The Case For LTC West - Update 6
Monday, December 01, 2003
The Washington Post has an update of LTC West's case and includes some information from those who have prosecuted military cases in the past:
...Following a preliminary hearing in mid-November in Tikrit, West now awaits a decision by Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division in central Iraq, on whether the Army will court-martial him for aggravated assault and communicating a threat, impose a lesser administrative sanction or dismiss the matter. If convicted at court-martial, West could face eight years in prison.
"The Army has to deal with this," one official said. "They cannot walk away from somebody who fundamentally breaks the rules like this. The American Army on the battlefield carries the values of the American people, and one of those values is we do not abuse our enemy."
Even more disturbing than West's decision to fire his pistol near the head of the Iraqi detainee, the official said, was West's admission during the preliminary hearing that, before firing his pistol, he watched as his soldiers beat the Iraqi in an attempt to get him to talk.
Given that level of "abuse," the official said, "the leadership will have to take some kind of action. I'm not [necessarily] suggesting a court-martial, but they'll have to take some kind of action."
"From a moral and ethical standpoint," another official said, "the U.S. Army can never allow such purported behavior. As horrific as war is, we cannot go down that slippery slope. Everything that we stand for as an Army and a nation would be undermined."
West, relieved of his command, said during his preliminary hearing, known as an Article 32 hearing under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, that he had used poor judgment in seeking to intimidate the detainee, an Iraqi police officer said by an informant to have information about a planned sniper attack on West's troops.
...Retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey said West's admission that he had allowed his troops to punch the detainee was more serious than West's firing his pistol near the detainee's head. "You can't physically maltreat prisoners, and we can't have our officer corps tolerating that," he said. Gary Solis, a former Marine judge advocate who now teaches the law of war as an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School, said: "Were West's actions unlawful? Yes. Clearly." But he also said: "Were West's actions wrong? Not the same question, and a harder question, but, yes, his actions were wrong."By the way, LTC West spent Thanksgiving day by running a 10K and serving Turkey to the troops.
He said West's actions warranted punishment, but "not by court-martial. Not by incurring a federal conviction and perhaps losing retirement benefits he's spent an honorable career earning. I would recommend nonjudicial punishment, what Marines call a commanding general's mast, a financial fine and a career-ending written reprimand."
One senior Army official agreed that a court-martial may not be warranted once all the facts are considered. But second-guessing by members of Congress at this point in the process, the official said, is "unfortunate."
"A key part is, what was in the mind of the leader?" the official said. "Did he exercise reasonable judgment? Did he overreact? What is his reputation? Ten people would probably have 10 answers. Only his chain of command is responsible and accountable for his actions. They need facts to make a proper decision. Just as I wouldn't judge the officer, I wouldn't judge the chain of command -- not without facts."
Blackfive Prediction: LTC West will be given a reprimand (and has already been relieved of command). This will virtually end his career and he will be able to retire as a LTC with 20 years of service.
The Case For LTC West: Part 8, Part 7, Update 6, Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2, Part 1.