effective combat tactic.

Oh, but hell hath no fury. Consider. Two "professionally trained interrogators" working at the pinnacle of their profession -- in the field, in a combat zone. This is/was their proving ground, and they'd failed miserably. In all fairness, it's political correctness once again that is the culprit, even to the detriment of the two women interrogatrixes. What in the name of common sense was the Pentagon thinking, having Western women try to interrogate Islamic men? Do they know nothing of that culture? Those two women interrogators, no matter how professionally trained, were doomed to failure going in. Ah, but PC can't allow that sort of sensibility.

So, here you have what are surely two thoroughly frustrated female interrogators at their wit's end who call up their CO, Col. West, and report that the detainee won't talk. And within minutes, MINUTES, Col. West has extracted the life-saving military intelligence. All should have lived happily ever after -- all, but for the fury of two women scorned.

It is further reported that Col. West immediately reported the incident, detailing his actions without reservation, to his superiors. A report was filed and that was it, so it seemed. That was on 20 August. Not a peep, until a surprise "Command-Climate Investigation" (CCI) rolls in on Col. West's Brigade.

A CCI is not common in a combat zone unless there is a strong reason to suspect a command-and-control problem, a loose cannon personality in command, etc. In short, much like a visit from the Inspector General's office, a CCI is most likely convened as result of an official complaint. Your turn to speculate who might have filed it.

So, in mid-to-late October, we see Staff Judge Advocate (attorneys) pouring through records, and lo, they just happen to encounter the report filed by Col. West on the "interrogation incident." The attorneys screech on cue that something must be done, and Gen. Odierno caves in and orders his legal staff to offer Col. West a "broken sword" option.

Get booted out of the Army, kissing off a exemplary 19-year career and forfeit ALL retirement benefits, or face a Article 32 investigation, possible court-martial, and up to 8 years hardtime if convicted. And all this just a week or so short of Col. West turning 20 years in service.

True to his character, Col. West stands tall, declines the broken sword, and has been subjected to the Article 32 hearing. Word about the presiding officer's recommendation to Gen. Odierno -- proceed to court-martial, issue a lesser non-judicial punishment, or drop the whole case -- is still pending.

If you don't catch a whiff of something extraordinarily rotten in all that, either you or I have been watching too many soap operas. Regardless what the Article 32 presiding officer recommends, every military veteran who knows the smell of cordite knows precisely what Maj. Gen. Odierno should do -- prior to falling on his own sword for allowing political correctness to taint the prosecution of this war at all.

PC has already claimed the distinguished military career of a good man with the leadership qualities that make the pencil-necked military "managers" who rank him go pale in their relevant inadequacy.

If these speculations as to how all this came about bears any relationship to the actual truth of the matter, it would only be right, military justice, that it should claim the career/s of whoever instigated, and allowed, this lynching to get this far in the first place.

Steve Harrison
Charleston, IL, USA
22 November, 2003


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