The Case for LTC West - Update 7
Thursday, December 04, 2003
The National Review Online just produced the absolute best, most comprehensive run-down of the case against LTC West and also publishes some previously unkown information. Here is a bit from it:
...No army can fight and win if the officers don't have the trust of their troops. Col. Kevin Stramara, West's boss — who didn't ever see sufficient import in what West told him the night of the incident to report it — testified at the Article 32 hearing. With about a dozen of his troops listening, Stramara was asked, "If you had to choose between following the rules and saving American lives, which would you choose?" His answer: "I don't know. I'd have to have some more details." While Stramara looks for those details, his men know their lives may be lost. His instinct is to cover his butt, not to save his troops. Of course the ends don't justify the means, but to crucify Allen West and leave Stramara in command will damage whatever trust the troops of the Fourth I.D. have for their commanders. Ask yourself: Would you like your 19-year-old son serving on a battlefield under this man? Or under the generals who trust his judgment more than Allen West's?Go check out the whole article.
As West awaits the Article 32 results, there is a growing problem of clouded standards. It's no use to simply tell the troops that you have to follow the Geneva Conventions. They are, by necessity, in broad terms. Torture and abuse are outlawed. But does slapping a man or frightening him by discharging a pistol near him violate the Conventions? Hardly. Of the many e-mails I've received about this case — mostly from Marines — the question raised is almost always, "Why are they prosecuting this man?" Why, indeed.
It would be a great mistake to believe that the army's action on this case will be unimportant. The troops are following it closely, and the decision on whether West is court martialed will reverberate throughout the force. The community of warriors is both close and tight, and very well informed. They talk about these things, and take them to heart. I described the facts of the West case to a couple of the active-duty warriors I know, and their reaction was the same. They told me that court martialing West will damage the trust the troops place in their commanders. One went so far as to say, "They'll wonder what the hell Odierno is smoking."
We must keep faith with the troops by holding them to clear standards, and punishing those who violate them with judgment and consistency. Allen West is neither a hero nor a war criminal. Reprimand and retire him, and then rid the command of those who really made this mess: those who are more concerned with their image than with the loyalty they must show to their troops.
Several people, who emailed support to LTC West, have sent me the email replies from LTC West. Essentially, he doesn't want to be treated like a thug or criminal, he doesn't want to go to jail, he doesn't harbor resentment towards his detractors, and he just wants to be able to retire with dignity. If you haven't sent him a supportive email, think about doing so now. Go to Update 2 for the email address.
The Case For LTC West: Part 8, Part 7, Update 6, Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2, Part 1.