One of the interesting — and completely unexpected — outcomes from my essay on Pat Tillman was all the information I received about other suspect occurrences in Iraq. As anyone who has read my pieces can attest, I'm not one to be bashful in my open distrust of the state in general, and by extension, any group fundamentally enabled by the state, such as the military. That said, and even though it might be called, "old news" at this point in time, the case of Colonel Theodore u2018Ted' S. Westhusing still caught me by surprise.
As a recovering TV-holic, I've seen more than my share of weird who-dunits involving convenient suicide notes, disputed testimony, and obvious cover-ups. This case is just screaming for a visit from the criminologists from one of the 7 or 8 CSI television shows. (Horatio Caine in Iraq just seems to fit. Hell, he's already driving a Hummer and he wears sunglasses all the time, apparently in homage to George Clinton and Parliament. Make my funk the P-Funk!) Caine (David Caruso) is probably better outfitted than a few of our fighting men anyway.
The amount of reporting about Westhusing's death is both hard-hitting and plentiful. I offer a smattering below, with commentary on the more general topic of liberty (in some cases), just to set the table for what I will say later. As we are now caught in the afterglow of the Army's official statements about Pat Tillman's death, including an admission that he died in a fratricide, it seems germane to examine not just the Tillman case or the Westhusing case individually, but the larger matter of why these obviously needless deaths will continue to happen.
All emphasis shown below is mine.
- For God, Country, and Profit? — posted on "The Cud" website:
"Westhusing's credentials as an officer were impeccable. As well as considerable operations and administrative experience within the Army, he held a doctorate in philosophy and was an instructor at West Point in English, philosophy and, most importantly given what he would later claim to have encountered in Iraq, ethics."
"Westhusing volunteered to go to the war in the autumn of 2004, feeling, as Miller outlined, that it would help better serve the teaching of his cadets, and he took over the administration of an aspect of the United States' ongoing training of the Iraqi security forces. More specifically, he was in charge of the oversight of a large American security company, USIS of Virginia, who (sic) had been contracted to carry out the actual training."
- Military Ethicist’s Suicide in Iraq Raises Questions — posted at NPR website (audio):
From the audio, T. Christian Miller of the Los Angeles Times says, "It was evident from my reporting that ethics and morality were very important to him." (Note: The Cud article above provides a poor man's transcript of this interview with Miller.)
- Return of the Mercenaries — posted at the "Jamaica Gleaner" website:
"However, the enlistment of private firms in Iraq represents one of the most ambitious and possibly disturbing — developments in post Cold-War conflict. For the U.S. administration, private armies offer advantages. Their casualties are not generally reported in the U.S. death toll, which reduces the political fallout of war. Equally, because they are not governed by military rules, they can be used for ‘dirty deeds.’ Not surprisingly, private security firms showed up in the investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal."
- A War About Nothing — posted at the John Birch Society website:
"Separated from his family by thousands of miles, living in a moral universe he couldn’t understand, Colonel Westhusing took his own life. He held the gun, but it was the Bush regime, acting on behalf of the amoral Power Elite that it serves, that pulled the trigger. And the regime’s enablers (yes that includes you, Hannity) served as accessories in the death of Colonel Westhusing."
- Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide — posted at the Bella Ciao website:
"Westhusing was very highly educated, holding an incredible three separate doctorate degrees. His degrees were in philosophy, Russian and military strategy. I do not think I have ever heard of any American getting three doctorates before!"
"Articles about Ted's unbelievable achievements, transcripts of his talks and presentations, and articles about him in general are here. Ted served as a consultant for the Discovery Channel's program on the Greek Trojan Horse. He also consulted on the movie u2018Troy'."
- Wishful Thinking Promoted, Truth Jailed — posted by Karen Kwiatkowski here on LRC:
"The Army looked into the allegations of corruption that had been of noticeable concern to Colonel Westhusing, and (surprise!) found nothing to write home about. A government official (speaking anonymously!) had this to say, “As is typical, there may be a wisp of truth in each of the allegations.” A wisp of truth, but not enough, never ever enough, to change what we are doing, of course."
- Hoppe on War, Terrorism, and the World State — posted at Le Quebecois Libre (and written before the war with Iraq was launched):
"Iraq (and Saddam Hussein) is no worse and no greater danger than many, many other places. It has apparently committed no foreign aggression and its alleged Al Qaeda connection is mere say-so. A war against Iraq would thus be a purely preemptive strike and hence set an extremely dangerous precedent. In light of this, it is difficult to dismiss the suspicion that in both the war against the Taliban and against Saddam Hussein matters of pipeline and oil concessions (rather than humanitarian concerns) actually play(ed) a dominant role."
