Monday, November 28, 2005

Dying of shame in Iraq

It occasionally happens that two stories will crop up, unrelated except in the conclusions one may draw from them.

From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — One hot, dusty day in June, Col. Ted Westhusing was found dead in a trailer at a military base near the Baghdad airport, a single gunshot wound to the head.

The Army would conclude that he committed suicide with his service pistol. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.

The Army closed its case. But the questions surrounding Westhusing's death continue.

Westhusing, 44, was no ordinary officer. He was one of the Army's leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students. He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor.

So it was only natural that Westhusing acted when he learned of possible corruption by U.S. contractors in Iraq. A few weeks before he died, Westhusing received an anonymous complaint that a private security company he oversaw had cheated the U.S. government and committed human rights violations. Westhusing confronted the contractor and reported the concerns to superiors, who launched an investigation.

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military. [Emphasis mine-SK]

One of the more shameful aspects of an occupation that is rife with such, is the continued effort to privatize the war effort. In an effort to further enrich his Halliburton cronies Pres, er "Vice"-President Cheney has seen to it that an increasing number of functions once performed by the uniformed military, (and at substantially lower cost my conservative friends) are now performed by people and companies whose main motive is money, not duty or honor.

And this discrepancy in motivation (putting aside for the moment any tin foil hat type conspiracies) may well be what killed Col. Westhusing:

After a three-month inquiry, investigators declared Westhusing's death a suicide. A test showed gunpowder residue on his hands. A shell casing in the room bore markings indicating it had been fired from his service revolver.

Then there was the note.

Investigators found it lying on Westhusing's bed. The handwriting matched his.

The first part of the four-page letter lashes out at Petraeus and Fil. Both men later told investigators that they had not criticized Westhusing or heard negative comments from him. An Army review undertaken after Westhusing's death was complimentary of the command climate under the two men, a U.S. military official said.

Most of the letter is a wrenching account of a struggle for honor in a strange land.

"I cannot support a msn [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars. I am sullied," it says. "I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored.

"Death before being dishonored any more."

A psychologist reviewed Westhusing's e-mails and interviewed colleagues. She concluded that the anonymous letter had been the "most difficult and probably most painful stressor."

She said that Westhusing had placed too much pressure on himself to succeed and that he was unusually rigid in his thinking. Westhusing struggled with the idea that monetary values could outweigh moral ones in war. This, she said, was a flaw.

"Despite his intelligence, his ability to grasp the idea that profit is an important goal for people working in the private sector was surprisingly limited,"
wrote Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach. "He could not shift his mind-set from the military notion of completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for businesses." [Emphasis mine-SK

Yes, the poor fool, thinking that in war, things like honor, integrity, duty, discipline and sacrifice are more important than money.

In the second unrelated related story, here's a fine example of people who would never be so naïve.

From Crooks and Liars via Hunter:
"A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis."

Well, I guess there's one bright spot. This is just the sort of behavior that is so effectively uniting Iraqis… in their desire to get rid of us.

And though I don't suggest we should follow the Colonel's example and die of shame, should it not yet impel us to somewhat less drastic measures?

Hunter's Diary at Daily Kos.
Crooks and Liars has the video here.

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