I have questions.
A few days ago I linked to a video reportedly depicting random shooting of civilian targets in Iraq.
At the time I posed a cynical question: How long (in hours) will it be before talk show hosts figure a way to marginalize the story, attack the messenger(s) and/or justify what the video is depicting?
I have been watching and waiting now for three days and the story seems to have sunk from sight. My link to KOS now has a followup link to an article in the LA Times regarding the apparent suicide of one Col Ted Westhusing. The common denominator is "private contractors in Iraq.
The death of Col. Westhusing is being investigated.
The story seems to have just started.
Westhusing, 44, was no ordinary officer. He was 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.
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.
In e-mails to his family, 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especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.
His death stunned all who knew him. Colleagues and commanders wondered whether they had missed signs of depression. He had been losing weight and not sleeping well. But only a day before his death, Westhusing won praise from a senior officer for his progress in training Iraqi police.
His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He was an extraordinary intellect and had mastered ancient Greek and Italian. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.
There is something wrong with this picture. Very wrong.
I have seen other reports of "straight as an arrow" career military types associated with other stories that do not exactly, shall we say, support the official spin that policy-makers or commanders would have them present. But I don't recall anyone ranked as high as Colonel among them. (There may have been a General or two, but at that level I start to think in terms of political ambitions beyond military careers so arguments about policy take on a different implication.)
A lot of media reporters are "embedded" with the military, which turns out to have been a good thing over all. But I don't know how many media types are embedded with the private sector over there. My guess is that there are very few. And the few that may be there might well be in-bed-with rather than embedded with their host entity. I just don't know.
But this I can be sure of: Wars may be about principles, but the dearest principle driving the war in Iraq is the profit motive. Why else do private outfits compete for contracts? Why else do former men and women uniform return in a civilian capacity? How else do we have a "volunteer" army?
Altruism and a desire to have a warm feeling because they are doing good work?
If that is so, maybe we should renew the Peace Corps and send in a bunch of real volunteers.
It's the economy, stupid. That's what I call stuck on stupid.
The death of Col. Westhusing is a tragedy whether it was a suicide or a homicide. Either way he is a casualty of the war that occurred as the result of the corruption of private contractors paid for by US tax dollars.