Many of you have heard or read about the tragic case of Colonel Ted Westhusing. Colonel Westhusing, if you remember, is alleged to have committed suicide in Iraq in 2005 after having his honor "sullied" by the injustices and corruption he witnessed being done by both Iraqis and Americans. His death made him the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.
At first glance, the story appears to be simply that of an honorable Army officer, disillusioned by the horror and greed that comes with war. But as of last Thursday, we now know details we didn’t know before. And these details point to a tangled web of military honor, contracting greed, an utterly untenable situation in Iraq, and the specific role that America’s Favorite General played in all of it.
You see, for the first time, government documents pertaining to Westhusing’s death have been made available on the internet. And as far as I know, I’m the first Army officer and Iraq veteran to have read and written about them in an unofficial capacity.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Ted Westhusing’s life and death, please read this article by Paul Bryce. You can also read analysis of Bryce’s article by our own Maccabee and DWG here and here.
Here’s the deal: The Defense Department conducted a full investigation of Westhusing’s death that occurred on June 5, 2005. That investigation was completed in September 2005, however, the reports and documents contained therein were not immediately released. Only after a year of snooping, and a granted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, did a lone journalist from Texas obtain the documents. That journalist, Paul Bryce of the Texas Observer, published his interpretation of the documents (in the article I cited above) on March 9, 2007—less than three months ago. Bryce then held onto the documents he’d obtained from the government. Last Thursday, after being "asked by a number of people who knew Col. Westhusing for some of the documents," Bryce posted them on his website.
What the documents reveal is a startling—but not unsurprising—look at the inner workings of the Iraq occupation. But more importantly, they show evidence that sheds light on the role of David Petraeus in not only the suicide of Ted Westhusing, but also in the utter failure that the occupation has become.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at Colonel Westhusing’s suicide note as published on page 18 of the Army Inspector General’s Report:
(Redacted name) – Thanks for telling me it was a good day I briefed you. (Redacted name) – You are only interested in your career and provide no support to your staff—no msn (mission) support and you don’t care. I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human right abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more. I didn’t volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. I trust no Iraqi. I cannot live this way. All my love to my family, my wife and my precious children. I love you and trust you only. Death before being dishonored any more. Trust is essential—I don’t know who trust anymore. (sic) Why serve when you cannot accomplish the mission, when you no longer believe in the cause, when your every effort and breath to succeed meets with lies, lack of support, and selfishness? . Reevaluate yourselves, cdrs (commanders). You are not what you think you are and know it.
COL Ted Westhusing
Life needs trust. Trust is no more for me here in Iraq.
Shortly thereafter, the report states whose names were redacted—only they are again redacted in the report, leaving us, as Americans, to either guess or to rely on first-rate journalists like Bryce to tell us. As Bryce explains in his article, the names belong to Westhusing’s immediate superiors in Baghdad—with the first comment being aimed at Major General Joseph Fil and the second—the one in which he said, "You are only interested in your career. . .provide no support. . .and you don’t care"—aimed at then Lieutenant General David Petraeus.
Now, when the Army’s Office of the Inspector General investigated the claims made by Westhusing in his note, you’ll never believe what the Army found when the Army investigated the Army: In heavily redacted portions on pages 19 – 30 of the report, the investigators determined that with each claim raised by Westhusing against Fil and Petraeus, "the issue was unfounded." In other words, the Army’s investigators determined that the dead guy was wrong. In each case they concluded that "evidence established that (Redacted name) and (Redacted name)" (meaning Fil and Petraeus) had performed their duties as expected. The report was signed by the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff, General Richard Cody—who was also the last general to command the 101st Airborne Division before handing it over to Petraeus in 2002.
So that leaves two primary questions: First, where has the mainstream media been on this? I mean, color me stupid, but I think we’ve just recently learned that an important full-bird colonel killed himself in Iraq and blamed the chain of events leading up to it—a chain of events that signaled the chaotic and imminent demise of our Army in Baghdad—on America’s Favorite General. And second, what was the chain of events that led up to the death of Ted Westhusing?
Because the stack of documents is two inches thick, I’m going to take each document, one at a time, and expound on what I believe to be the most pertinent parts. And remember, you can download them yourself at Paul Bryce’s website.
1. The anonymous letter sent to Col. Westhusing in May 2005 regarding alleged misconduct by contractors working for the U.S. military in Iraq.
As the head of counterterrorism and special operations (CTSO) under Petraeus, Westhusing oversaw the single most important task facing the U.S. military in Iraq then and now: training the Iraqi security forces.
But Westhusing wasn’t training the Iraqis himself. Instead, he was supervising a U.S. defense contractor called US Investigative Services (USIS), a company charged with training the Iraqi police.
Less than a month before his death (on May 19, 2005), Westhusing received this letter that shows the hazy line between defense contractors and the military. One of Westhusing’s subordinates wrote it—either a soldier or a contractor for another company. It starts off,
I write you this letter because I am concerned about activities at the CTSO compound. I have worked there for the last year and have seen many things that I do not think are right. I do not know if I should trust you or not. I am not sure that you are not part of the problem.