"Indeed, one may even ask if it is not the U.S. (and Bush) that constitutes the greatest danger to world peace. The U.S. commands more weapons of mass destruction than anyone else, they have not hesitated to gas their own population (in Waco), they engage in economic embargoes (against Cuba as well as Iraq) which harm especially the civilian population and which, because of this, have been traditionally considered particularly shameful forms of war, and spurred on by the neoconservatives and evangelic fundamentalist the U.S. is driven by an almost religious — and self-righteous — zeal to make the old Wilsonian dream come true and make the world safe for democracy."
What Is Obvious
One doesn't need to dig too deeply into any of the information linked above to deduce a few things. In fact, a few things should be pretty obvious to almost anyone.
- The likelihood of winning the war in Iraq is low, at best. Given the lack of threat posed by Saddam before the attacks, the fact that we are now mortally locked in a war with no obvious end in sight is the clearest example of the insanity of an all-powerful state that one can possibly find. (More on this below.)
- Westhusing (ironically just like Tillman) volunteered to go to Iraq. The psychological power of the propaganda supporting continued U.S. imperialism cannot be overestimated.
- Even though a rather large number of Americans (now) think the war in Iraq was a mistake, nothing precludes the same process from being used — now or in the future — to start another war with some other country. (Only the fact that we're basically out of bodies precludes many more troops already being deployed to Iraq.)
- Following such an incident, the U.S. Army — the same organization that lied about Pat Tillman's death for several years — cannot rationally be expected to report the truth, particularly if anything unusual happened. Why would they? (Frankly, if you were in their place, would you?)
I noticed that Tillman's family isn't buying what the U.S. military is selling regarding his death. Good for them! We should all take a cue from them, if we haven't already. As an aside, I witnessed a particularly asinine episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher" the other night. The guests, both liberal and conservative, actually said that the Army's only real mistake in the Tillman case was just not admitting to fratricide initially, since either way, Tillman's death was still a noble one. Huh? What? (That kind of imperialism-is-good, Kool-Aid induced stupidity deserves its own essay. Maybe I'll get to it after this season of Heroes is over!)
What Is (Still Apparently) Not Obvious
It occurs to me, particularly as I recall some of the correspondence I got after my Tillman piece, that the most important and far-reaching consequences of any study of events like Colonel Westhusing's death are (apparently) easy to miss. To-wit:
- The U.S. almost never preemptively attacks any country that poses a legitimate threat. This is simple logic. Why would U.S. leaders have thought they could invade Iraq and be done so quickly if Iraq really posed a legitimate threat to the national security of the United States? It is laughable that people continue to buy that kind of justification. (Then again, we are talking about Congress, right?)
- No matter how we select the locales we invade, one unassailable fact remains: invading places you think might invade or otherwise harm you constitutes the behavior of a bully, not the informed foreign policy of a world leader. Look at it this way. If your neighbor comes over to your house and punches you in the mouth because he anticipates that you might be ill-mannered to his wife at some point in the future, he's guilty of assault, not protecting the honor of the love of his life.
- The fact that a man as learned as Ted Westhusing still felt it was appropriate to volunteer to serve in Iraq lays bare the true nature of U.S. military propaganda. While one might be inclined to opine, "Even a devoutly Catholic ethicist felt that killing Iraqis was justified!" it is really more complex than that. Still, can we really be that surprised when teen-agers think shooting their classmates is appropriate behavior? Violence cannot be used as a tool of peace abroad without being seen as the tool of choice at home.
One of my fellow posters on Stefan Molyneux's Freedomain Radio Discussion Board, "John," said it best, "a society ignorant of the fact that violence is only capable of generating evil will accept the expansion of violence as the u2018logical' remedy for the failure of violence." Indeed.
So who killed Ted Westhusing? The article linked from the John Birch Society provides a hint, but I'd go one better. We did. Every person who displays a "support the troops" magnet on their car killed him. Every person who stands around the water cooler (or posts on "the internets") about the desperate need for Amerikan intervention to stop the spread of heinous "Islamo-Fascists" killed him. Every school official who allows the U.S. military to recruit new killers-for-hire on school grounds killed him. Every person who is not absolutely certain that a standing army has no purpose but aggression and imperialism killed him.
He pulled the trigger, but we loaded the bullet. When we allow active-duty-dodging chickenhawks to determine the foreign policy of the U.S. — while we partake of important debates such as the effects of allowing Sanjaya to remain on American Idol — we cock the gun. (Notice that Westhusing volunteering to go to Iraq illustrates conclusively that he was willing to put his money where his mouth was. Not so for those who got us into the conflict during which he died!) When we listen to the vapid, if entertaining, debates over how much it may or may not matter if Barack Obama's ancestor's owned slaves, we take careful aim.
I am certain that no one wants to die in a terrorist bombing. I am also sure no one wants to die from a bomb dropped because they live where terrorists supposedly come from.
Wilt Alston [send him mail] lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and three children. When he's not training for a marathon or furthering his part-time study of libertarian philosophy, he works as a principal research scientist in transportation safety, focusing primarily on the safety of subway and freight train control systems.