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Officer fights charges after protecting troops

877 8
© 2003

A U.S. army officer who allegedly frightened an Iraqi into disclosing
details of an impending attack by firing a pistol into the air near his
head has decided to face a trial on assault charges rather than resign.

Prosecutors gave Lt. Col. Allen B. West of the Army\'s Fourth Infantry
Division a choice €“ a court martial or resign early, losing retirement
benefits. The 19-year veteran is scheduled to reach his 20-year
retirement today.

West told the Washington Times in an e-mail he was desperate to gain
information to protect his soldiers who face almost daily attacks in
their effort to impose security in Tikrit, where Saddam Hussein
loyalists are fighting back.

\"I have never denied what happened and have always been brutally
honest,\" West said. \"I accept responsibility for the episode, but my
intent was to scare this individual and keep my soldiers out of a
potential ambush. There were no further attacks from that town. We
further apprehended two other conspirators (a third fled town) and
found out one of the conspirators was the father of a man we had
detained for his Saddam Fedeyeen affiliation.\"

The Iraqi West interrogated is a policeman. He said the man \"and his
accomplices were a threat to our soldiers and the method was not right,
but why should I lose 20 years of service or be forced into prison for
protecting my men?\"

Attorney Neal Puckett, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, told
the Times he will travel to Iraq next week to investigate the case then
defend West at an investigative hearing Nov. 10 in Kirkuk.

If prosecutors present enough evidence of wrongdoing, West could be
court-martialed and sentenced up to eight years in prison.

The staff judge advocate for the 4th Infantry Division has charged him
under the Uniform Military Code with communicating a threat and
aggravated assault.

The Aug. 21 incident came amid fears of an impending sniper attack on
U.S. forces and reports of an assassination plot aimed at West, an
artillery battalion commander.

In a previous e-mail to the Times, West said while interrogating the
Iraqi policeman he \"fired into the weapons clearing barrel outside the
facility alone, and the next time I did it while having his head close
to the barrel. I stood in between the firing and his person. I admit
that what I did was not right, but it was done with the concern of the
safety of my soldiers and myself.\"

After informing his superior officer of the incident, West said he
heard nothing more until a broader inquiry was launched by army chiefs,
the Times said.

If West were to take the option of quitting, he would lose more than $1
million in pay and health benefits over his life expectancy, the
Washington paper said.

Puckett said West could choose a \"nonjudicial punishment,\" allowing him
to retire with benefits. He would have to appear before division
commander Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, who likely is the one who approved
the \"quit or court-martial\" offer, according to the attorney.

The Times said West has offered to resign at the lower rank of major so
he can collect retirement benefits.

Military advocates argue West\'s difficult circumstances should be taken
into account, noting the U.S. soldiers must adhere to strict standards
as they fight terrorists who blend in to the populace with no regard
for rules of warfare.

\"Excuse me while I go to look up Marquis of Queensberry,\" Elaine
Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness told the Times.\"No
wonder we haven\'t gotten any information on Hussein\'s present location
from all of those \'deck of cards'people we have captured. Has the Army
lost its institutional mind? Or maybe they have forgotten that a state
of war exists in Iraq.\"
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· Registered
1,091 Posts
How can he be punished for helping bring more US Soldiers home to their families??? What is this world coming to? I think he deserves a medal for doing what it takes to protect his troops. I would have been honored to serve under such a man.

CHPBill, great find, thanks for sharing.


· Registered
1,091 Posts
Great news indeed.
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