High Profile Suicide in Iraq: Deeply Disturbed by Abuses Carried Out by American Contractors in Iraq
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 28, 2010
The scourge of suicides among American troops and reservists (which I’ve covered since 2003) remains a serious and seriously under-reported problem. One of the most high-profile cases involves a much-admired Army colonel and ethicist named Ted Westhusing — who, in his 2005 suicide note, pointed a finger at rising U.S. general named David Petraeus.
Westhusing’s widow, asked by a friend what killed this West Point scholar, had replied simply: “Iraq.”
Before putting a bullet through his head, Westhusing had been deeply disturbed by abuses carried out by American contractors in Iraq, including allegations that they had witnessed or even participated in the murder of Iraqis. His suicide note included claims that his two commanders tolerated a mission based on “corruption, human rights 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.” One of those commanders: the future leader of American forces in Iraq, and then Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus.
Westhusing, 44, had been found dead in a trailer at a military base near the Baghdad airport in June 2005, a single gunshot wound to the head. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq. The Army concluded that he committed suicide with his service pistol and found his charges against the commanders unfounded. Petraeus would later attend Westhusing’s memorial service back in the U.S.
Ted Westhusing was an unusual case: “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,” as Christian Miller explained in a major Los Angeles Times piece.