Monday, August 2, 2010 at 12:03 p.m.
Get a load of this. Congressional candidate Allen West has released a four-minute video documentary that makes his brutal interrogation of an Iraqi detainee look like a self-less, courageous act that cost a good soldier his career.
For the propaganda-free account of the same incident, check out this Juice post from March
. After the jump, let's try to steer the former lieutenant colonel back toward the path of truth.
West and his U.S. Army battalion were stationed north of Baghdad in August 2003. Being an invader that's occupying a nation following a war, it's safe to say that West and his soldiers were facing the constant threat of violence.
So for the soldiers to catch wind of an ambush by Iraqi insurgents must have been a fairly common occurrence. The difference with this particular rumor is that the ambush was specifically targeting Lt. Col. Allen West.
It's disingenuous, then, for West to say that the reason he intervened in the interrogation of an Iraqi policeman was for the safety of his men. Those men are always in danger. The only soldier who was in more danger if this rumor were true was West.
Which is exactly the reason West should not have been involved in the interrogation. Since his life was at stake, he would seem to have a hard time resisting the urge to go all Jack Bauer on the detainee -- and that's exactly what he did.
According to an investigation and by West's own admission, he walked into an interrogation room and placed a gun in his lap. If the Iraqi detainee didn't talk, West told him, then West would have to kill him. The detainee insisted he knew nothing about a plot against West. The lieutenant then allowed his soldiers to beat the man. The detainee was then dragged outside, supposedly for his execution. But West fired over the detainee's head. At that point, the detainee gave West information that may or may not have been helpful -- the detainee told the New York Times
he made something up just to save his life
. In that same article, West admits he may have been wrong about there being an assassination plot.
Evidently, he's changed his mind since, and now West is positive that his willingness to get tough with the detainee saved the lives of his soldiers. "The Iraqi prisoner talked," says the caption in the video, which was produced by West's campaign. "Two Iraqis were arrested. No attacks occurred." Of course, none of that proves that what the prisoner told West was true, whether the suspects arrested were linked to that plot, and whether the interrogation was the reason that no attack occurred.
Around 1:45 in that video, Lt. Col. Neal Puckett says unequivocally that in this interrogation, "no one was hurt" and that "important information was extracted" -- which contradicts the findings of investigators who interviewed West and the soldiers who witnessed the interrogation. Was Puckett even there? Doesn't sound like it.
Puckett also volunteers that West was charged with "minor infractions" and that West retired voluntarily. But the record shows West was originally facing criminal charges of assault and communicating a threat and that he avoided prosecution only by giving his resignation.
This isn't to diminish the sacrifices and risks that West took in being deployed to Iraq in 2003 -- he may have been a model commander up until that interrogation. But what American soldiers do to Iraqi detainees, Iraqi soldiers have every right to do to American detainees. So West's responsibility to his soldiers was to behave with more civility to that detainee. That would have been truly courageous.