The writer of the letter then goes on to detail how the USIS contractors viewed their role in Iraq, as well as what they thought of Colonel Westhusing, their military boss:
The basic thought process at the USIS level out here is that there are no rules that they have to go by. They think you are so enamored of the fact that they were SEALs that you will believe pretty much anything that they tell you. (Redacted group) consider you to be not very bright concerning training and the rules of contracting. As (Redacted name) says "he doesn’t even know what the training is supposed to be." They feel that the SOW is not binding and as long as they make an effort, they are good to go, they don’t have to do it to any standard because you are not going to check anyway. (Redacted name) says to "just throw a few more flash bangs (pyrotechnics) during the Demos" and as long as we put on a good show, you guys don’t see anything else. The overriding thought is to make as much money as they can with doing as little work as possible. The primary way to do this is to short you on Instructors, quality of Instructors, length of classes, programs and to attempt to MOD the contract at every opportunity.
The author of the letter then goes on to specifically explain the intricacies of how the USIS employees were ripping off the military. After that, he explained in detail how the USIS contractors were actually unqualified for their work in Iraq:
The resume’s (sic) on some of these guys are terrible. I thought we were supposed to have Special Ops guys in most positions! We do not have it. You have guys like (Redacted name) and (Redacted name) with ERU (Iraqi Emergency Response Units) as Mentors. I thought these guys were supposed to be Spec Ops guys? These two were not even in the military!!! (Redacted name) was just a cop and (Redacted name) is a civilian shooter instructor who has never been in a gunfight! (Redacted name) spent weeks in Mosul trying to conduct military operations that he knew nothing about because he is a cop. In his defense, he told everyone that he did not know what he was doing but no one would listen. You had better ask for some resumes on your Instructors to see what you really have because you are not getting your money’s worth. Even after you read them you better check on some of them because USIS does not. (Redacted name) the PSD (Personal Security Detachment) Team Leader will tell you that he was in the NZ (New Zealand) SAS (Special Air Service) but that is not true. He never was but USIS didn’t check. You have a huge portion of South Africans teaching BDP stuff and they are mostly ex-cops with no prior training in PSD operations. They are just brought on because they are the friend of a friend.
The author of the anonymous letter later relates the fact that USIS had lost accountability for hundreds of weapons for which it was responsible. He explains how the contractors devised ways to cover up the losses. But then, he turns to the real meat of the letter—the murder of Iraqi civilians:
ERU Mentors (contractors) are conducting real world ops. During the assaults on Fallujah, the Mentors entered all the buildings to include Mosques as members of the ERU teams (Iraqis). They shot their weapons and killed Iraqis. (Redacted name) was telling me how many Iraqis he killed until I told him to shut the hell up. I was appalled by this. I have talked to Mentors myself and am told that if they don’t go with the Iraqis the Iraqis won’t fight. They are forced into doing it. (Redacted name) has told them that they have to go. (Redacted name) feels that if the ERU doesn’t perform well, it will look bad for him. He forces the Instructors to go on missions so he can keep the contract. He does not understand the political impact of a contractor going on offensive operations. If a picture of a USIS guy shooting an Iraqi gets on the Web, things will be bad.
The ERU murdered two people on their first mission. (Redacted name) told me that he watched two young male Iraqis get shot and killed by the ERU outside a target. It was a residential neighborhood and (Redacted name) thinks the two males were just walking by and were not part of the target. They did not have weapons. (Redacted name) was told by higher not to include it in his report. The murder was beyond the control of the guys but too (sic) not report it to CPATT (Civil Police Assistance Training Teams) was criminal. (Redacted name) did not want it reported because he thought it would put his contract at risk.
The writer concludes by saying,
Overall this CTSO contract is a terrible mess. USIS is not providing what you are paying for. The quality of Instructors, number of Instructors, and Training structure is abysmal. There is no structure to the ERU training or Organization and this has left you with a(n Iraqi) unit that can do nothing for itself and, given the current training Plan, will not be able to do so in the future. If you are intending on making a Unit out of the ERU, then it is a total failure.
After receiving this anonymous letter from a subordinate, Colonel Westhusing, the military ethicist and philosophical expert from West Point, began his own investigation of the allegations. Now, before reading what he concluded, I assumed that Westhusing (given what we know of his personality) would most likely have found at least some merit in the anonymous letter. But after reviewing the facts, this is what Westhusing reported to his superiors, in a letter dated 28 May 2005:
My review of the allegations and response is that USIS is complying with its contractual obligations. The evidence suggests that the other allegations are not true as well.
I believe CTSO has supervised this contract well.
In his letter, Westhusing claimed to have found no wrongdoing and no basis for the allegations against the defense contractor. According to Westhusing, everything was going swimmingly.
Eight days later, he was found dead in his trailer, a gunshot wound to the head.
Author’s Note: This isn’t even the half of it. I’ve written the rest of this diary to include documentary evidence that Westhusing’s wife was afraid he was going to be murdered, along with more details concerning the role of Petraeus. However, because it has gotten so long on me, I’ve decided to break it up. I will post the conclusion to this diary after midnight EDT/9:00 pm on the West coast.