The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is appealing to the acting secretary of the Army to intervene on behalf of an officer in Iraq facing a possible court martial because of shock interrogation tactics used to thwart an impending attack on American soldiers.
In a letter, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and a senior member of his committee, Rep. John H. McHugh, R-N.Y., said they were “highly disturbed” the Army was considering criminal action against Lt. Col. Allen B. West, reported the Copley News Service.
Lt. Col. Allen B. West in undated family photo (Courtesy Angela West)
At a preliminary hearing in Tikrit last week, West acknowledged he allowed two soldiers to beat an Iraqi policeman who refused to reveal details of an ambush plot and fired his pistol near the man’s head, threatening to kill him.
The scared policeman then immediately disclosed the information, leading to the arrest of two Iraqis last August and cessation of attacks on West’s 4th Infantry Division battalion.
At the hearing, West was asked by his defense attorney if he would do it again.
“If it’s about the lives of my men and their safety, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can,” he said.
“But that’s what’s going on out there in the streets here, and that’s how I feel about my boys,” he told the hearing, held in one of Saddam Hussein’s lavish palaces. “There is not a person in this room I would not sacrifice my life for.”
But Army prosecutors believe his actions in the town of Saba al Boor, near Tikrit, violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He has been charged with aggravated assault and faces a wide range of possible outcomes from no disciplinary action to a sentence of up to eight years in prison.
The prosecutors gave West a choice – face charges or resign within days of his 20 years of service, losing retirement benefits. West chose to face the charges, and with the hearing complete, his fate is in the hands of his division’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
Hunter and McHugh contended West’s actions “were necessary to protect the lives and safety of his men” and were reported immediately to his superiors.
“To us, such actions if accurately reported do not appear to be those of a criminal,” they said in the letter to Acting Secretary Les Brownlee.
The lawmakers asked Brownlee to “expeditiously provide us” with the investigation reports that led the division’s commanding general to start the proceedings that could lead to a court martial for West.
They also asked Brownlee to “closely examine this matter and provide us with your assessment of facts and circumstances.”
Inhofe told Brownlee, who was appearing before the panel, it would send the wrong signal “if we end up punishing someone for saving men in his command. … He should be commended.”
Warner, noting West’s reputation as a respected combat leader, said he would “have a high level of concern” about possible criminal charges against West.
The Congress members have no official power over a potential military criminal case but carry weight because of their hold on the Army’s budget and weapons programs.
West and his attorney, retired Marine Lt. Col. Neal A. Puckett, are at a Forward Operating Base near Tikrit awaiting the investigating officer’s report and Maj. Gen. Odierno’s decision.
In a statement provided to WorldNetDaily, Puckett noted several witnesses at the hearing testified about West’s high-profile role in civil military operations.
West was helping Iraqis rebuild their towns, re-establish public services and utilities and begin the transformation to a democratic process for governance, Puckett said.
West spoke often in front of community leaders and sheiks at meetings in the town of Saba al Boor “and earned their trust by delivering the assistance he promised.”
“In return,” said Puckett, “the sheiks told an interpreter that they were protecting the Americans from attacks because of their respect for and trust in Lt. Col. West.”
Puckett said if citizens want to express their view, they can contact their Congress members in the House of Representatives and the Senate or the Army. An e-mail to the Defense Department can be sent via this page by clicking the “Ask a question/Make a comment” tab at the top of the page.
Angela West has set up a legal fund for her husband with the following address: Allen West Defense Fund c/o Angela West, 6823 Coleman Drive, Ft. Hood, TX 76544.