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TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters). - A senior U.S. army officer told a military hearing in Iraq Wednesday he was wrong to fire his pistol near a detained Iraqi's head but vowed he would sacrifice his life to protect his men.
His voice breaking with emotion, Lieutenant Colonel Allen West of the 4th Infantry Division said he had told the families of the men and women in his battalion before leaving for Iraq that he would bring them home alive.
West said he believed the detained Iraqi, a policeman called Yahya Jhodri Hamoody, had information about plots to attack American troops when he was brought in for questioning at Taji, just north of Baghdad, around August 20.
Other officers testifying in the preliminary hearing at a base in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit have said the plots included an imminent plan to kill West, the most senior soldier charged with assaulting Iraqis since the invasion last March.
The military has charged West with beating up Hamoody, firing a pistol near his head and threatening to kill him.
"I know the method I used was not the right method...I was going to do anything to intimidate and scare him, but I was not going to endanger his life," West told the hearing.
West said he watched his men beat Hamoody without intervening. He said he then went outside and fired a warning shot into the air.
Still unable to get information, West said Hamoody was forced over a sandbox which soldiers use to clear weapons.
"I placed my left hand against the side of his head and fired away from him," West said.
Hamoody then told of plans to set up a sniper position near a police station that West's soldiers visited, West said.
Asked by his defense lawyer if he would used such tactics to obtain information again, West, dressed in combat fatigues and wiping tears from his eyes, said:
"If it's about the lives of my men and their safety, I'd go through hell with a gasoline can.
"But that's what's going on out there in the streets here and that's how I feel about my boys. There is not a person in this room I would not sacrifice my life for."
After the incident, West lost command of his battalion of 650 soldiers. A number of them attended the hearing.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I'm entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!
I am ashamed to say this, but I would have loved a man like that to have mentored my dh in command. My guy had a micromanaging nitwit for a battalion commander who would have led the pack for LTCOL West's blood. The reason I am ashamed to admit that is because the Army punishes people who get results. I know of one
commander who has never been in combat nor even been on the front lines, but used his kids as a criteria for command, not war. Go figure.
Have you also been following the case of Major Harry Schmidt? His ordeal has not ended; he has bravely decided to go through with a court-martial trial. I have written about that in two of my recent blog entries.
Thanks!Posted by Aakash at November 22, 2003 03:28 AM
Isnt it strange, that leftists are not protesting up a storm, since LTC West if African-American. Where is Jesse jackson, or Al Sharpton when you need them? We have an instance of a good, black man being persecuted by the politicall-correct establishment, and we hear nary a wimper. Oh, I know whay. LTC West is a good , upright man, a great military officer, a tribute to everything that is great and good about the USA, so, to the leftise, he is worthless. Now, if he was a loser crack dealer, I betcha, lefties of all stripes would have been all over TV, all over DC protesting up a storm!!!!!! The hypochrisy is just too much to bear.Posted by ronin at November 24, 2003 05:32 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(3) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)