- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Army Lt. Col. Allen B. West will appear before his commanding officer in an administrative hearing tomorrow on a charge that the colonel committed assault by firing his weapon to scare an Iraqi into confessing.

The Army notified Col. West’s attorney on Tuesday that a hearing officer had recommended to Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno that the colonel face Article 15 nonjudicial punishment, rather than a court-martial in which a federal criminal conviction could result.

“All indications are that Lieutenant Colonel West will not be ordered to face trial by general court-martial and will be allowed to retire in the grade of lieutenant colonel sometime in the spring of 2004,” said defense attorney Neal Puckett.

While a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division, Col. West pulled an Iraqi police officer from his cell and fired his 9mm pistol twice, threatening his life, in an attempt to force the detainee to disclose details of a planned ambush against American soldiers.

Col. West acknowledges he broke the rules, but says the tactic forced the Iraqi to disclose the identity of the plotters and where the attack might take place. Intelligence sources had told Col. West’s unit that the policeman was part of the plot.

Mr. Puckett said that if Col. West is convicted under Article 15, “the punishment could include a letter of reprimand and perhaps some forfeiture of his pay.”

At court-martial, the 20-year-officer would have risked a conviction and dismissal, under which he would lose his retirement and medical benefits based on 20 years of service.

The case has drawn national attention. Pro-military groups and veterans said Col. West was being harshly treated for trying to protect himself and his soldiers amid daily attacks from savage Saddam Hussein loyalists.

Gen. Odierno, the 4th Infantry’s command officer, removed Col. West from his artillery battalion command during the investigation.

Col. West testified Nov. 19 before the hearing officer in Tikrit, Iraq: “I felt there was a threat to my soldiers. … If it’s about the life of my men, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can.”

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