- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

Lt. Col. Allen B. West yesterday said that if faced with the same situation in which he fired a pistol near an Iraqi prisoner during an interrogation, an act for which he was later punished, he would again make the same “sacrifice.”

“I don’t base my actions on the punishment, because I knew that there would be a punishment,” Col. West said in a TV interview yesterday.

“One of the role models in my life is Jesus Christ, and he went through a lot of suffering for each and every one of us. And I think it’s important as a commander you are willing to make the sacrifices for your men,” the colonel said.

A court-martial was initially sought by 4th Infantry Division lawyers after Col. West was charged with an assault attempt inside the dangerous Sunni Triangle in Iraq — Saddam Hussein’s home turf.

Intelligence reports revealed an Iraqi policeman was part of a plot to assassinate Col. West and his soldiers. The policeman was detained and after refusing to talk was taken outside and two gunshots were fired near the suspect. The detainee then confessed to the plot and also informed on other Saddam loyalists involved.

Col. West said he resorted to the psychological tactic because his soldiers were in an dangerous environment and their lives threatened.

“As a commander, you have a responsibility, a moral obligation to protect your soldiers and I went outside the lines. I understand that, and that was a choice I made and I had to accept those consequences.”

Col. West said it is “my responsibility to try to thwart that attempt.”

He did not dispute the charges against him and was instead given a nonjudicial punishment and allowed to retire.

According to testimony at the hearing, four soldiers under Col. West tried to get the Iraqi to talk, some hitting him, before Col. West took charge of the interrogation and threatened to shoot the prisoner. The Iraqi was not badly hurt, and no testimony suggested that the colonel ordered the beating.

With his wife Angela by his side, Col. West made his comments yesterday on Fox News Channel’s “Dayside With Linda Vester.” The remarks were his first television interview since the Army’s Dec. 12 decision to fine the officer $5,000. The couple appeared from their home in Texas.

Mrs. West said she was overwhelmed by thousands of letters and e-mails in support of her husband’s situation, which was first reported by The Washington Times.

“The support I received was phenomenal, it would just uplift me,” Mrs. West said.

Asked whether military interrogators are limited by rules or if detainees don’t cooperate because they know they won’t be harmed, Col. West said officials should still be respectful of each person.

“The benevolence of the American solider is historic, going back to WWI to the present. Sometimes that benevolence can work against us in the hands of our enemies,” Col. West said.

“Whether or not that was the case going on with me, I don’t know, but I think that sometimes the goodness, and the fact that we are very morally abiding soldiers, that can be used against us,” Col. West said.

“But we still have to stay within the letter of the law, and I went outside that letter, and I received my punishment,” he said.

If Col. West had been court-martialed he faced an eight-year prison sentence and a criminal record for his action. He would have faced dismissal from the Army and his pension and medical benefits would have been stripped from the 20-year veteran.

Col. West said he is not “angry” nor does he harbor “malice” toward the Army or resent his punishment.

“I have no regrets towards that and no malice whatsoever. I think one of the things that everyone has to understand is that the Army has been my love for 20 years and I have been wearing a uniform since the 10th grade when I was in high school ROTC,” Col. West said.

“It has helped to make me what I am today,” said the Atlanta native, who rose quickly through the ranks and commanded an artillery battalion before being deployed to Iraq from Fort Hood.

Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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