Bad News From Iraq
I admit to the occasional understatement, so let me be more direct about this L.A. Times story about Col. Ted Westhusing: It depressed and frustrated the hell out of me. What a waste. Excerpt: One hot, dusty day in June, Col. Ted Westhusing was found dead in a trailer at a military base near the Baghdad airport, a single gunshot wound to the head. The Army would conclude that he committed suicide with his service pistol. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq. The Army closed its case. But the questions surrounding Westhusing's death continue. 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especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U. S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.
I bet this article gets a lot of play on the blogosphere, not so much because it appeals to conspiracy theorists, but because most bloggers see themselves as philosophers of questions great and small (even when, like me, they have none but the vaguest idea of how to approach a philosophical question) and probably are more apt to want to identify with Westhusing than with some NASCAR fanatic from the Arkansas National Guard who also volunteered for duty in Iraq. Part (but certainly not all; maybe not even most) of this phenomenon is simply blogospheric hubris, the desire to have some of Westhusing's intellectualism, honor, and courage osmose to us from the comfort of our keyboards. But on the other hand, I'd like to find out WTF was going on, too!
Also, here's some insight from the archives of the History News Network into the Westhusing's views on how the ideas of honor, courage, etc. are used and practiced in certain contexts in the media. I'm not sure what lessons to take from it for this situation, but I thought it was interesting. Apparently a few years ago, NYT reporter Chris Hedges plagiarized (maybe intending to, maybe not) Hemingway in a book he had written. Prof. Tom Palamia writes the following:
I also made the case that Hedges' plagiarism was inadvertent to my former student, Lt. Col. Ted Westhusing, who teaches at the United States Military Academy at West Point. His frank reply raises a crucial question:
"Inadvertent plagiarism"? Inexcusable, especially from a New York Times commentator, reporter and author. Do you know what this would garner Hedges in the circles I run in? If truly "inadvertent," and if Hedges were a cadet, he might be lucky to garner only a 100-hour "slug." That is, he spends 100 hours of his free time marching back and forth in the hot sun in Central Area under full dress uniform pondering the consequences of his failure (a slug). If intentional, Hedges would get the boot. Kicked out. Gone.
Indeed, why should a professional journalist be treated differently than a military academy cadet?
I say all of the above with the knowledge that it could just be that somebody was sleeping with someone they weren't supposed to, or something like that.
Here's Westhusing's Legacy Guest Book page.
And I can't say I found this Telegraph article too cheery either. The blogosphere is going to go crazy over this... Excerpts: A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal. The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis... ...There are no clues as to the shooter but either a Scottish or Irish accent can be heard in at least one of the clips above Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train," the music which accompanies the video.
Video available here. I'd hate to see what they've put together for "Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love." I'm gonna to be pissed if a) This turns out to be true, or b) This turns out to be a hoax. (Different kinds of pissed, obviously.)