Colonel chooses death before dishonor?

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113338426311848.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of’, ‘In a Stars and Stripes magazine article dated April 14, 2005, U.S. Army Col. Ted Westhusing (pictured left), senior adviser for the Counter Terrorism Special Operations training program, praises Iraqi troops of the Emergency Response Unit. Westhusing’s alleged suicide note said: “I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars… "’);

Last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times carried a profile of Col. Ted Westhusing, who died in Iraq last June. Westhusing, who was a military ethicist, was found dead in his trailer at a military base near Baghdad airport.

He had died of a single gunshot to the head. After a three months’ investigation, the Army concluded he had committed suicide, but that verdict is being challenged by Westhusing’s family.

Family and friends are raising questions on the Internet and in conversations with each other. A note found in his trailer offered some clues. The Army said it was in his handwriting.

As reporter Christian Miller phrased it, Westhusing, 44, was an unusual case, “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.”

Westhusing’s body was found last June. The decline to his death began after he received an anonymous letter that disturbed him greatly. Miller wrote: “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.”

According to investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, at the time of his death Westhusing was investigating U.S. Investigations Services (USIS) of Virginia, for alleged fraud and human rights abuses. That contractor, Madsen said, is financially linked to The Carlyle Group—the same company former members of U.S. Special Forces in Iraq accused of shipping lethal binary VX nerve gas to Saddam Hussein in 1988 and 1989.

Westhusing had served with Special Forces units in Honduras, South Korea, and Italy.

In e-mails to his family, Miller wrote, “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.”

Westhusing’s colleagues had grown concerned about his health by June because he had lost weight, grown nervous and fidgety, stared into space and seemed very withdrawn. He died June 4.

One official told Miller: “He was sick of money-grubbing contractors; he had not come over to Iraq for this.”

In his alleged suicide note, Westhusing wrote: “I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars. I am sullied. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. Death before being dishonored any more.”

When Westhusing’s body was flown back to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, his family was joined there by a friend from West Point, a lieutenant colonel.

“In the military report,” wrote Miller, “the unidentified colonel told investigators that he had turned to Michelle, Westhusing’s wife, and asked what happened. She answered: ‘Iraq.’”

From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2005, issue

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